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Ellsworth to start vineyard with grant funds

The Antrim Review of Bellaire, Michigan

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ELLSWORTH - Ellsworth High School Future Farmers of America will start a vineyard with a $2,000 grant from the Michigan FFA Foundation and a piece of donated land.

The intent of the vineyard will be to teach the school's FFA students the business of vineyard management, said Agriscience instructor Dr. Chris Randall. "We live in an area that is geographically ideal for grape production. We have seen a big increase in the number of vineyards being planted in this part of the state. The grape production sector will need a trained and experienced workforce in the near future", Randall said.

"This project will provide students with first-hand experience in production, management, marketing and other essential skills required for a modern agricultural enterprise," he continued.

Students will be planting 175 vines on a quarter acre lot donated by local producer Royal Farms of Atwood. The goal is to produce and market one ton of grapes annually once the vineyard is at full production. If everything goes as planned the first harvest will take place during the 2017-18 school year but it will take three to four years of growth before the vineyard matures enough to operate at full production.

The grant will also be used to build trellises and barriers to protect the vineyard from animal damage but more funds will be needed for the longterm project to get fully underway and remain sustainable. The expected $1,100 of additional funding will come from the school's career tech millage. "Without the money we receive from the Char-Em vocational mill-age we would not be able to offer programs such as this," said Aaron

Gaffney, Ellsworth Schools superintendent.

Eventually, the vineyard will be self-sustainable using funds from grape products produced from the school's vines.

Students will participate in every aspect of the experience from production to marketing. They will plan, implement and manage the operation from start to finish.

"One of the main goals of the Agriscience program, and the vineyard project in particular, is to expose students to the incredible variety of job opportunities that the agriculture industry has to offer," said Gaffney.

Work on the new vineyard is expected to start this spring.

Copyright 2015 The Antrim Review, Bellaire, Michigan. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: February 12, 2015

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