The Washington State Grape Society named long-time Prosser grape and tree fruit grower Virginia Taggares Kercheval as their Lloyd H. Porter Grower of the Year. Kercheval received the award during the Grape Society’s annual meeting held in mid-November in Grandview.
Kercheval started at a young age in the family farming business, helping her father, Pete Taggares, Sr., load three-pound grape lugs for shipment to winemakers in Chicago when she was five years old. At 14 years old, she managed the family grocery store. Eventually, Kercheval was put in charge of the farming operations of the home place in Prosser, which included 200 acres of Concord and wine grapes, and 60 acres of apples and juice grapes in Grandview.
When Kercheval’s brother Pete Taggares, Jr., branched out on his own to develop the 2,500-acre Snake River Vineyards in partnership with Seneca Foods, she and her husband, Ron, moved into temporary housing near the vineyard in Burbank to help develop the vineyard. Later, she and her husband became partners in Kenyon Cold Storage in Prosser and Grandview.
Kercheval, now in her 80s, and her sister Florence still actively farm the Prosser and Grandview orchards and vineyards.
Davenport, known as “Dr. Dirt,” joined the WSU faculty in 1997 at the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center at Prosser, where she does classroom teaching, soil and nutrition research, and grower outreach. Before coming to Prosser, Davenport worked with cranberries, spending nine years as manager of the agricultural research group at Ocean Spray headquarters in Lakeville/Middleboro, Massachusetts. Before that, she was a postdoctoral research associate for WSU working on tree fruit nutrition at the Wenatchee research center.
Davenport is a member of the Grape Society’s board of directors and chairs the organization’s scholarship committee. For many years, she has coordinated the speaker presentations during the annual meeting.
In 2005, Davenport and her husband, Gordon Taylor, launched their own winery in Prosser called DavenLore. With Taylor as the winemaker and Davenport focused on soil and vineyard management, the couple specializes in making high-quality, small-lot red blends and varietals.