Farmer's Daughter Vineyards
Farmer’s Daughter Vineyards, Hybrid Grapes Bring Georgia Vineyard to the Next Level
THOMASVILLE, GA- The combination of a non-traditional crop, the love for growing things, and some naming inspiration from the youngest members of the family, has led Farmer’s Daughter Vineyards to become the award winning business it is today.
Farmer’s Daughter Vineyards is owned by a third-generation farming family. The Moss family primarily grows cotton and peanuts in Mitchell County. Along with their traditional crops, they also grow French-American hybrid grape vines that thrive in the hot Georgia sun. The family began planting wine grapes in the spring of 2014.
In 2015, the winery was built at the heart of the vineyard and that was the year they made their first wine. In the spring of 2016, they started producing and selling their first bottles at the winery tasting room in Thomasville. They are a fully bonded farm winery, and they also offer custom crush services for other Georgia fruit growers.
The initial goal for Mosses was not necessarily to grow grapes. They wanted to start by diversifying a small plot of land that was covered in pine trees. The 10 acres were infested with beetles so they were clear cut to make room for a high risk/ high return crop. They considered many different options ranging from olives, blueberries, and grapes.
Renee’s husband had studied French-American hybrid wine grapes while in college and grad school. In 2003, while in grad school, he did a feasibility study that showed it probably wouldn't be worth the effort to grow them in Georgia. French- American hybrid grapes were not typically grown in Georgia about a decade ago, as it was an area dominated by Muscadine grapes. However, years after the study, they decided that the use of hybrid grapes in Georgia might be just what they needed to set the business apart from everyone else. Farmer’s Daughter wines are produced without Muscadine grapes.
The primary variety of grapes that they grow is called a Blanc du Bois. There about fifty wineries in Georgia. A lot of wineries are now growing this variety, and it does well once established. The Blanc du Bois has properties that liken to a Riesling, and they can do a lot with it in terms of winemaking.
“It’s very versatile and I think it's underappreciated, it's almost like the underdog of wine grapes,” stated Moss.
“Essentially what we are doing is making a wine in Georgia that doesn’t taste like it should be from here, and we are growing almost all of the grapes we need ourselves,'' explained Moss. The whole process from start to finish, for all the winemaking is done in house.
When it comes to marketing, Farmer’s Daughter utilizes the nostalgia that comes with thinking of a family farm in a fresh way for their branding. They strive to astound people with the quality of wine, while still expressing a home-style atmosphere in their marketing.
The business operates as a husband and wife team. Ownership is split 49/51, so the winery is actually a female owned company. The tasting room that the winery offers is critical for sales. Moss explained that 90-95% of all their farm winery sales happen in the tasting room. As a small winery, it can be hard for them to distribute wine to other wholesale markets beyond Florida and Georgia.
Renee explained that Thomasville is a tourist town that is a very competitive area for businesses. The need for a business to be creative and interesting is high. The tasting room offers yoga classes with wine and cocktails, local artists sharing their original music, and invites guests to host wedding showers, dinners, parties, painting nights, and business events.
The website and logo were both created by Renee as she has a background in marketing. This gave the business freedom from having to depend on an agency for design and campaign ideas for promotional efforts.
In 2018, they received a $49,900 Value Added Producer Grant. The grant allowed the business to try advertising using digital outdoor media, as well as radio advertisements.
“The benefits that come from being able to have a radio component to our advertising are huge. By being able to read your scripts on the air, people get to know you and your business. The personal relationship that it can build is so critical, but it's also the hardest component to track,” explained Moss.
The digital boards can change very week. This allows them to save time and directly correlate their advertising with their social media. Grant funds also allowed them to totally change their bottling and how they package. Their labels are now printed directly to the bottle with ceramic ink, which eliminates toxic label adhesives, reduces paper label waste, and encourages the buyer to reuse the bottle. Some other changes have allowed them to create a more sustainable product and improve their carbon footprint.
“As farmers, I think we have the most responsibility and care invested into the land. It’s our responsibility to care for our resources and protect them when we can. We are really trying to limit and eventually eliminate plastic from our tasting room.”
Future plans don’t necessarily contain expansion in terms of the quantity of wine varieties produced, instead the focus is on quality. “We want to stay with about 6-8 different quality wines, that way it's easier for customers to remember what they liked when they leave the tasting room. We try to create names that are memorable and allow the customer to connect to them.”
Some long term plans for the winery include, enhancing perception of brand value, broadening the scope of brand awareness, continued focus on the tasting room, increasing capacity, and striving for 30% plus growth annually. Farmer’s Daughter continues to strive for excellence in their products while preserving the land they have and working to stay environmentally sustainable.
About USDA VAPG
VAPG funding has been offered by the USDA periodically since the early 2000s. A new round of funding is anticipated to be announced in the coming months. To be considered value added, projects must show how products are differentiated in specific ways from commodity crops. Typically, projects must also show how they may deliver greater returns to producers.
Independent producers, farmer or rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and producer-owned business ventures, including non-profit organizations, may apply. In previous cycles, applicants were required to be producers of the raw commodity who will maintain ownership of that commodity through the process of creating a value-added product. Grants have been available for planning projects (such as marketing and business plans and feasibility studies) and working capital projects (which might include wages or packaging supplies). (http://www.rd.usda.gov/)
Ag Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) Assistance
Producers and ranchers, cooperatives and other agricultural businesses can find a wide-ranging set of tools and information to help them in pursuing VAPG funding at the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) (www.agmrc.org). On a variety of value-added topics and across products, AgMRC is a rich resource for agricultural businesses, from startup to advanced growth stages. Directories for state and federal resources, specialty crop information, legal guidance, assessment, and spreadsheet tools and other types of business training are available.