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Starting A Vineyard


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#1 HeilersVineyard

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 03:07 PM

Does anyone have any ideas/suggestions for someone looking for a small operating loan to startup a small vineyard (1 acre)? Do local banks work with you on that? USDA? Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.

#2 West Seattle Winery

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 04:01 PM

It has been my experience that with agricultural ventures its VERY hard to get funding and you need approx 40% down to even sit down with a banker to talk about it.... but interested to hear what others have to say (so I can steal there ideas too!). Everyone has told me that with undeveloped land its pretty much a cash deal (I am trying to put together the scratch to do a 4 acre vineyard).
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#3 garlandr

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 07:34 PM

You may want to do a business plan for a nursery? Honestly their are many ways to cut corners when starting up a vineyard. Find some one that had land that would not mind you cutting down cedar trees.
I started with 1/2 acre that I cut down cedar trees for post Bought 100 cabernet, 100 merlot, 50 reisling, 50 chardonnay plants and 10 (101-14) rootstock plants the next 4 years and I now have 4 acres from the original cuttings. Grafting was alittle difficult.

You would be surprise how many cuttings you get from 2 year growth. Also alot of wineries need help in Feb./ March for pruning "volunteer" You can get alot of cuttings this way for free.


Good luck.

#4 Willowdale

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 07:50 PM

What are the expenses for starting a vineyard? I own plenty of good farm acreage, and plan to put in several rows of vines in the spring. I know I need to run the trellis and buy the vines, but what else is there I would need, if I decide to plant, say, two to four acres in grapes? I was planning to just shoestring it out of pocket (using cuttings as possible). Now I'm scared there's some looming expense I don't know about.
Catherine
Growing: persimmon, elderberry, rose and fig.
Planting in 2011: grapes.
In carboys: 2 gal. native persimmon wine; 4 gal. harvest spice cyser; 6 gal WE SelEst. Guwurtztraminer
In bottles: 6 gal WE Pomegranate Zinfindel kit

#5 garlandr

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 09:20 PM

Here is a link to the MISSOURI GRAPE GROWING GUIDE. It gives you a good idea of what different soil test, materials, plants...will cost when starting a vineyard. Take a look at chapter 3 for cost considerations. Keep in mind you dont have to buy everything at once? trellis system can wait until the 2nd year. Most important is your soil and irrigation, and the root stock you pick. Also your vineyard set up. You have to consider sun exposure, wind direction "very important" location, location, location. If you have hilly farmland plant on the 3/4 part of the hill not in the valley "drainage is key". You will figure it out, alot of people here to help.

