From Equipment Manufacturing to Wine Making on the Same Farm
September is wine and grape month in North Carolina, and you can’t talk about either without talking to Ron Taylor, with LuMil Vineyards, and DiVine Foods in Elizabethtown, North Carolina. Taylor talks about how they got their start in the grape and wine business:
“Well, what we were doing at Taylor Manufacturing making tobacco, cotton and peanut equipment, that kind of thing, and with the buyout of the federal tobacco program, and we were looking for other implements to make. So, we put in a few acres of grapes just to do research & development to make equipment. We made an automatic grape harvesters, sprayers, and pruners, we have sold this equipment throughout the muscadine belt, primarily and in other grape producing areas particularly, and that put us in the grape growing business.”
You have taken that equipment and actually…you kind of did it backwards, you started with the equipment then went to grape growing. Most people do it the other way around.
“We had to put in a few acres of grapes on our own farm, there’s a lot of research and development. But, when we had the grapes growing out there, we had to do something with the grapes, so we then we got into the wine business here on the farm, and we became an agritourism site, we became a destination place for people to come and enjoy the beauty of our farm.”
Now, let’s talk a little bit about the many different products that you produce, either for yourself or for other people. How do you market those products, Ron?
“We’ve been real aggressive with our marketing, as LuMil Vineyard was developed, and all the grapes were put in the ground and started harvesting at our own facility there at LuMil, we wanted to be able to sell jams and jellies and that type of thing. So, we became involved in the Wine Growers Association, the Wine & Grape Council, the agritourism folks, but other organizations, specialty foods, that kind of thing.
I’ve been going to farm shows all my life, and we continue to go those same kind of shows and set up a booth.”
Now, Ron, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the Got to Be NC program which is a fabulous marketing program, which is a fabulous marketing program for people like you that are growing and processing their product right here with the borders of North Carolina.
“One of the best marketing tools in the country, really anywhere, is right here in North Carolina with the Department of Agriculture with the Got to Be NC program. We’re constantly getting text messages and emails about events that are taking place, they’ll take us to anybody that we want to see, if there’s a grocer or any industry out there that can use our products. We’ve just had great success working with the Department of Agriculture. I kind of try and fool everybody, tell everyone that we just kind of blow it out there and see if it sticks, and sure enough it has.”
The state’s wine and grape industry continues to grow. The Tar Heel State is now home to 140 wineries and 400 commercial grape growers.
We’ll talk further about wine and grape month with NC Ag Commissioner tomorrow on Today’s Topic.