John H. Foott served as the agricultural advisor to San Luis Obispo County from 1966 to 1991 when he retired from the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of University of California Statewide Extension (UCCE). Everyone knew him as Jack Foott. His legacy surrounds us in the vineyards, fruit orchards, avocado groves and vegetable fields that grow throughout San Luis Obispo County.
- Research conducted by John (Jack) H. Foott helped cultivate and expand California’s Central Coast wine industry.
- Jack conducted agricultural research throughout San Luis Obispo County to determine the best crops to plant based on location and climate.
- Experimental Vineyards planted in both north and south San Luis Obispo County helped determine the best grape varieties to plant in specific regions including Shandon, Adelaida, San Luis Obispo, Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande.
- Educational information, an important resource, was shared with local growers throughout the county on specific crops, irrigation, disease and pest control, planting and harvesting. Jack visited growers to monitor crops and address their concerns.
- Jack consulted with many vineyardists and growers on planting grape varieties which was a significant factor, influencing the dramatic growth and development of the California Central Coast wine industry in the 1970s and 1980s.
The LEGEND Agricultural Advisor Jack Foott
John (Jack) H. Foott was born in April 1923. He hailed from Marin County in northern California. During World War II Jack served as a staff sergeant in the United States Army. He was engaged in combat in Italy. Years later he would share his war stories with local Italian winemaker Meo Zuech who had also served in Italy during the war before emigrating to the United States.
After the war, Jack applied and was accepted at University of California at Davis. He received his B.S. in Pomology, the science of growing fruit, in 1950.
Jack was hired to work in the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in the division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) as an agricultural advisor. His first assignment was in Tulare County where he worked from 1951 to 1966. He studied nut and tree fruit production.
He transferred to San Luis Obispo County in 1966 and served as the UCCE agricultural advisor, studying horticulture and forestry.
Jack researched the impact of terroir, including microclimate, elevation, and geology on grapevines in multiple areas in the county. He planted a series of Experimental Vineyards at locations which include Shandon, Adelaida, the Cal Poly campus in San Luis Obispo, the Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande, and in the Santa Maria Valley. His written reports were filed with ANR and shared with local growers. The only Experimental Vineyard that has survived to the present day is located in the Edna Valley. This is the first vineyard planted in the Edna Valley according to research at the Wine History Project. Jack planted this vineyard with four grape varieties in 1968 and harvested the first vintage in 1972. Jack drove the grapes to U.C. Davis where they were used to make wine by the staff in the Enology Department. Jack also confirmed that the Edna Valley was a place to grow grapevines that thrived in the cool climate, such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. You can read more about this vineyard at https://winehistoryproject.org/projects/.
Jack used his research to encourage individual growers to plant new varieties in various areas which accelerated the growth of the Central Coast wine industry.
An early example of Jack’s influence is the story of Stanley Hoffman, founder of HMR Winery, who planted the first Pinot Noir vineyard in the Adelaida region based on Jack’s recommendation. The vineyard is still located west of Paso Robles, and continues to produce premium grapes; it is the oldest Pinot Noir vineyard in California.
The Experimental Vineyard in the Edna Valley is being restored by the Wine History Project and skilled volunteers including Jim Efird, Mike Sinor, Randy Heinzen under the supervision of the current agricultural advisor Mark Battany.
Jack retired in 1991 and lived in San Luis Obispo until his death at age 89 years on March 7, 2013.
The Wine History Project would like to hear from the public on their experiences with Jack Foott. We will add them to his LEGEND. If anyone has photos to share please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 1923: John (Jack) Foott is born in April.
- 1943: Jack enlists in the United States Army, serves as a staff sergeant and engages in combat in Italy.
- 1945: World War II ends and Jack returns home from serving in the U.S. Army.
- 1946: Jack enrolls at University of California at Davis.
- 1950: Jack is awarded his Bachelor of Science degree in pomology.
- 1950: Jack and Betty Foott are married; their marriage lasts 63 years.
- 1951: He is hired as an agricultural advisor by the University of California Cooperative Extension in the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) and assigned to Tulare County. He studies nut and tree fruit production
- 1966: Jack transfers to the position of agricultural advisor in San Luis Obispo County. He studies horticulture and forestry.
- 1968: The Experimental Vineyard is planted in the Edna Valley with four grape varieties: Pinot Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
- 1972: Four varieties of grapes are harvested in the Edna Valley Experimental Vineyard and transferred to University of California at Davis where wine is made to test the quality of the grapes grown. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varieties are recommended for the Edna Valley which has a cooler climate.
- 1987: Jack Foott publishes an article in the Journal of Agricultural Science published by the California Agricultural Experiment Station. The article is titled, Effect of Hydrogen Cyanamide on Bud Emergence in Wine Grapes. His conclusions were that it results in an earlier, higher budburst in Chardonnay and Cabernet grapes.
- 1991: Jack retires to his home in San Luis Obispo, California.
- 2013: Jack dies on March 7, survived by his wife Betty, his children Cary and Scott and four grandchildren. A Memorial Service is held at Edna Valley Vineyards.
- 2021: The Wine History Project rediscovers the Edna Valley Experimental Vineyard and develops a plan to restore the vineyard and study the impact of climate change since 1972 to the present under the supervision of the current Agricultural Advisor, Mark Battany.