http://mtngrv.missouristate.edu/assets/publications/MS29grapeguide.pdf

#6 Wade's Wines

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 08:13 AM

Willowdale,
The size of vineyard you're talking, 3 to 4 acres, will require a tractor and a significant sprayer. If you already have those for your farm land you're way ahead. If not, plan on spending $10,000 to $30,000 on equipment.
If you have to buy posts figure about $7 each, and a post to every 2 vines, so maybe 250 posts per acre, so about $1750 per acre for posts, so $7000 for 4 acres. If you can avoid buying posts you're way ahead there.
Wire will be $1000 to $2000 off the top of my head.
Plants, at $3 each will be $6000 if you're planting it all at once, but as others have said you can start smaller and expand. Same with posts and everything else.
Without buying a tractor, you've spent $14,000 if planting all at once. At least double that if you're also buying equipment. To do it right, triple it.
Now let's say your vines are in and labor is free (yourself, friends, family, mostly yourself). You need to make sure those young vines don't die with a surprise drought for a month in July. They need water at least weekly the first few years. If you're using city water, expect an occasional $1000 a month water bill. My highest was $800 in one month after several $600 bills on a half acre of grapes, so we drilled a well, $4000 total cost. It saved the day! This year, with my vines in their 4th and 5th seasons, we never needed to water at all (54" annual rain average, probably similar to your location give or take), but next year it may be essential again. Of course too, the older the vines get the deeper and farther their roots go to take care of their water needs themselves. But you could lose them all in year 1 or 2 if you can't water them.
On to the next expense: Spraying! Assuming you already have a tractor mounted sprayer, let's just talk chemicals which you will definitely need on the East side of Virginia. This year I spent over $1 per vine on fungicide and to a much lesser amount on herbicide. If I had kept completely on top of it I probably could have spent $1.50 per vine. So for your 4 acres, figure $2000 to $3000 per year.
Believe me, I'm not exaggerating the cost here at all! And the first return on your investment will be year 4, with a light crop, maybe 5# per vine. If you have 2000 vines that's 5 tons of grapes. If a winery buys them, they'll probably pay $.50 per pound if you're growing what they want. So that's $5000 back, minus that year's expenses of $3000 on chemicals, labor still being free. By year 6 maybe you'll get 3x the crop and have the same expense for chemicals, so it starts looking better.
The next step, before spending any money is to figure out what you'll do with 4 acres of grapes when you can begin harvesting in 4 to 5 years. Talk to a winery near by, find out what they would buy in what quantities and at what price. Or else figure out another marketing plan. Make sure you're planting a marketable variety.
I have about 1/2 to 2/3 acres of grapes and can sell mine at a local Produce Auction, at which I'm the Auctioneer. Some Folks sell to home winemakers. Some have pick your own vineyards, I imagine. But be sure and have an idea of how you'll sell your grapes before you tackle a 3 or 4 acre vineyard project.
While no banker in his right mind would loan to build a vineyard, there are grants out there. There's one here in Tennessee that's $10,000 just for starting vineyards. It's a pay-back grant, but no payments until you produce a crop, and then it's a % of your crop sales, I think. I wish I had pursued it.
Robert Mondavi said, "The way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to start out with a large one!"
I'm not trying to be discouraging, just wanting you to know what you're getting into up front. It's still worth doing if you'd like to spend the rest of your life in a vineyard, a very nice place to be!

p.s. Most growers will agree, I think, that somewhere around a half acre vineyard (maybe 300 vines) is about the most one person can take care of and have a full time job elsewhere. I think, with proper equipment and a little occasional help, one person could handle 5 acres or more full time . If you have more than one variety harvest doesn't happen all at once, and I don't believe one person could handle 5 acres of grapes by themselves at harvest if they all ripened at once without help.
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#7 Wade's Wines

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 09:02 AM

Does anyone have any ideas/suggestions for someone looking for a small operating loan to startup a small vineyard (1 acre)? Do local banks work with you on that? USDA? Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.

Where are you located? Check with your County Extension Agent. Also check with the State College Ag Department. You might find a pay-back grant, but I doubt you'll find a banker that will lend to build a vineyard. Of course, if you have lots of equity, you could borrow against your home to fund your vineyard. Don't expect the vineyard to make a single payment on the borrowed money for at least 5 years.
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#8 Willowdale

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 09:28 AM

Wade, that was extremely helpful high-level information as I'm trying to build a big picture of how this could work. At this point I only need ball park numbers, because I'm not writing a business plan, I'm still trying to figure out what business plan I want to write! I own plenty of farm acres now and will most likely own 120 acres before too long, but I have no interest in farming the corn, soy and potatoes it supports today. I'm just not attracted to that kind of agriculture. I like perennial plantings.

I'm kicking around all kinds of ideas, mostly involving fruit, to develop a business plan that I can self-fund while I'm working for the next ten years, that will allow me to run an enjoyable and profitable business by the time I retire. In this plan, it's ok with me that the plantings generate little or no money for the first five years, although it would be awfully nice to be able to offset some of the expense.

