2020 Growing and Marketing Wine Grapes in Tennessee Workshops Evaluation Summary

by. Jared Bruhin, Marketing Specialist Center for Profitable Agriculture

Five Growing and Marketing Wine Grapes in Tennessee workshops were held across Tennessee during January and February 2020. The workshops were located in Jackson, Franklin, Crossville, Chattanooga and White Pine, Tennessee. The topics and presenters for the workshops included:

  • An Overview of the TN Grape and Wine Industry Adam Acampora (TFWA)
  • Availability State and Federal Resources Kyle Hensley (TDA)
  • Grape Growing 101 Dr. David Lockwood (UT Extension)
  • Understanding Wine Grapes Dr. David Lockwood
  • Grape Marketing & Contract Basics Jared Bruhin (UT CPA)
  • Grape Production Budgeting Les Humpal (UT MANAGE)

Each workshop also included a panel discussion with local vineyard and winery owners to educate participants on which wine grape varieties the local wineries need and how to best work with local wineries.

A total of 80 people attended the five workshops. Sixty-two participants completed the post-workshop evaluation for a 77.5 percent response rate. The evaluation form is included in Appendix A.

As a result of the workshops, 62 respondents (100 percent) reported the information taught in the workshop increased their knowledge of wine grape production, budgeting, and marketing.

Forty respondents (65 percent) indicated the workshop helped them gain knowledge or skills to increase production, increase sales revenue, reduce costs, prevent losses, or better plan for up-front capital expenditures. Zero respondents indicated the workshop did not help them gain knowledge or skills for their vineyard winery operations. Twenty-two respondents (35 percent) indicated they did not currently have or plan to start a wine grape vineyard in the next year.

Respondents were asked to say how they plan to use the information learned from the workshop. Responses are listed below:

  • To develop a business plan and marketing plan. For variety selection and land development.
  • I was so worried/stressed about financial investment into winery equipment. It was great to learn that I can operate as a farm winery and sell my product at our farm retail store. The financial information presented by Les was fantastic!
  • Talk to some of our local wineries to see the need for blueberries
  • Site selection. Variety selection. Production practices. Great information regarding costs per acre set up.
  • Assess the viability of initiating a vineyard.
  • Plan on starting a vineyard in 3-5 years.
  • Improve my current plan. Certain things learned will change my plan.
  • We learned we probably won’t be starting a vineyard due to start-up costs.
  • Planning for starting a vineyard in the near future.
  • Improve and expand my vineyard.
  • To contact Extension agent and set up meetings to determine best variety to plant, where to plant and get started on a vineyard.
  • I’m in the starting phases so today was very helpful for me.
  • This workshop really tells the truth in that you better do your homework before getting into the industry. I think this has helped me to start building a business plan and establish what needs to be done to make a dream a reality.
  • Use the info to continue working on my vineyard.

Respondents were also asked to provide recommendations on how the workshop could have been improved. Responses are listed below:

  • Pictures in handouts were hard to see.
  • Email presentations to participants.
  • More time for Grape Growing 101 – very informative session that could use its own ½ to 1 day training session in the future.
  • Visit a working winery and vineyard.
  • More information on varieties for Tennessee and specific growing tips for Tennessee.
  • There should be a larger focus on the growing aspect and the difficulty involved.
  • UT or other agencies need to offer winemaking classes. Possibly more wineries to be involved.

Some positive comments received from this question included:

  • Everything was great.
  • Q&A panel was very informative. All presenters were great as well.
  • It was very informative and provided the necessary contact information.
  • Very thorough with the amount of time available.
  • Thanks for ending on time.

Finally, respondents were asked to list any key resources, information or training they still needed. Responses are listed below:

  • Hands-on demonstrations.
  • Wine making equipment necessary to start up a small wine making operation.
  • Planting and early stage production practices.
  • Laws and regulations for opening a winery.
  • Technical information on how to determine sugar content.
  • Pests and diseases prevalent in TN vineyards.
  • Financing information.
  • Soil and nutrient management, tissue sampling, fruit testing (brix, pH etc).
  • Extension publications and additional classes
  • Hands-on time.
  • Determining the best site location to have a successful vineyard.
  • Wine making.
  • Hands-on work in a vineyard.
  • How to actually make wine from my grapes.

A special thanks to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance for their sponsorship funding that made this workshop series possible.