Volume 15, Number 4
Considering a Small Vineyard
By Paul Gospodarczyk
Fruit Science Student, SMSU
Starting a small vineyard can be a risky endeavor. This project requires a large amount of capital to start, and returns are not realized for a number of years. With only a few acres it may be difficult to find a winery or other processor, who will sign a contract committing to buy the yearly crop. It may be possible to sell to home winemakers, but this market is limited. If table grapes are grown they can be sold fresh at farmers markets or roadside stands. It
is important to locate a market before investing money and time into this kind of project.
However, you may decide the benefits of a small vineyard outweigh the potential risks. This could be a good way to utilize fallow land, provide meaningful interaction with customers, or present an enjoyable retirement challenge. Whatever the reasons may be, it is important they are worth the hard labor and financial risk.
The equipment for a small farm is different from what is used by major producers. Most current publications and cost analyses investigate vineyard establishment on a very large scale. This article will address the needs of smaller scale growers for sprayers, equipment, tools and yearly supplies. Other areas of establishment, such as land, irrigation, the trellis and the actual grapevines, are very similar to
the information presented in other publications.
In the humid Midwest, the grape canopy must be sprayed in order to maintain diseases. Therefore, the firs area to review is the type of sprayer necessary for the intended size of the vineyard. If a sprayer tank is too small for the intended are of coverage the grower will spend excessive time refilling the tank and traveling between
vineyards and filling station. If the tank is too large the grower has wasted money by buying a more expensive tool than the job requires. So, the object is to match the sprayer to the vineyard size.
A simple 50 gallon sprayer that attaches to the 3 point hitch of a tractor can effectively cover 1-3 acres. However, when nearing the 3 acre size a large amount of time will be spent refilling—especially
the sprayer is calibrated to cover 100 gal/acre. If the vineyard is intended to be 3-6 acres it would be a better decision to use a 100 gallon sprayer that also attaches to the 3 point hitch. A vineyard larger than 6 acres warrants the investment of a 300 gallon trailer sprayer.
The tractor used for a small farm should be based on the power requirements of the sprayer. The 50 gallon sprayer needs a tractor from 25-30 hp to operate sufficiently. A 100 gallon sprayer works best with a 40 hp tractor and the 300 gallon trailer should be operated with a tractor nearing 60 hp. It is important to check with the width dimension on any tractor over 30 hp to be sure it will fit between vineyard rows. Implements are readily available for all these ranges of power; including 25-30 hp tractors.
One of the most important implements for the tractor is a mower. Grapevines don’t grow well with competition so it is important to cut
down vegetation in the row middles. An end loader is also valuable to growers for many random tasks that seem to surface frequently in vineyard work. A 9 inch post hole digger is necessary to set the posts of the trellis system. This tool can be purchased with the tractor or it is possible to rent from a local hardware or farm supply store. For the amount of posts that need to be installed it is not advisable to use a hand-held auger.
A wide variety of tools are needed to train and maintain the grapevines. A good pair of pruning shears is needed for every person working in the field crew. If the field crew is only a single person, be sure to have an extra pair of shears available. The natural growth pattern of vines is to sprawl out across the ground. A tapener is used to hold these shoots up on the trellis. A 300’ tape measure is
necessary to lay out all the posts for the trellis system. When it is time to install the trellis system it is wise to have a shovel and pinch point crew bar available; even if a post hole digger is being used. A pinch point crow bar is a long bar with a pointed end which will break through rocks in the soil.
Finally, there are supplies used on a yearly basis. The tapener must be outfitted with tape and staples. One package of tape holds 24-150’
rolls. Staples come in boxes of 5,000. For starting a vineyard, a package of tape and box of staples for every acre of grapes. A rough estimate of fuel consumption is 30 gal/acre every year.
Equipment - Edgeller and Haper, 417-962-4846; John Deere Dealer, www.deere.com
Sprayer - Stephens Sales Com, Ralph Stephens, 417-754-2578 Tools and Supplies - Hummer International, www.hummert.com
Note: Keep in mind that an air blast sprayer is generally used to spray the canopy and is not used for herbicides that are sprayed under the vines. A good resource that describes the different types of sprayers for small vineyards is Small Sprayers for Smaller Vineyards by Andrew Landers, Pesticide Application Technology Specialist, Cornell Univ found at
Small Vineyard Establishment Budget
25hp tractor $12,000
End loader $3,000
40 hp tractor $17,500
End loader $4,800
60 hp tractor $22,000
End loader $4,800
6’ PTO mower $1,200
9" post hole digger $850
50 gallon PTO $4,200
100 gallon PTO $6,200
300 gallon PTO $10,500
Pruning shears $22
100’ tape measure $40
Pinch point crow bar $20
Tape 24-250’ rolls/box $25
Staples 5,000/carton $5
Diesel fuel 30 gallons/acre
Graded Goat Market
Missouri’s first graded goat sale—from the MO Dept of Ag/USDA—opened
in September 2004. The Oregon County Goat and Sheep Market at the Oregon County Buying Station (OCBS) in Koshkonong started the sale to provide new markets for MO producers.
