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MISSOULA, Mont.-Vineyards ain’t elk habitat, but one conservationist can make them both a whole lot better.

Immediate past chairman of the board for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, California winegrape farmer and vinter Andrew Hoxsey has been named the 2009 Napa Grower of the Year by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

The award recognizes leadership in sustainable farming techniques and land stewardship.

Napa County Agricultural Commissioner Dave Whitmer described Hoxsey as “simply a great farmer. He brings an innovative approach to his business and has always placed a high priority on farming with environmental stewardship and with his neighbors in mind.”

David Allen, Elk Foundation president and CEO, said, “Andrew took care of business at the Elk Foundation in exactly the same way. As our lead volunteer for the past two years, he presided over conservation efforts that helped enhance or protect over 600,000 acres of habitat for elk and other wildlife.”

He added, “Andrew served as our board chairman at a critical time in our history. His passion for RMEF and elk country has taken us to a new level of strategic focus. For that, we will be forever indebted.”

Hoxsey’s family owns a custom crush facility, Napa Wine Company in Oakville, where they crush grapes for their own wine. Andrew heads the 105-year-old farming operation, which is among the largest organic vineyards in the county. Of all the components of the family business, which was started by Hoxsey’s grandfather, Andrew said he’s most comfortable as a grower because “it is much more fulfilling to be with the soil. Conservation and sustainable farming are where my heart is.”

He said his 2009 Napa Grower of the Year award is recognition to every generation of his family that has passed the land down in better shape than when they took it over.

A life member and devoted supporter of RMEF, Hoxsey’s term as board chairman ended in March, when Joe Treadway of Asheville, N.C., succeeded him.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.5 million acres-a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.