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  • Writer's pictureKenyon Acres

Starting a vineyard

Since today is basically a rain out and we're under flash flood warnings, I figured it was time for a blog post.

We're starting a vineyard! And it's no it's not for grapes.

Last fall I saw a request in the NH Farm Bureau newsletter for farms to participate in a UNH study on growing kiwi berries in NH.

Bit of background: In 2016 I had the opportunity to go up to Hermit Woods Winery in Meredith and try some of their kiwi berry wine that was still in the casks. It was awesome. I found a bunch of bottles on a clearance rack a while later and bought them all but they never made the wine again. I never really knew why.

Turns out you can also make kiwi berry jam, hard cider, and eat them just as is.

Kiwi berries are not the fuzzy brown things you see in the grocery store. They're a relative but they are smaller and more like a grape. The program managing this project is looking to determine if there's a perfect variety for commercial growth in the Northeast US.

The full project and more background:

We met the requirements so I checked with Dad and filled out the application.

Fast forward to April 2023 and it turns out we were chosen to be part of the study!

Of 196 farms that applied, 42 were selected. The other farms range from USDA zones 4 through 7a (basically Canadian border to New Jersey/Maryland).

Given the weird weather we've had this year, nothing has really gone to plan for anyone. The late frost did some serious damage to the UNH experiment station vines, the roots weren't developing the way they wanted at the nursery in Michigan, and of course, we've had little but rain since early June.

Despite all those hurdles we've been hard at work. Dad and I took a field trip down to UNH to see the vineyard and the trellis system. (We were provided with descriptions and diagrams but I couldn't make it make sense until I saw it in person.)

We picked the location for our vineyard out in the middle field.

We need a bit of space so there's been lots of measurements and plotting the layout.

We're going with a two row vineyard to start so there was lots of rock picking and it took quite a few passes to disrupt what has been a challenging corner of the hay field.

The vines were delayed coming from the nursery in Michigan while they waited for the roots to develop but they finally arrived on Thursday afternoon.

we sorted them by male and female plants and left them to acclimate and recover from their journey.

The original plan was to get them in the ground on Saturday morning before the storms rolled in but as we checked the forecast we decided that the stress of being planted plus getting two inches of rain (predicted) today was a bit too much. So we did some more sitework and laid out ground cover and row cover to protect the plants from any marauding deer.

Next up: getting plants in the ground and building our trellis.

It's going to take 3-5 years to get a harvest so it'll be a project for a while but I'm pretty excited to see where this takes us.

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