As of this date, Jacksonville Vineyard has six acres of grapes planted and trellised and the ground has been prepared for an additional four acres of grapes to be planted in the spring of 2002.
In the past, this farmland has been used for growing hay, corn, tobacco and raising a few cattle. With no one interested in leasing the land to raise tobacco, it was time to look for another farm related enterprise to use the land’s full potential. The cattle were sold, and the area formerly used for raising corn, was prepared and four acres of grapes were planted. At that time, two acres of grapes had already been planted in a former tobacco field, a pasture area, and around our house.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
The main goal of this project was to find an alternative for our small tobacco acreage. In looking at alternatives, we did much research on what could be raised in the area that other farmers were presently not raising, but could possibly become a future alternative crop. In researching the area’s past agricultural ventures, we learned that our small community was the first in Indiana to produce wine grapes. We learned this through talking with our local Purdue Extension Agent, John Keeton, and through doing research via the internet.
This sparked an interest in the production of grapes as well as bringing a piece of history back to the community. We contacted Bruce Borderlon, Viticulturist for Purdue University, who came to the farm and took soil samples. He deemed the farm to be an excellent place to grow grapes. Jim Casper from “Ways to Grow” contacted us, visited the farm, and gave us suggestions on what we could do and where to look for outside assistance, such as financial support. He suggested a class taught by the Small Business Development Center, in which we participated. In this class, we learned to write a business plan, which has proved invaluable in our efforts to obtain additional funding for our farming operation. One of the program’s directors, Linda Wood, has been extremely helpful in our endeavors. We were approved for a loan from a local Farm Service Agency, have been receiving monies as needed. We have applied for additional money to be sued for acquiring, planting, and trellising the last four acres of grapes. In this class, we met many other people from the area who were also trying to decide what alternative farming practices to implement. Also, in this class, we were able to share our concerns, ideas, and past experiences.
Our first two acres of grapes will be sold to Lanthier Winery in Madison, Indiana. However, these grape vines will not be mature enough to produce until the year, 2003. Our research has shown that new wineries are continually cropping up. Many wineries are not able to make the wine and grow their own grapes. Therefore, they use canned juice concentrate to make their wines. But they desire vine ripened grapes in order to make better tasting and better quality wines. We do not anticipate any problems finding wineries that would be willing to purchase the additional acres of grapes that we intend to raise. Our original project for which the grant was applied began with two acres, planted in April of 2000. The additional four aces were planted the following April, and in 2002, the last four acres of grapes will be planted to complete our project of ten acres. We have no plans for any further planting.
As we are not yet producing grapes, we cannot include yield data, etc. in this report. One of our intended uses for the grant money was experimental fencing to keep out deer. We do have some fencing up, and supplies have been purchased for additional needed fencing. We have plans to complete the fence when the remainder of this grant money is received. However, it was imperative that other aspects of the vineyard be completed first. So far, the deer have done mild damage to the existing vines. We have used grow tubes at the base of the vines and soap tied with twine to the trellising wires to deter the deer from entering the rows. This has been somewhat successful. However, additional fencing appears to be our best solution to solving the deer problem.
On April 15, 2000 a workshop was held by Purdue University at our vineyard site. Mr. Borderlon was the instructor at the event. There were around 60 people in attendance, coming from three states. We were given business cards of interested persons and email addresses for others. A reporter from our local newspaper was invited to attend, but cold not come due to other commitments. A gentleman from the Soil and Water District was among those in attendance that day. The last time Mr. Casper visited the farm, in October of 2000, he took pictures of our operation and talked with us at length about what we had done, and what our future plans would entail. Also, Mr. Borderlon has returned for a follow up visit of our operation and we have communicated numerous times.
Mr. Greg Curlin, Switzerland County’s High School Agriculture teacher and FFA sponsor, has seen our vineyard site and is interested in our progress. He has been invited to bring his classes for a tour. Mr. Curlin brought us back a vineyard picture on a post card from an FFA trip to Germany during the last school year.
Almost on a daily basis, people are asking about our grapes. What are you dong now? When will you have grapes? What kind of grapes did you plant? Do the deer bother them? What do you need to do to get the ground ready for planting? Our local newspaper printed an article this summer, which we hope served to enlighten interested farmers.