Different Crops Archive

How to Plan Your Dream Vineyard

As evidenced by the many wineries that dot the area, the land in central Virginia has great potential for farming wine grapes. Virginia Wine writes on their website that “The eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge and the rolling countryside to the east offer excellent topography, fertile granite-based clay soil and a growing season of over 200 days.” There are 72 vineyards and wineries in this area alone. Yet ample land for sale in central Virginia simply awaits the establishment of the next great vineyard. At 726 square miles, Albemarle County is just a bit short of Napa Valley’s 748 square miles, which is home to over 500 wineries.

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So if you’ve ever dreamt of starting your own vineyard in central Virginia, you’re in luck. This year the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) released a Vineyard Financial Calculator. The VCE writes, “This tool’s intended user is an individual or organization exploring the financial requirements of vineyard establishment and operation in Virginia.” This very helpful tool, created by Tremain Hatch, Peter Callan, and Tony Wolf, is exactly what you need to calculate the expenses involved in establishing a vineyard in central Virginia.

How It Works

The Excel spreadsheet contains a “Calculator” tab that prompts the user to input information specific to their business plan, such as the number of planted acres, the width of the rows of grape vines, the crop produced per foot, the hours of labor per acre, and the cost of capital. The spreadsheet is already equipped with formulas which will then calculate your cash flow. Within the “Trellis” tab you can calculate the cost of installing a trellis and fencing to protect your crop from wildlife, such as deer. Don’t know what equipment you’ll need? No problem. In the “Equipment” tab you’ll find an informative table with detailed information regarding equipment necessary to maintain a vineyard. Here you will need to again consider the size vineyard you’re imagining. Then decide on the appropriate equipment for your intended acreage and enter the corresponding pricing in the prepared calculator. The “hours of use” graph at the bottom of the page helps estimate the expected lifespan of your equipment. The carefully crafted formulas will then calculate both your capital expenditures for equipment and your annual fixed cost for equipment based on industry standards of maintenance and wear and tear.

Finally, once you’ve outlined your dream vineyard, tailoring the tool to work for you, you have the satisfaction of seeing how your vineyard will turn out. The “Budget” tab includes fields linked to information you have entered in other tabs and calculates your revenue and cash flow. The “Net Present Value” tab peers ahead into the future and calculates when you would begin to see a profit. And the “Sensitivity Analysis” tab illustrates how your profit might vary based on fluctuations in crop yield and price.

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If you’ve long dreamed of owning a vineyard in central Virginia, now you have the means to begin seriously planning the logistics. And when you’re ready to consider properties in the area where you might like to establish your dream and plant those first few seeds, contact Gayle Harvey Real Estate and we’ll be happy to help.

To learn more about what is entailed in establishing a winery in central Virginia, read our blog post here. For information on business license requirements in central Virginia, click here.

The Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2015

PumkinsThere’s no denying America’s love affair with the pumpkin, the spooky squash. With its vibrant colors, it reigns as the king of fall, looming large over our folklore, traditions, and holiday dishes. There are many different types, like the Howden-type which, with its size and relatively hollow inside is good for carving Jack-o-lanterns; there are also heirloom pumpkins, and pumpkins in various shapes and colors. The USDA reports that over the last 15 years, the U.S. has increased pumpkin production by 31%, from 1.46 billion lbs in 2000 to 1.91 billion in 2014. It makes sense, as pumpkins have a variety of seasonal uses, both culinary and cultural. From pumpkin patches at county fairs to Jack-o-lanterns on front porches during Halloween weekend, the pumpkin is ubiquitous with autumnal activities. Ever heard of pumpkin chucking, the game in which people see who can hurl a pumpkin the furthest through solely mechanical means?

In addition to the many recreational and ornamental roles that pumpkins play in the zeitgeist, it’s also a culinary staple around this time. Nearly every part of the pumpkin is edible, from the seeds to the flesh to the flowers. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice lattes (which Starbucks reportedly plans to start making with real pumpkins), guacamole with pumpkin seeds, pumpkin stews, pumpkin porters, brown ales, and other beers…the list goes on. The reason why the shortage wasn’t felt quite as much around Halloween? Because the shortage primarily concerns processed pumpkins.

Six states produce over half of the country’s supply of pumpkins: Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.

Now we’re not trying to insinuate that the pumpkin pie at your family’s annual Thanksgiving dinner isn’t fresh…but chances are, the pie is made from canned, processed pumpkin. It’s more convenient and efficient than casually carving a few pumpkins amidst the tumult of Thanksgiving. And as you can see, the core of the processed pumpkin industry is concentrated in Illinois. Tazewell County, in Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins in the country, and there are several canning facilities in the area. Heavy rains during the Illinois planting season have resulted in a nationwide shortage that will soon be reflected, if it hasn’t already. CNN reported that the harvest ended early and supply was down by about half. It’s estimated that we’ll have enough pumpkin to last through Thanksgiving, but it may be sweet potato or apple pie for Christmas. Someone tell my grandma to hit the grocery store early this year!