Alum’s love for farming turns to glasses full of wine

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

SDSU alumnus Jerry Lohr has a master’s in civil engineering, but his career is completely different from engineering. Lohr is the founder, owner and president of J. Lohr Wines and Vineyards.

Raised on a farm, he developed a love for farming. He wanted to continue to farm, even though he owned a land development and custom home-building business.

“I love farming,” he said.

He became very interested in California grape growing. Lohr started his first vineyard in 1971 from scratch. The vineyard was located in the Arroyo Seco region in California. By 1989, he had two other vineyards in the Napa Valley and Paso Robles. Currently, Lohr has 2,000 acres of vineyards. In 2003, he decided to give up his building business and devote his time to winemaking.

The farming skills it takes to run a vineyard came from Lohr’s childhood in South Dakota. He lived on a farm in Raymond, SD.

When he was older, he decided to attend State because it was a good college close to home.

“It was ‘the’ university at the time,” he said.

A variety of activities and a part-time job took up of much Lohr’s time. He was involved in the Blue Key society, the ASCE Civil Engineering Group, the Newman Catholic Club, and the Hobo Committee.

A graduate of 1958, Lohr said SDSU was enjoyable. He really appreciated his professors.

“[There are] so many good professors,” he said. “They were always kind of there for us.”

He also enjoyed the interaction between students and faculty.

“A tremendous number of both young people and professor at South Dakota wanting to work together,” Lohr said.

State was a suitable place for Lohr, because it gave him the chance to get away from home and still be close by.

Even though Lohr currently lives in Saratoga, Calif., he stills keeps close to South Dakota. Lohr comes to South Dakota for the Governor’s Hunt, SDSU Foundation Board meetings, and various fundraising activities. He also has farmland near Clark that he likes to check up on.

He also supports State students. Lohr sponsors 30 Jackrabbit Guarantee Scholarships. He gives because he believes scholarships are very important.

“I try to do scholarships to encourage students who might have not gotten other scholarship or who might have gone to other schools,” he said.