Farm Vineyard Field Day

Jerry Chizek Calhoun County Extension Education Director

Problem Statement:

With the increased interest and visibility of grape and wine production over the last five years in Iowa, there is a need to get information to clients that currently have grape vines in the ground, are considering raising grapes, and those whose interest includes starting and operating a winery.  With such a young industry in Iowa, the educational, technical, and social networks for producers and processors needs to become established. 

Grapes are a high maintenance and high-value crop.  Producers often need to wait at least three years for a partial grape harvest and usually do not see any income from the vineyard until the fourth year.   While they are waiting for the vines to produce fruit, they are accruing expenses in doing the maintenance of spraying, pruning, trellising, etc.  As with many agricultural commodities, the money is in the end product.  In this case, the end product is wine.  In Iowa, a ton of quality grapes can be sold to a winery for over $1,000 per ton, however, the wine from that same ton of grapes may be valued at nearly $7,000.  With that thought in mind, grape growers and wine processors need to be educated that there are Iowa viticulture and enology experts to help add value to these local enterprises.

Programmatic Response: 

A farm vineyard field day was held on July 22, 2006 in Farnhamville, Iowa in cooperation with Richard Black, vineyard owner/operator, Practical Farmers of Iowa, and the Iowa State University Extension - Calhoun County office.  Over 90 people attended the daylong program.  Presentations during the day for grape growers included Eli Bergmeier, Viticulture Technician of the Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development, Inc., discussing Viticulture 101 for the beginning grape grower.  Dr. Paul Domoto, Iowa State University Extension Fruit Specialist, lead the topic of grape plant nutrition.  Dr. Peter Hemstad, University of Minnesota Viticulturist, shared information on growing the new cold-climate grape cultivars that have been developed in Minnesota. A presentation on managing vineyard crop load was given by Dr. Paul Read from the University of Nebraska. 

At the same time, persons interested in winemaking were involved in presentations by Connie Hardy, Iowa State University Value-Added Agriculture Program Specialist, on the financial aspect of starting a winery; Robin Partch, Northern Vineyards Winery in Stillwater, Minnesota, shared wine-making techniques using cold-climate cultivars; Lynn Walding, Administrator for the Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division, provided information on winery licensing and related laws; and a discussion on establishing approved viticulture areas in Iowa was lead by Paul Tabor from the Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery.  To conclude the day, Sandra Taylor from The World of Wine, lead the group in wine tasting and sharing a common vocabulary in wines.


Of the evaluations returned at the end of the day, 96% said the meeting met their predetermined expectations, 98% responded that the meeting was presented in an easy to understand manner, and 94% were interested in attending future sessions on grape/wine production.  Only 35% of the attendees identified themselves as a grape grower and 2% were involved in operating a winery, however, 38% were interested in starting a winery; leading to the conclusion that there is interest in expanding this revitalized Iowa industry.

October 2006

120 Farm and Business Management

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