Wine Industry Pioneer Kirby Moulton, 83, Dies

July 06, 2011
By L. Tim Wallace

moulton130.pngKirby Moulton, internationally recognized extension economist at the University of California, passed away on May 20, 2011.

Born in Berkeley, Kirby graduated from Yale University in 1950, only to return to UC Berkeley to receive his MBA in 1952. He spent the next two years serving in the United States Navy, stationed mostly in Japan. He again returned to UC Berkeley and received his Ph.D. in 1970.

Kirby spent the next ten years in various executive marketing and sales positions in the logging and timber industry along California’s north coast. He eventually settled in at University of California, Berkeley as an economist in Cooperative Extension – focusing on agricultural trade, trade policy, viticulture, market liberalization in Eastern Europe, and global competition in horticultural products – until his retirement in 1996.

Kirby’s work was highly influential both nationally and internationally. He worked with country representatives to create standards, forums, and policies to benefit growers globally. He traveled frequently to Washington D.C. to advise the USDA trade representative, and he was the first American to be elected President of the Commission on Economics and Legislation of the International Office of Wines and Vines (OIV).
For many years, he was a delegate to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Intergovernmental Committee on Grape Products and a member of the USDA’s Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee to the Secretary and U.S. Trade Representative.

Kirby’s research on grape and wine markets helped guide the California wine industry into international promi- nence. Partnering with universities and governments, he was able to assist Eastern Bloc countries in converting agricultural industries from collective to privatized systems. His innovative work around the world led to him to becoming the first American awarded the French Merit of Agriculture.

Kirby’s wide influence spread beyond his professional life. He was able to raise confidence, clarify choices, and help people realize their abilities and shape their goals, whether he was speaking with struggling farmers or his grandchildren. Kirby’s favorite approach was an early evening “wine time,” which gave everyone time to relax, take stock of their day, and make plans for moving forward.

Both worldly and scholarly, it is no wonder why people came to Kirby for advice on careers or life, or merely just to talk. A question he used to open the discussion at the men’s book club he cofounded and remained a member for 23 years – “So ... what’s the book really about?” – gave insight into Kirby’s vast curiosity and intellectual depth.

A lifetime resident of the East Bay, Kirby leaves his wife, Peggy, three children, Curt, Mary and Mike, six grandchildren, and many friends and colleagues who miss him greatly. At his request and in his spirit, many family and friends met recently to celebrate his life and, once again, enjoy “wine time with Kirby.”

A quote by E. E. Cummings guided his relationships and embodies his life: “Be of love (a little) more careful than of everything.”

Written by L. Tim Wallace, friend and colleague in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley. The Moulton family suggests that donations in Kirby’s memory can be made to Hospice of the East Bay.

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