―The number of goats sold in MO doubled between 1997 and 2002. As this
trend continues, it will be important for producers to have more markets when it’s time to sell, ― said Lloyd Wilson, director of MDA’s
Market Information and Outreach Division.
The OCBS has negotiated agreements with buyers to provide new markets by offering buyers USDA graded animals. The USDA grades, determined by
MDA graders, are used to determine the value of each animal.
Pricing for the goats is determined using a formula combining the actual slaughter value, prices at other USDA grade sales, the USDA grade, and freight to the buyers. To check prices in advance, sellers can call the OCBS at 417-280-0471.
Goats will be graded and purchased on the third Thursdays of every month. Market information from the OCBS will be available from MDA the day after each sale.
Prices well be available in the Weekly Market Summary at www.mda.mo.gov/Market/pdf/weeklysummary.pdf or on the Market News Hotline at 573-522-9244. For more information call Greg Onstott at 573-751-7765. (Small Farm Today, Nov 2004)
Voluntary premise registration begins in 2005 for MO Animal ID Program
by Dr. Robert Larson
The MO Dept of Ag has been working with the USDA in the development of
a National Animal Identification System (NAIS) to enable quick response and animal trace-back in the case of a disease outbreak. Starting Jan 3, 2005, the MO Animal ID Program will begin voluntary registration of premises in the state. Through voluntary premises registration, a unique identification number will be assigned to locations where animals are born, managed, marketed or exhibited. Information gathered through registration will be used solely by the MO Dept of Ag and USDA for animal health purposes. This critical data will provide local and national animal health officials with necessary contact information in case of a disease concern. Premises identification numbers can be obtained by completing the registration process online at www.mda.mo.gov. Registration can also be completed by filling out a paper form and mailing it or faxing it to the MO Dept of Ag. National Animal ID Effort in MO, go to:
Research Hopes to Make Elderberries Profitable in Missouri
By Dave Burton,
MU Civic Communications Specialist
Since 1999, there has been an elderberry study underway at the Univ of
MO’s Southwest Research Center near Mt Vernon. Funded, in part by a
grant from the USDA, the study is focused on determining which elderberry cultivar grows best in southwest MO.
Not as popular as strawberries, blackberries or blueberries, the elderberry is actually a native MO shrub that produces an edible purple fruit native to the Ozarks.
The fruit, which is rich in vitamins, iron, potassium and protein, makes excellent jellies, syrups, desserts, and food colorings. The
flowers are also edible, often prepared as fritters or used to flavor jellies and wines. The bark, leaves, flowers, and fruit all have medicinal properties and have been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments.
One successful example of elderberry wine production exists in Wichita, KS, where a winery is using 130,000 pounds of elderberries a
year to produce a high quality wine that has been competing with CA grape wines. Elderberries are particularly suited to wine-making because of their ideal balance of tannins, acids and sugars, and their deep purple color.
Some of the cultivars being used in the research here in southwest MO were obtained from NY and Canada and those plants are showing signs of
not doing well in the MO climate according to Andrew Thomas, horticulture research associated, Univ of MO.
The study also includes more than 40 elderberry plants, gathering them from different locations in MO, KS and Oklahoma.
According to Thomas, the study stemmed from a renewed interest in alternative, but native, Ozarks fruits.
―The ultimate goal of the study is to release a named variety or two
of elderberries that will grow very well in MO. I’m pretty confident
we can do that,‖ said Thomas.
Thomas is gathering information on the growth, vigor, cane production and disease and insect susceptibility of the berries in this research project, which is also being replicated by Pat Byers at the SMSU Fruit Experiment Station in Mountain Grove.
―The focus of our study is to learn how to grow elderberries to get
the optimum yield,‖ said Thomas. ―We are also looking to see if
pruning is a better option or if brush hogging it to the ground every year and then letting it grow up in stages produces a higher yield.‖
Thomas expects the experiment to continue over the next four or five years.
―This is probably the largest elderberry research project going on in
the country right now,‖ said Thomas. ―We believe the elderberry has
good potential as a commercial fruit crop in MO, but many basic questions related to its culture remain unanswered.‖