Ben Drake named distinguished citizen of the year award by Boy Scouts of America

TEMECULA, CA – Ben Drake, president of Drake Enterprises, Inc., of Temecula and board member of the Rancho California Water District will be honored as the 2014  Boy Scouts of America Tahquitz District Distinguished Citizen of the Year, Thursday, September 25  at Pechanga Resort and Casino.

Drake,  president of the Temecula Valley Winegrape Growers Association, past  chairman of the  California Association of Winegrape Growers,  and past president of the  Riverside County Farm Bureau, is acclaimed for successfully battling  and gaining control over  the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter and Pierce’s Disease in Southern California Wine Country.  Drake has been appointed to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, is a past chairman of California Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-WingedSharpshooter Board, and chairman for the California Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Task Force.

“We’re making progress on research for controlling Pierce’s Disease but the growers still need to be vigilant,” Drake said. He explained that good success has been achieved by treating the citrus groves and vineyards. Research and development from UC Davis and Andy Walker’s Lab has produced a Pierce’s Disease resistant winegrape varietal.

“We’ve planted 200 PD (Pierce’s Disease)  resistant vines in Temecula, Napa, Ukiah,  and near Clarksburg,” Drake said, explaining that the varietal has been produced entirely through plant breeding  and is not genetically modified.  The taskforce will evaluate the grapes from the vines when they start producing, but this will be a completely new varietal.

Pierce’s disease, a bacteria that blocks the water-conducting system of infected plants,  was discovered in 1892 by Newton B. Pierce on grapes in California near Anaheim.  It became a real threat to California’s wine industry when the glassy-winged sharpshooter  native to the southeast United States, was discovered in the Temecula Valley in California in 1996. The insect spreads Pierce’s Disease on susceptible plants and affected nearly 25% of the Temecula Valley vineyards in the late 90s.  It is now controlled through vineyard and citrus insect management. 

A resident of the Temecula area since 1973, Drake manages 500 acres of avocados and 300 acres of winegrapes in the Temecula Valley.  He and his wife, Sharon, have four children ranging from 26 to 35 years of age and three grandchildren. A fifth generation farmer of Riverside County, Drake has been honored in the past with California Association of Winegrape Growers 2013 Leader of the Year, Robert M. Howie Award 2010 for Outstanding Service to Riverside Agriculture,  The Valley Group Award for Excellence in Agriculture 2004, USDA Honor Award Recipient 2003, and Riverside County 4H All Star Award.

The Distinguished Citizen Award is presented to individuals whose personal ethics and family values are representative of the Scout Oath and Law. Past recipients of the award include President Gerald Ford, Governor George Deukmejian, Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. The Tahquitz District has honored Dan Stephenson, Jerry Wilson, Bill Green, 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone, Christine and John McCusker, Dan Atwood, Dr. Larry Boggeln,  Pastor Steve Struikmans, Terry Gilmore, and Joan Sparkman in the past.

The Distinguished Citizen Dinner begins at 6 p.m. with a reception and silent auction. Dinner and award presentation follows at 7 p.m. Tickets are $125 per person and available by calling Tina Roy, BSA District Director at (951) 972-2201.

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