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LaRocca Vineyard: Advocacy
Phillip LaRocca Winemaker
  California Certified Organic Farmer
To learn more about these certifications, please visit their websites by clicking the respective logo. USDA Logo California Certified Organic Farmer

To best describe Phil and his active involvement, we turn to the words of our dear friend Paul Horan. The following is his summary of Phil's achievements:

"Where does the passion to fight for sustainability originate? How can we best learn to appreciate the real value of ecosystem services? Why are some human activities (like growing and eating good food) so important that we're naturally much better off by protecting and defending them than we are by neglecting and compromising them? We wouldn't claim to know all the answers to such questions. And yet, Philip LaRocca, is confident he can respond with some elegant and simple folk-wisdom (derived from actual experience as an organic farmer/educator) that just might stimulate some insightful conversation and collaborative action on how we can best manage our emergent local and global ecosystemic crises."


Because the battle to ensure and enrich our public trust rages on, let's honor our grass-roots heroes who can inspire young folks to continue fighting for our public good, locally and globally with insight and compassion as crucial components of our evolutionary guidance systems.

This page is organized around Phil's formative years, his work as a public educator, his commercially successful food production activities and his courageous advocacy of policies that embody genuine green-intelligence.

THE FORMATIVE YEARS
ACADEMIA, PUBLIC EDUCATION & COMMUNITY ORGANIZING SERVICE
FOOD PRODUCTION AND COMMERCIAL SUCCESSES
POLICY ADVOCACY
THE LaROCCA CLAN


THE FORMATIVE YEARS

Phil's beloved Mother, Tilly, lived almost 100 years (99 and five months and 14 days) and her family lineage featured multiple-generations' worth of fruit orchard farming, first in Sicily and then in Sunnyvale, California (back when that area offered some of the most fertile soil on Earth). Phil's Sicilian-born Dad, Nino LaRocca was no slouch when it came to the culinary arts. As a San Francisco fisherman, once renowned as the "fastest filet-knife" on Fisherman's Wharf, Nino appreciated Earth's oceans as a living source of our sustenance.

Nino's and Tilly's experience in the arts of cultivating, harvesting and cooking of good food served as a foundation for their home-making efforts. Through childhood, Phil couldn't help but grok his parents' exemplary message loud and clear = good food better not get compromised since it is raw-material for simple sacred arts like nurturing real, live family-values. Around the family dinner table throughout the 1950's and into the '60's, young Phil's consciousness and cultural DNA were impregnated with an image that has guided his work in supporting and fighting for the actual integrity of the term "certified organic" in our public domain.

After graduating High School (St. Ignatius) in the mid-'60's in San Francisco, Phil tuned into the emerging groundswell of the counter-culture and anti-war movements. For many young folks of that era, the option of moving back to the land and enjoying a simpler life aligned with nature, began making more and more sense. For Phil, that option started merging with his good-food heritage to guide his own evolution in personally practical and socially valuable ways.

Following his manager position for Creedence Clearwater Revival, Philip started his organic crusade in 1969 as he farmed row crops in Quincy, California, while teaching at Feather River Junior College. This was the beginning of his personal commitment towards organic agriculture. He then

worked as a cowboy for Randolph C. Johnson, raising registered Hereford bulls. By 1973 he started farming seven acres of organic apples, while teaching agriculture and food classes at Chico Senior High School and Paradise High School via the California State University, Chico's Upward Bound Program. He then became the foreman for the Pillsberry Apple Orchard of which he operated an 8 acre orchard, and by 1975 Philip LaRocca became the first certified organic apple grower in California. His passion for organic farming was born.

ACADEMIA, PUBLIC EDUCATION & COMMUNITY ORGANIZING SERVICE

Philip LaRocca has a Bachelor of Arts from California State University in San Jose and a Masters degree from California State University, Chico. He has five life time teaching credentials for high school, junior college, and college level teaching in the areas of agriculture, social science, history, sociology, food service, and physical education. Phil was the first instructor in the Chico/Paradise school district to teach an agricultural class that featured organic farming principals.

Natural Cooking with Pil LaRocca 1978By 1978 Philip put his organic knowledge and excellent culinary skills to work. He hosted the television program "Natural Foods Cooking with Phil LaRocca" on KHSL, a CBS affiliate station. From this came the publication of his 1980 cookbook titled "Natural Cooking with Phil LaRocca." Both the cookbook and television show emphasized the importance of locally-grown, wholesome food.

