In Search of Profit, Tobacco Farms Morph Into Vineyards

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 20, 2009 12:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – A falloff in demand and an end to subsidies has tobacco farmers across the country turning to the vino, the Wall Street Journal reports—farming grapes and making wine, that is. “The small-plot tobacco farmer is a thing of the past,” says a North Carolina wine official, who notes that wine production is one of the few ways small, family-run farms can eek out a profit on their land. But the transition to vineyard isn’t cheap: Every acre cost $10,000 to $17,000 to develop, compared to $3,000 for tobacco.

It also takes up to 5 years for the grapes to be ready to harvest, and growing them isn't enough: Simply selling grape to producers is a losing proposition; make wine in house and the equation changes. But there are plenty of pitfalls there, too: a crowded market, learning how to bottle and store it, and surviving the 8 to 10 years it takes a winery to break even. Still, the number of wineries in Virginia has skyrocketed from 99 to 170 since 2004; in North Carolina it's more than doubled, from 45 to 94.

Assistant wine maker Jacob Holman shows students in the University of MIssouri's first Wine School a cap irrigator used in red wine fermentation.   (AP Photo)
Grapes about ready for a late harvest at the Les Bourgeois Vineyards in Rocheport, Mo.   (AP Photo)
Farm workers make their way across a field shrouded in fog as they hoe weeds from a burley tobacco crop near Warsaw, Ky.   (AP Photo)
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in St. Helena, Calif.   (AP Photo)
« Prev« Prev | Next »Next » Slideshow
To report an error on this story, notify our editors.

Other Sites We Like:   The Street   |   MSN Living   |   PopSugar Tech   |   RealClear   |   24/7 Wall St.   |   Biography   |   Barstool Sports   |   OK!