Trevor Garcia is determined to find a way to help farmers and ranchers produce more while decreasing their environmental impact — use science to further sustainable agricultural practices.

The desire to make those gains through agricultural education is shared by both CoastHills Credit Union and Presqui’le Winery, which have teamed to present Allan Hancock College with donations totaling $120,000 over the past two years, and representing the two largest gifts in the history of the college’s Viticulture and Enology Foundation.

Garcia, a current Hancock student and Cabrillo High School graduate, is just one of the direct beneficiaries of the partnership. His goal of transferring to a major university to earn a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness received a significant boost last spring when he received $3,500 in scholarships from CoastHills and Presqu’ile Winery last May.

“The scholarships helped literally with my entire life. School is not cheap,” said Garcia, who plans to transfer from Hancock to either Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo or Fresno State University to major in agribusiness. “I cannot thank them enough. It’s not just money that they gave, they provided me a chance to succeed.”

Last week, representatives from CoastHills and Presqu’ile presented a check for $65,000 to the Allan Hancock College Board of Trustees. The gift, the single-largest in the history of the college’s Viticulture and Enology Foundation, will directly support the college’s agribusiness program. Last year, CoastHills and Presqu’ile donated $55,000 to the college.

“Community support from businesses like Presqu’ile and CoastHills helps the dedicated faculty and staff at Allan Hancock College change the odds for students and our community,” said Superintendent/President Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D. “Thanks to the $120,000 they donated over the last two years, the college will continue to expand the agribusiness curriculum and resources available to students.”

The gifts are the result of Rancho Vino, the signature fundraiser of the CoastHills Community Foundation, the charitable fundraising arm of the credit union. Held at Presqu’ile Winery in Santa Maria back in September, the 10th annual Rancho Vino featured an evening of enchanting music, delicious food and the sale of two specially labeled Presqu’ile wines, aptly titled Generous Harvest.

CoastHills Community Foundation Director Rebecca Alarcio said the donations were tangible ways to help students continue their passions both for education and agriculture.

“The ag industry truly is the backbone of our economy here on the Central Coast, and supporting its future through this continued partnership between Allan Hancock College, Presqu’ile and CoastHills turned out to be the perfect pairing for Rancho Vino,” said CoastHills President/CEO Jeff York. “To see first-hand how CoastHills is making a difference for students and future leaders in the ag industry is a special feeling.”

With last year’s gift of $55,000, Hancock’s agribusiness program purchased a premium filter for its on-campus winery, made needed repairs to its tractor and forklift, hired new student workers for its community garden and vineyard, and funded a pair of scholarships, one of which went to Garcia. Hancock Academic Dean Richard Mahon says this year’s donation will have a similar significant impact.

“Hundreds of students have already benefited directly from CoastHills,” said Mahon. “It’s encouraging to know hundreds more will.”

Garcia commended CoastHills and Presqu’ile for providing a leg up in the world of crop science and agriculture to more students like himself.

“It’s great to see local companies give back and personally give their vote of confidence to deserving students,” said Garcia.

The agribusiness program and its popularity with students at Hancock continue to grow. The college has seen a 24 percent increase in students registered for agribusiness classes in the last two years. Hancock is also one of three community colleges in the state to operate a bonded winery. Earlier this year, three student-produced wines won bronze medals at the 40th annual Orange County Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition.

Over the 10 years of Rancho Vino, CoastHills has raised nearly $700,000 through its Rancho Vino events.