His personal commitment is represented in many ways. Philip hosted a community radio program on KZFR called "Organic Farming Friday Night." This was an interactive talk show, with guest speakers and public response.. He's served as the organic grape grower representative for the Glossing Wing Sharpshooter advisory committee and the agricultural-representative member of the Board of Supervisors for the Butte County Library System long range planning committee. He was also the organic agricultural representative for California under Governor Grey Davis. Philip has demonstrated leadership as advisor and active parent of the Butte County 4-H program for horse and swine. He's a 17 year member of the California Farm Bureau and member of All Things Organic (OTA). Philip LaRocca has been a valuable asset to the success of the Butte College Viticulture Program. While he was head viticulture professor he encouraged the College’s 5 acre wine grape vineyard to be certified organic.

FOOD PRODUCTION AND COMMERCIAL SUCCESSES
In 1983 he was hired by Santos Vineyards which lead to the purchase and beginning of LaRocca Vineyards by 1984. In the beginning Philip farmed certified organic wine grapes selling the fruit to leading wineries such as Parducci Winery and Fetzer Vineyards, and partnered with a small local winery, Paradise Vintners.

By 1990 LaRocca Vineyards winery was licensed and his dedication towards organic agriculture became his passion. Since then Philip LaRocca has farmed 197 acres of certified organic wine grapes and 3 acres of certified organic table grapes. He's the vintner of 25,000 cases of certified organic wines. He was also involved with LaRocca Livestock, where he raised 450 head of certified organic sheep for both organic wool and meat. All of which contribute to his continued motivation for demonstrating the importance of organic agriculture.

He has been recognized locally by the Chico Rotary Club with the award for Business Community Contribution and by the United Way for the Award of Appreciation for generous contribution to the community as a local business. He has received continuous blue ribbons for first place at the County fairs for outstanding wine grape production against all methods of grape growing. Philip has received the 5 Master Organic Farmer Awards. His organic know-how and innovative skills in working with nature have been readily recognized by many in the wine grape industry. LaRocca Vineyards has also received several awards for their organic wines, including a gold medal by the American Masters of Taste and Best Sparkling Cum Laude by the Wine Literary Award Press Tasting.

POLICY ADVOCACY

Philip has been a member of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) since 1975. In 1988 he was elected Vice President of CCOF, where he has been a North Valley Chapter Board Member ever since. In 1997 Philip was elected President of CCOF, where he continued to focus on the true meaning of 'organic', organized membership drives and engaged in community outreach. He was a participating member representing organic farmers for the state of California Department of Agriculture. He represented organic farming interests during the formulation of California's comments to the USDA Farm Bill in 2000.

As president of CCOF he battled for true organic agricultural standards. He was a major influence in the writing of the American Organic Standards and for the National Organic Program. In 2002 he was acknowledged with CCOF's outstanding achievement award for his life-long contributions to the greater organic community.

He regularly attended all National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meetings for over 5 years in support of ensuring the integrity of the word "organic". Philip has traveled the nation, Canada, Europe, and Asia supporting and representing certified organic agriculture, while advocating international trade and reciprocity for all organic commodities. He also was the leader in the major changes that took place throughout the implementation of the National Organic Program. He helped many farmers understand the details and successfully make the transition to the new Program. Philip worked hard to preserve the substantive meaning of the word "organic". His dedication and devotion paid off with strong synthetic-free National Organic Standards.

Philip has inspired and persuaded others to act to advance the cause of organic agriculture and trade. He has made himself readily available to all for questions or comments regarding organic agriculture. As Master Organic Grower he's influenced a lot of farmers to convert to organic. One of his greatest contributions is raising his family to live organically. He has taught his children how to eat, farm, shop, and support organic agriculture and trade. He has demonstrated the importance of organic agriculture as a means of helping the environment and supporting good health.

Philip LaRocca has helped to achieve identifiable and lasting changes to promote and protect organic agriculture and trade on local/regional levels as well as national and global levels.

THE LaROCCA CLAN

During their 40 years of marriage, Philip and Judith, have raised three children Dharma, Phaedra and Maria and a godson, Nathan, and are now actively involved with their four grand-children Jaeda, Nino, Keenan and Atilavea and god-grandchild, Natalie. Their hard work celebrates sustainability and thrivability via organic agriculture and has for the past two generations here in California.

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