The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis is known throughout the world for its expertise, educational opportunities, and contributions to society. Much of that has to do with alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students.
Each year (CA&ES) recognizes individuals for their achievements, support, leadership and service to the college with an Award of Distinction honoring those contributions.
The 2021 winners have put California on the olive oil map, expanded their nut business globally, enhanced our scientific understanding of wine growing, fostered international relationships with other universities and advocated for farmworker safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
Alumni of the Year
Mariani Nut Co. Partner and Co-founder Jack Mariani has grown his business from a small processor to a distributor of almonds and walnuts throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. He is being honored among alumni with a CA&ES Award of Distinction.
Mariani graduated from UC Davis in 1969 with a degree in agricultural business management. In 1972, he and a cousin started Mariani Nut Co. in Winters to process walnuts from their own orchards. Additional acreage was added over time while the company also bought nuts from other suppliers.
He played a key role in the formation of the California Walnut Board and California Walnut Commission, both of which he has served on for three decades. Mariani also helped create the endowed chair for walnut breeding in the Department of Plant Sciences. He is a UC Davis Foundation trustee, a former Sutter Davis Hospital board member, and past president of the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council.
Mariani contributes to several youth organizations and created a scholarship foundation for children of his employees. He also supports the Yolo County Food Bank, Sutter Davis Hospital Foundation and Winters Healthcare Foundation.
“Jack’s commitment to the walnut and almond industries have led to success and growth in these robust businesses. His commitment to community is exemplified by the contribution he and Mariani Nut Co. have made to the prosperity and success of their employees and the community of Winters.” – R. Donald Norene, president of Norene Ranches Inc.
Jeff Meier has held many jobs during his nearly four decades at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines – crush hand, tank installer, bottling line supervisor, winemaker. Today, Meier is president and chief operating officer of the storied brand. He is being honored among alumni with a CA&ES Award of Distinction.
Meier graduated from UC Davis with a degree in plant sciences with a viticulture option in 1983 and found his way to J. Lohr not long after. During his career, Meier introduced the vineyard’s Paso Robles and Monterey County wines to global audiences.
He worked to find new vineyard properties, oversaw development of a white wine winery and helped spur the adoption of new membrane technologies to eliminate smoke taint, freeze taint and other unwanted flavors in grapes.
Meier became executive vice president in 2009, heralding an era of increasing case sales, revenue growth and income. He is especially interested in how environment can affect taste and is devoted to ongoing research, experimentation and innovation.
He serves on the UC Davis Executive Leadership Board and is also a member of the American Chemical Society and American Society of Enology and Viticulture.
“Jeff is widely known as a big picture visionary who seeks consensus and collaboration to ‘raise all boats’ on important industry topics.” – Cynthia Lohr, co-owner, chief brand officer, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines
Distinguished Friends of the College
Bondolio Olive Oil owners, Malcolm and Karen Bond, had years of experience in the medical software field and were almond farmers before a chance encounter in Italy changed their lives. An impromptu olive oil tasting prompted the couple to import trees from Sicily to create a new blend of extra virgin olive oil in California.
The almond fields were removed and today the award-winning Bondolio Olive Oil is found at gourmet grocers and fine dining kitchens. The Bonds are being honored as friends of the college with a CA&ES Award of Distinction.
They have a history of supporting UC Davis and the Olive Center through donations, event hosting and milling Aggie olives. Both hold Olive Center master miller certificates.
Malcolm Bond earned a doctorate in animal physiology from UC Davis and started companies that designed software used in physical therapy, cardiology and thoracic and orthopedic surgeries. He holds foreign and domestic patents.
Karen Bond helped co-found Cedaron Medical Inc. with her husband and spent decades in medical sales and management. She was president and treasurer of the California Olive Oil Council. Her taste buds drive the flavor selection at Bondolio.
“Malcolm has readily agreed to my every request to bring high-profile clients to Bondolio and discuss olive oil processing. I credit Malcolm and Karen Bond’s gracious hospitality, passionate commitment to excellence and generous acknowledgment of the Olive Center in persuading prospective donors to support the center.” – Dan Flynn, founder of the UC Davis Olive Center
Abby Taylor-Silva has spent her career promoting agriculture and advocating for workers, most recently helping provide educational outreach about COVID-19, including arranging temporary farmworker housing for those affected by the pandemic and coordinating the creation of a first-of-its-kind agricultural worker advisory guide.
She is executive vice president of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation and is being honored as a friend of the college with a CA&ES Award of Distinction.
Before the Foundation, Taylor-Silva was vice president of policy and communications for the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, where she focused on water policy, and executive director of Ag Against Hunger.
She graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor’s in political science and government, and a minor in agriculture and economics. She has been a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council since 2016.
She is past president of the California Women for Agriculture Salinas Valley Chapter and Central Coast Ag Task Force. She has volunteered extensively locally and abroad, helping to raise funds for a school in Malawi and water filtration pots in Cambodia. Monterey County Weekly named her one of the “Best Women in Ag” in 2020.
“Where there is an issue or concern whether it be grower, water, chemicals, or COVID-19, Abby is out front being proactive and discussing the tough issues that are affecting growers, shippers, consumers and the general public. She successfully brings together all parties and works collaboratively with them.” – Jane Roberti, Roberti Ranch
Exceptional Staff Award
Sharon Shoemaker, Ph.D., has spent most of her career as a research biochemist focused on agricultural food innovations, and she is a pioneer in cellulase strain and enzyme development used in biomass conversions.
She is the founding executive director of the California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research and a founding co-editor-in-chief of the Nature Partner Journal: Science of Food. She is being honored among staff with a CA&ES Award of Distinction.
Shoemaker earned a master’s degree in food science and technology and a doctor’s degree in biochemistry and nutrition from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. In 1991, she joined the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, where she later became an academic administrator.
Shoemaker has worked to address critical issues and advance solutions in food and agriculture by identifying and bringing together diverse expertise and related technologies. Her global network fostered new and novel ideas from partnerships developed through conferences, workshops, and other “people-to-people” scientific formats.
For the past 35 years, Shoemaker’s association with China has helped her and her husband develop global exchange programs for students from Chinese universities and UC Davis.
“She has strengthened the ties between academia and the agricultural and environmental industries and has helped identify solutions to contemporary issues. Her work has brought global recognition and honor to UC Davis.” – John C. and Christine M. Bruhn, cooperative extension specialist emeritus from the Department of Food Science and Technology