Winemaker Kendra White on moving to Australia, contributing to sustainable viticulture and keeping an open mind to seemingly random life experiences.
MSc Environment, Culture and Society
|Year of graduation||2011|
At the moment
I live and work in McLaren Vale, South Australia. Together with my husband, I own and make wine for our winery called Camwell Wines. I also work in vineyards focusing on sustainable viticulture, and distribute our wine across the country to restaurants.
Your time at the University
I first came to fall in love with Edinburgh on a three-month backpacking trip after I had finished my BA in English and Philosophy in New York. I had secured a volunteer position at a small organic farm just outside the city, and it was during that experience I realised I wanted to pursue a new career path based around sustainability.
A friend of mine was attending the University of Edinburgh at the time and loved it, so I was thrilled to find out about the Environment, Culture and Society masters degree. It was the perfect multidisciplinary pathway to expand my studies in philosophy, whilst opening doors to lectures in environmental science and sustainability.
My time at the University of Edinburgh was intellectually transformative. In lectures, I was exposed to some of the most brilliant minds from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and it was impossible not to leave feeling challenged, yet inspired each day. I was asked to think and write in ways I never had before, and loved how international all my classes were. Students from all over the globe would give unique perspectives on how climate change affected their home countries, and I sometimes joked it felt like a UN meeting. It was awe-inspiring.
Socially, some of the best years of my life were in Edinburgh. There was always something to do day or night, and the beauty of the city is incomparable. I made lasting friendships through the university that still stand strong today. I even have friends now in Australia who I met during my course!
Your experiences since leaving the University
I found myself in Australia. Up until this point I had always considered my fine dining experience separate to my degree or career as a sustainability community engagement officer. Through working a grape harvest on an organic vineyard in McLaren Vale, I realised I could combine all those passions into one.
After completing my MSc I contemplated pursuing a PhD, but in the end decided to take a year off to travel. I worked in a restaurant to save up money before taking off for the Trans-Siberian Railway. That trip spearheaded the very roundabout way of how I got to be where I am now: making wine in Australia.
I travelled through Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China getting a first-hand look at poverty that I had never been exposed to before. I was moved by it, and decided to apply for a job in international development. I worked for an organisation in Fiji spearheading a sustainable community development initiative in a small tribal village. I feel strongly a large reason I got that job is because of the prestige that comes with a degree from the University of Edinburgh.
Zoom through a few years of working in restaurants and more travelling, I found myself in Australia. Up until this point I had always considered my fine dining experience separate to my degree or career as a sustainability community engagement officer. Through working a grape harvest on an organic vineyard in McLaren Vale, I realised I could combine all those passions into one.
Soon after harvest, I was hired as the Sustainable Australia Winegrowing Officer. I helped farmers learn about how they could grow their grapes and make wine more sustainably, and also worked on establishing the programme as the nationwide standard for sustainable wine.
I’ve since moved on from that position to focus on my own company. My husband and I work in over 300 hectares of vineyards, make wine for our label, and I also work directly with restaurants to distribute our wine. Our winery is 100% solar powered and we’re always looking for ways to improve our sustainability efforts!
Life during Covid-19
Covid-19 hasn’t had a massive effect on our business, as we are primarily farmers. That being said, I am an expat in Australia, so watching from afar how the US is handling the crisis has been difficult knowing my family is there. It has made me grapple with how best to support the ones I love from a distance. The biggest lesson I’ve learned thus far is that staying in contact via text, email and FaceTime is so important, even if it’s just for a few minutes to say hello. The other takeaway is that the constant stream of news coming through every medium can be overwhelming. I’ve made an effort to put my mental health at the forefront and limit the amount of time I spend focusing on things I can’t control, and try to remind friends and family to do the same.
My advice would be to live in the present, be open to opportunities that may seem a little off your chosen path, and take advantage of everything Scotland has to offer! Use your time at the University to network, because you never know when you may be of use to someone or vice versa, even decades down the line.
I wouldn’t have gone to Edinburgh or accomplished any of the things I have if I hadn’t consistently kept an open mind to so many seemingly random life experiences. Keep your eyes open for those opportunities because they will enrich you and help carve out a path that’s all your own.
Travel Scotland. Every inch of it. It’s truly magical and will open your heart and mind in a way I’m not sure any other country can, and I’ve been to a lot of them.
Camwell Wines (external link)
Thinking of returning for further studies? The University of Edinburgh offers two tuition fee scholarship schemes for alumni of the University (exceptions apply).