In its ongoing efforts to support economic revitalization efforts, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) is pleased to announce a New Grower Workshop for agricultural entrepreneurs interested in starting their own vineyard. The workshop will be held 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 13 at IALR, 150 Slayton Ave., Danville. Virginia Tech experts will present introductory best practices of vineyard operation in Virginia, and information will be shared on how to apply for the cost-share program of the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC). New growers across the 34-county footprint of the TRRC are encouraged to attend.
“Viticulture is a sorely needed agricultural resource to fuel the health and growth of Virginia’s agritourism and wine industry, which is currently suffering from grape shortages,” said Mark Gignac, Executive Director of IALR. “We are excited to continue to partner on a solution with the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, the Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Vineyards Association. Anyone interested in becoming a vineyard grower is encouraged to attend our New Grower Workshop, which we hope will provide helpful resources, networking and information, especially in regards to available funding.”
The New Grower Workshop will be led by Dr. Tony Wolf, Director of the Alson H. Smith Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center and Professor of Viticulture at Virginia Tech, and Tremain Hatch, Viticulture Extension/Research Associate at Virginia Tech. Amy Turner of IALR and Program Manager of the TRRC Vineyard Development and Expansion Cost-Share Program, will provide details on cost-share funding. Although the workshop is free, advance registration is required by November 11 and can be secured by visiting www.TRRCgrape.com/New-Grower-Workshop.pdf.
Topics of the workshop will include an introduction to viticulture, market opportunities, business planning and predicted cash flows, site evaluations and environmental challenges, design considerations, fundamentals of vineyard management, an overview of the Vineyard Development and Expansion Cost-Share Program, and a visit to The Homeplace Vineyards in Chatham. A complimentary lunch will be provided by IALR. Due to the outdoor component of the vineyard visit, attendees should dress appropriately.
Attendance to the New Grower Workshop or a previously offered workshop is required for new growers in order to be eligible for the TRRC’s Vineyard Development and Expansion Cost-Share Program. IALR was recently named by TRRC as the new program manager of this program, first launched in 2016. New applications for grant awards are currently being accepted. Through the cost-share program, IALR works with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, TRRC and the Virginia Vineyards Association to increase vineyard acreage and address the shortage of Virginia-grown grapes.
The TRRC’s cost-share program, in place through Jan. 12, 2020, is designed to support Virginia’s wine industry and agritourism by providing growers incentive to expand vineyard acreage. A cost-share award of up to $3,000 per acre is available for qualified vineyard growers—reimbursing 33 percent of eligible expenditures. Vineyards with up to nine acres may receive a maximum award of up to $15,000, and those with 10 or more acres may receive a maximum award of up to $20,000. Funding is awarded through a competitive process and may be sought by qualified existing growers who wish to expand their current acreage and by new growers developing their first vineyard. To be considered for the program, new growers must establish at least three acres of new vines, and existing growers must be willing to plant a minimum of one new acre. Eligible cost-share items include, but are not limited to, grapevines, hardware for trellis systems, fencing and irrigation systems.
The SOVA Vineyard Development and Expansion Program was developed with an overall goal of increasing production of wine grapes in Southern and Southwest Virginia. In order for wines to be marketed as Virginia wines, they must contain at least 75 percent of Virginia-grown grapes. While the number of wineries in Virginia has been increasing, the pace of vineyard expansion has lagged, resulting in acute grape shortages and the slowing of Virginia wine production. In 2015, the Virginia Wineries Association, Virginia Wine, Virginia Vineyards Association and Virginia Wine Council partnered on a strategic plan to address the issue.