Vineyard grant expected to boost wine grape acreage in Southside

economic-forecast-headerAn $800,000 Southern Virginia Vineyard Development and Expansion Grant available through the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission is expected to foster new and expanded wine grape acreage in Southside Virginia.

The grant covers the counties of Amelia, Appomattox, Bedford, Brunswick, Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Franklin, Greensville, Halifax, Henry, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward and Sussex. It was developed with input from wine industry stakeholders, the Virginia Vineyards Association, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Pittsylvania and surrounding counties, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research and county Farm Bureaus in the region.

It will be administered by the Pittsylvania County Agriculture Development Office.

The grant is part of a larger three-year development and expansion program that includes an Extension-administered education component and on-farm research and development by the Danville-based Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.

Stephen Rose, a managing member of the Rosemont of Virginia winery and vineyards in Mecklenburg County, called the grant “an excellent opportunity to promote the growth of viticulture in southern Virginia,” noting that the grant program stands to encourage not only new growers “but also growers like myself who would like to expand.”

Rose, who serves on the board of Mecklenburg County Farm Bureau, said he is applying for grant funding to help add about 5 acres of grapes to his current 19. “I told someone, ‘We started paying for the vines back in 2014, and you can drink some of the wine in 2020,’” he said.

While the number of wineries in Virginia has doubled in the past eight years, from 119 in 2007 to 255 in 2015, vineyard acreage has not kept pace.

“I think the grant will do a lot to help us for additional vineyard implementation,” Rose said.

The majority of the project budget, $716,000, is earmarked for cost-share payments benefiting new producers and existing vineyards and providing an incentive for 238 new and expanded acres. A survey by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation resulted in expressed interest from more than 70 individuals in establishing vineyards. A Virginia Viticulture Association survey found nearly all of the 32 vineyards in Southside were interested in participating.

New growers will be required to establish at least 5 acres of wine grapes, with grant funds cost-sharing at $3,000 per acre up to $15,000 per participant. New growers also will be required to participate in a training program.

Existing vineyards of at least 3 acres will be eligible for cost share of $3,000 per acre when growers add an acre or more, up to $15,000 per participant. Cost-share funding of $20,000 is available to existing growers adding 10 acres or more.

 
augusta free press

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