While pursuing an education in viticulture and enology at California Poly Technic State University, Jake Nivison knew that exploring a new part of the globe with CAEP would be invaluable. “A quote I hold near and dear to my heart is “if you want to make small changes, change the way you do things. If you want to make big changes, change the way you see things”. I truly believe having traveled to another part of the globe allowed me to view aspects of my studies in a new, more comprehensive lens,” shared Jake.
“My time with CAEP was spent in Korb, Germany in the Württemberg wine region. The love of winemaking for me began in a less than traditional sense. From a young age, I found a certain sense of purpose in growing, harvesting, and processing the small home garden to produce a product that could be enjoyed the year-round. A childhood love of growing fruit to make jam made for a natural transition to the world of wine and grapes. Each passing harvest is a reminder of that same youthful enchantment and satisfaction that comes from the tenacious nature of the wine industry.
I was so fortunate to be taken in and treated as one of their own at my immediate arrival to the Schmalzried family of Oko-Weingut Schmalzried. The Schmalzried (host) family not only met but exceeded my expectations about quality farming and vinification of high-quality wine grapes in Germany.
To say everything I learned from my time in the program would require countless pages, but I can say the greatest lesson I learned during my time abroad was patience and observation. A craft such as wine is more of an art than a science, having lived with true artists of their craft I learned to approach situations from an entirely new lens, to carefully observe and patiently allow nature to express a true form of beauty. It’s an easy word to comprehend but a tough skill to grasp. It was by none other than a sheer artisan that I was able to master this craft.
From the moment I arrived until my departure I was included in every activity with the family. The family I lived with made it a point to enliven my experience in Germany from both a work-related side and that of a cultural side. When the work was over the family would take me around this country so foreign to me and teach me of the cultural differences. I have truly never felt such a genuine familial connection to any folks not directly related to me. I was often taken around to village festivals, Kannstadt Volksfest ( Oktoberfest of southern Germany), vacations to the Black Forest, trips skiing/snowboarding in the neighboring glaciers of Austria, Weinachtsfest (Christmas festivals) amongst countless activities that will forever be cherished as some of my most fond memories.
I have learned from my host country the obligation of man to the responsible stewardship of the land. The empathetic lifestyle devout to the preservation of farming and vinification that not only preserves but prepares the integrity of the lands for generations to come.
Jake chose the CAEP program because “I had heard the personal testimony of the invaluable experience gained by those who had participated with CAEP and knew that this experience would contribute not only to professional but personal growth as well.”
A highlight of Jake’s cultural exchange experience included kayaking down the world-renowned Mosel River and exploring the wineries along the way. “I was fortunate enough to travel to multiple countries in Europe including Ireland, Scottland, Czech Republic. On multiple occasions I was able to visit France and Austria,” Jake shared.
A typical day in my time out in Germany was to begin around eight, work the vineyard or winery until noon at which point we would shut down operations for an hour or two. We would eat well, sleep if needed, and continue onto a full workday. After which we would surround ourselves with community members and enjoy the wondrous evenings in southern Germany.
There is a certain sense of place and resilience that exists amongst the winegrape growers of Germany that is truly inspirational. Unlike our youthful country, farming in the “old world” is based on tradition and intuition, not so much on recommendations put forth by the domestic universities. My impression of Germany and German wine has left me just itching to get back across the pond to vinify wine grapes in Europe. At the end of a training day, I truly felt refreshed and enlivened. I was encouraged to challenge what I had previously learned with that I was introduced to, creating an environment for consistent growth.
When asked to share three things with potential CAEP participants, Jake stressed the following, “experience is invaluable. You may learn in a classroom, but you will never learn the same as getting elbow-deep in your craft. Two, don’t be afraid to take risks. “if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space”. In our modern world, you’re never more than a phone call from your roots and three, get familiar with your CAEP advisor. They are some of your most valuable assets from the application to planning and follow up with the program.
I can tell you without hesitation that I did not find a single fault with the CAEP program. I would undoubtedly recommend CAEP to others and as a matter of fact, I have! I have yet to familiarize myself with any other organization so dedicated to the personal and professional growth of their members. I have undoubtedly benefited from my experience with CAEP, the international experience has opened doors to many career opportunities. I could go on for days about my wonderful experience.”