var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-16049511-2']); _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']); (function() { var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + ''; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })();

NC Sustainable Viticulture Conference

The 2nd Annual North Carolina Conference on Sustainable Viticulture is coming up, next week. Chuck Blethen, co-owner of Jewel of the Blue Ridge Vineyard in Marshall, NC as well executive director of the Sustainable Appalachian Viticulture Institute:

“Well, coming up next week on February 22nd, Wednesday, is going to be the 2nd Annual Sustainable Viticulture Conference being held at Warren Wilson College just east of Asheville.”

The western part of the state had a 150 year history of growing burly tobacco, but those days are gone, but the farms and farmers are not. Blethen says that their goal is to teach farmers that growing grapes is a viable option for the mountains:

“Well, the main thing that we’re trying to do is get people to understand that you can grow grapes in the mountains. There is a misconception that you can’t grow grapes in steep slopes and high altitudes. And I’ve visited hundreds of vineyards all over the world and most recently I spend a couple of weeks in northern Italy, right near the Swiss border, we visited a winery at over 8,000 feet elevation. That old myth that grapes won’t grow in high altitudes and steep slopes is false. So, we’re trying to get them to understand that you can grow grapes here.”

Once the idea of growing grapes in the mountains is embraced, Blethen says it’s not without challenges:

“The second things is that growing grapes here in the mountains has some challenges that you don’t have down in the flatlands, certainly the topography and the steep slopes is one of them and we’ve had to develop some special techniques for dealing with that. And we hope to expose people to some of these new ideas that we’ve brought back from some of the areas we’ve visited in the world that’s very similar to what we have here in the mountains.”

If viticulture is of interest, but wine is not, Blethen says there are many other avenues for the grape crop:

“And I think the next thing is we have a slightly different climate and a different disease pressure and so forth and some of our local growers will have some personal experience to share wit that. People who typically think about grapes usually associate grapes with wine, and that’s a good thing, I suppose, but it turns out that there’s over 150 value-added products that you can get from grapes, and we hope that these are some of the eye-opening experiences that people who come to attend the conference will realize is that it’s not just the grapes, and it’s not just the wine….there’s lots and lots of products that can be made and sold from the growing of grapes.”

More information and registration for the conference is available on line at jewel of the blueridge dot com. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.