Recipient of 2008 USDA Value Added Producer grant.
Springbank Farm is a blueberry farm in Linn County, Oregon, using a Value Added Producer Grant award to study the feasibility of making and selling blueberry wine. The winery would ideally allow the O’Driscoll family to live on the farm and make a living from the blueberries and wine.
How they got started
The farm was first started by Brian’s parents, who grew a number of crops and raised cattle. After researching many different crops, Brian and his wife Michelle decided to put in 13 acres of blueberries. They then created a plan to process a portion of the berries into wine for local sales.
One of the biggest challenges is how to define the market for blueberry wine. As Brian points out, the research is being done from scratch. There isn’t much information on blueberry wines and no single database or resource to sort it all out.
Another challenge that Brian acknowledges is the fact that not only is blueberry wine different, but sweet wines can have a certain stigma to them among some people, especially in an area of the country known for classic grape wines. They are working to make a sweet wine that will override that stigma.
The blueberry winery envisions being the only U-pick operation with a winery in the area. They envision local people coming out to purchase blueberries and at the same time having an opportunity to sample and purchase wine made on the premises from the same blueberries that are enjoyed fresh.
The blueberry winery has many goals on their agenda. One is production. They are hoping to grow incrementally, producing 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of blueberries in the first year of production and over 200,000 pounds after 7 years. Wine production will start with a few hundred cases annually and grow in response to market demand. The O’Driscolls hope to sell the wine from the farm, in grocery stores and in local restaurants.
How they used their VAPG funding
The blueberry winery was awarded the VAPG funding in 2008. They have used it toward developing the feasibility study and business plan.
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/)