By Tamra Bolton
Growing up in rural East Texas around farmers and farming, I learned a great deal about living close to the land and respecting the mercurial nature of the weather. When my Dad was growing up here in the 1920’s and 30’s, this area had a reputation for growing tomatoes, peaches and grapes. While we still grow a lot of tomatoes and peaches, the vineyards are rapidly gaining predominance in the local market. Every year, more and more acreage is dedicated to viticulture in Texas and this trend is happening all over the United States.
Vineyards are often regarded as a separate crop…a cultured crop, if you will. People tend to think of them as “a step above regular farming” and in some ways, I guess that is true. But, all farming deals with tilling the soil, producing a crop and handling the process of harvesting and marketing. The length of time it takes to produce a crop and the special knowledge required by vineyard owners is very similar to the orchard owners in Wisconsin, the organic farmers in Florida and the wheat farmers in Kansas…they all have an intimate knowledge of their particular crop and its needs. What makes the vineyard owner/operators different is the process of follow through in the product and marketing. When the wheat or corn farmer harvests his crop, it’s sold and forgotten; all that’s left to remind him if it was a good or bad year are the numbers in his bank account. That’s where the vintner is different – he’s invested in a much lengthier outcome. He oversees the harvest, then the processing, the minute details of making a unique and desirable product, one that might take years to accomplish.
Growing wine grapes and producing excellent wine is an art really, one that takes time to perfect. It’s not a mysterious unknown art, but a hands-on; get your clothes dirty kind of process, one that is learned through patience and perseverance.
Whether the farmer grows grapes, apples, corn or cranberries, it’s all farming and everyone depends on the same unpredictable forces of nature, making them all part of a unique brotherhood…the tillers and caretakers of the earth and her bounty. Living and working close to the soil teaches you to appreciate the gifts Mother Nature offers and to respect those things beyond your control. This week, take time to thank a farmer. Remember their hard work and sacrifice the next time you buy food or your favorite bottle of wine. Without the farms and the dedication of farmers, we could not survive.