"Grape Farming Opportunities"

Wine sales are booming in Texas, so much that Texas is the only state in the union that has a deficit of vineyards relative to sales of wine in the state. Local vintner Paul Bonarrigo says Texas needs another 14,000 acres planted to meet demand. Joe Brown has more in this week’s From The Ground Up.

"It's really important that we start putting more acres in the ground. Right now grapes are the, probably the most prolific and most profitable legal agricultural product."

Paul Bonarrigo and his wife Merrill felt like a pioneers when they started their vineyard in 1977. Since then, things have changed.

"The Texas Department of Agriculture has an economic stimulus program where if a person has a five acre plot of land, and they put up $25,000 and they can apply for a matching grant from TDA they get $25,000 from the state to put in the vineyard."

Bonarrigo said attendance at last spring’s growers meeting quadrupled.

"I think people are finally realizing that this industry is for real. We're the 5th largest producing wine state in America, and it's very hard to make wine without a whole lot of grapes."

The Brazos Valley’s climate lowers risks to grape farmers.

"This part, the coastal central part of Texas is the least likely to have a spring freeze. We're also the least likely to have a cold winter kill, and it's also the least likely to have hail damage."

Another thing that makes grape farming attractive is that it can be done part time.

"You can do this and still keep your day job, so you can do this on the weekends. With a relatively small tractor, and a relatively small amount of equipment, and a decent irrigation well, you can grow 5 acres of grapes."

So could grapes become a crop that diversifies what local producers are growing and attract some beginners with smaller tracts of land that might not support other types of agricultural production? Time will tell. I’m Joe Brown, looking at Brazos Valley agriculture, From The Ground Up.

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