I like elderberry, persimmon and grape best. I definitely have the whole vineyard fantasy, but building the business of a winery is daunting. I'm going to take your advice and explore other markets for grapes, that would allow me to focus on growing the best possible fruit without going the next thousand miles of investment involved in making and marketing competitive wines on a commercial scale. How can I learn more about selling fruit to home wine makers or at auction? For example, how it needs to be harvested and prepared for sale for those various markets?
Catherine
Growing: persimmon, elderberry, rose and fig.
Planting in 2011: grapes.
In carboys: 2 gal. native persimmon wine; 4 gal. harvest spice cyser; 6 gal WE SelEst. Guwurtztraminer
In bottles: 6 gal WE Pomegranate Zinfindel kit

#9 Wade's Wines

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 10:02 AM

It just needs to be picked and boxed, and presented as pretty as possible of course.
Somewhere I have a booklet on all the Produce Auctions in the USA, most East of the Mississippi, about 35 total. I'll see if I can find it and post any in VA.
Between our classifieds here, Winebusiness.com's classifieds and local ads I'm sure you'd find plenty of people who'd buy wine grapes. Vendors at Farmers Markets would buy from you too. You'd have time to build up your market between planting and harvesting. If you wanted to sell to a certain winery though, you'd need to find out what they'd buy.
Some states have a Farm Winery license too, not sure about VA. NY and WA do, not too expensive and lets a small winemaker sell their products without building a true winery. TN doesn't have such a license and I sure wish they did!
There's no reason you can't start with a half acre and expand from cuttings every year. That way you'll be able to see when you've reached your level of endurance, so to speak. (Also known as your threshold of pain! :) )
Really, growing grapes is high on the list of most enjoyable things I've ever done! smileytoast.gif smileytoast.gif
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#10 Wade's Wines

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 10:19 AM

Doing a search, I found the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction in Dayton, VA. How far is that from you?
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#11 Willowdale

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 11:13 AM

Doing a search, I found the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction in Dayton, VA. How far is that from you?


Five hour drive plus tolls of almost $ 30 with a stay over 24 hours.

Better bets for me would be Salisbury md or any eastern shore md, or anywhere in delaware
Catherine
Growing: persimmon, elderberry, rose and fig.
Planting in 2011: grapes.
In carboys: 2 gal. native persimmon wine; 4 gal. harvest spice cyser; 6 gal WE SelEst. Guwurtztraminer
In bottles: 6 gal WE Pomegranate Zinfindel kit

#12 Wade's Wines

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 08:26 AM

Check out http://laurelauctionmarket.com in Laurel, DE
They might work for you.

It looks like there's also one in Loveville, southern MD, maybe Loveville Produce Auction. Do a search for it.
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#13 Will H

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 08:45 AM

Virginia Tech has a great Viticulture and Enology Department. They have free resources and work with Co agents.

#14 Hollywood Hill Vineyards

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 09:28 AM

Virginia Tech has a great Viticulture and Enology Department. They have free resources and work with Co agents.


Being a former Marylander (I spent 30 years there), I've always thought the eastern shore had potential as a grape growing region because of the mild temperatures in the winter and the summer. Lots of nice sandy soils (instead of the clay further inland). There is a quite a bit of grapes going in the ground up in Maryland http://www.marylandw...hesapeake.shtml so I would check with some of those guys to see what they are doing. Most of the VA vineyards are going in around Charlottesville so little attention has been given to the shore areas...

Steve Snyder
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www.hollywoodhillvineyards.com

 


#15 galen1115

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 11:41 AM

Check out http://laurelauctionmarket.com in Laurel, DE
They might work for you.

It looks like there's also one in Loveville, southern MD, maybe Loveville Produce Auction. Do a search for it.


Wade is steering you right. Probably much more because there are things like post driver or post hole digger. irrigation costs etc. I started a vineyard this year that is 4 acres. It almost killed me putting it in. I started having deer predation. Had to build an eight foot fence with eight foot gates. Because my vineyard blocks were not close together I had to go around 15 acres. But I planted an orchard in the deer free zone. I have spent over 40 grand so far and not done. I'm and involved in the winery and tasting room which will cost over 150k. All food grade plastic and stainless steel. Oh yeah license costs, trademark costs. And I'm doing a lot of the work myself. I did perk tests on the soil first. Found that half my property didn't have good drainage. I will have to buy from growers. I'll pay top prices for quality fruit. Wade is right on with the figures but I say add at least 10% for margin.




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