An average day in the life of Dr Kerry DeGaris would make most people’s head spin.
Last week, it looked something like this: Up at 5.30 am…check emails…walk the dogs…chores in the garden…weigh the lambs…attend South East Natural Resources Management board meeting…back on the farm…more chores…dinner…evening meeting back in town.
In between, she somehow manages to squeeze in her role as Chair of the Technical Sub-Committee of the Limestone Coast Grape and Wine Council, and instigate and take part in various research and extension projects in the Limestone Coast.
‘It’s a balancing act – I certainly need a good diary!’ she says with a laugh.
It is this dedication and contribution to the Australian wine sector that saw Kerry crowned the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) Viticulturist of the Year 2019 last month.
It’s an accolade that Kerry treasures.
‘Being recognised by your peers is a huge honour, but more importantly winning the award gives me a platform to promote the Limestone Coast wine region and the local research being undertaken here’, she said.
Kerry was always destined for a life on the land.
Born and raised at Bool Lagoon – where she still lives – she moved to Adelaide to attend boarding school and later university.
She studied a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the Waite Institute and graduated during the 1990s wine sector boom times, when viticulturists were in great demand.
‘I specialised in Agricultural Science during my undergraduate days as I thought I needed to keep my options open – I’m pleased I did as the skills I’ve obtained have allowed me to diversify later on in life’, Kerry said.
Kerry has led a number of valuable research projects that have helped winegrape growers better understand and manage challenges such as eutypa, iron bacteria in irrigation water, salinity and Cabernet berry shrivel. She has been involved in the development of many of the fact sheets, webinars and workshops that growers turn to.
Her work has also included winemaking trials from local rootstock trials and fostering research relationships between PhD students and Limestone Coast growers.
Kerry says a key challenge for growers in the future will be adapting to the changing climate and learning to use water in an ever-increasing minimalistic way.
‘I believe stewardship programs will become more common place as a result, and the influence of regulatory pressure will become more challenging.’
Outside of traditional work, ‘community’ and her beloved animals (‘I have a menagerie!’) are key drivers for Kerry.
‘My motivation around my volunteer work is a sense of community. I volunteer on a number of committees to ensure that the events that are important to us as a community – including the Penola Show, Penola National Trust, Bool Lagoon Hall – continue to thrive.’