Grape and Wine Production Workshops

October - December 2002

Jack Vanlaar , Decauter county extension education director
Mike White , crops field specialist
Eldon Everhart , horticulture field specialist


Dr. William and wife, Sibylla Brown of rural Leon , are an example of a number of entrepreneurial Iowans living out their dream of establishing a vineyard and/or winery and trying to rejuvenate what was once a major industry in Iowa . The Browns began their dream a number of years ago, establishing a home and the Timberhill Vineyard and Winery in Decatur County . They have gleaned information not only from Iowa State University (ISU) Extension specialists, but also from grape and wine experts in neighboring states and across the country. The Browns had obtained some grant funding through the regional Resource Conservation and Development Office (Southern Iowa RC&D) to equip and set up their operation to be a “template” to aspiring producers. Needless to say, there has been a tremendous growth of viticulture interest in Iowa and across the Midwest in recent years. The Browns asked the Decatur County Extension office for assistance in designing and delivering some field days or workshops to help fill the educational need and fulfill the requirements of their grant.


With input and assistance from Eldon Everhart, extension horticultural field specialist, and Mike White, crops and viticulture field specialist, the county Extension Education Director, ISU Extension state specialists, the SIRC&D coordinator and others, a series of workshops and field days were planned. The first being a general workshop and vineyard/winery tour in the fall of 2001. That workshop had to be repeated shortly after as the response exceeded capacity. The second general workshop was almost as full. From there, a series was designed for the following production year with workshops to coincide with the key management or cultural practice times in the vineyard: pruning, trellising, and training in March; planting in April (at a vineyard in Clarke county to the north); and summer vineyard management in June. These programs were delivered with tremendous success. Not only were ISU specialists involved, but specialists from the Midwest Fruit and Enology Center at Southwest Missouri State University and representatives from other cooperating organizations such as SIRC&D, Iowa Grape Growers Association, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Forestry Division of the Iowa DNR and USDA Forestry Service (source of Browns' grant).

A total of 340 people or almost 70 per session from across Iowa and neighboring states attended these workshops. Nearly 2/3 were new participants (non-repeats) at each session. Formal written evaluations at three of these sessions indicated a high level of satisfaction with the material presented. Of those responding to the written survey instruments (n=65), 52 (80%) reported receiving new ideas and information. From the pruning session alone, 52% planned to make specific changes or use new ideas in their operations as a result of the program. Satisfaction with the content and subject matter of the workshops and presenters ran high with 90%-95%+ stating a moderate to high level of satisfaction with these items.

Regarding dollar value impact, most participants were still in the fact finding or early beginning phase of the business, and although a wide majority felt these workshops would have a positive economic impact (~70%), most would not venture a dollar figure. However, one producer projected a $10, 0000 benefit; another suggested around $30,000 income boost over the next 5-9 years, and a third suggested a $10,000-$40,000 future benefit from better cultivar selection.

Dr. Eldon Everhart ( Mike White (


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