What a beautiful day we had at Mountain Rose Vineyard in Wise, Virginia. Grow Appalachia participants met at the Community Center and picked up participants along the way as we drove about an hour for another field trip to Mountain Rose Vineyard. We were met by the owner of the vineyard and learned the history of MRV. Her family began the vineyard in 1995 when their son, who was currently away at college to be an engineer called home and asked his Mom to put Dad on the phone too. She said she new it was important, but had no idea how much it would change all their lives. He declared what he really wanted to do was “grow things.” And so it began.
This is a family operation, we learned which grapes are the grandchildren’s favorite along the way. Our guide was a former teacher and gave good information about the start up process for their vineyard. She shared the pitfalls and stressed how much work was involved, but made it evident it was the right choice for her family. An interesting bit of information was that her vineyard is on land that was previously mined. She explained the process for reclaiming the soil and time and effort needed for that, but it is thriving now. She also made another connection to mining that was interesting to me. Each row of the grapes had a rose at the end of it. My simple thought was that tied in w/the Mountain Rose Vineyard theme, but she explained the rose bush serves as the same purpose as the canary in the coal mines. A mold will begin to show on the rose first and alert the farmer of coming problems for the grapes, just as the canary alerted the miner of a problem in the mines.
This was the first of the harvest season, she said about 5,000 lbs. of grapes had already been picked with another 25,000 anticipated to be picked. We took about 150 lbs. off their hands at the price of $1.79 per pound, well…..we paid for that many pounds, we probably ate that much again as eating the grapes as you pick is a perk of picking. You never get to do that in the grocery store…and get by with it.
Mountain Rose is also a winery and they have a large wine making process. Much bigger than I had anticipated, with some hefty figures to go with it for the equipment, but she shared information about value added grants they had received. Our tour w/questions was over an hour and all seemed to enjoy learning about the process. I love the idea of “field trips” for grown ups and we get to learn.
After our tour came what we had all waited for, harvesting the grapes. Sadly this was over quickly as the grapes were so plentiful, but it was my first time picking grapes in a vineyard and was a grand experience. One of our participants who homeschools her children, brought five little ones for the tour and grape picking. It’s always nice to have the excitement of children around and glad to be sharing this with them.
We all left with about ten pounds of the freshest grapes and good information for the possibilities of large scale farming. Some in our group have this interest and land that it would be possible for this to happen on. This trip allows us to see the potential for large scale farming in our own community and also makes gardening ambassadors of our participants to spread the word.
We stopped in groups for lunch on our way home and had another nice day with our community neighbors and friends that would not have happened without the support of Grow Appalachia.