April 14, 2024

Meet the Indiana Winery and Vineyard Association

Winemakers, grape growers advocate for specialty crops

FREEMONT, Ind. — The Indiana Winery and Vineyard Association was featured during an Indiana Farm Bureau lunch and learn webinar.

“We’re a small family of wineries, even though we’ve experienced a lot of growth,” said Shane Christ, winemaker at Satek Winery and president of IWVA.

“Indiana has a long history of winemaking, especially pre-prohibition. One could argue that we are still gathering the pieces as a result of prohibition. But we’ve seen our industry grow quite a bit.

“The IWVA has 47 members right now. Our main objective is political. We’re in charge of protecting our small farm winery permit.”

The organization advocates at the Indiana General Assembly and creates strategic alliances with other organizations. They also offer educational trainings to members.

“We are attempting to protect our rights as small farm wineries and grape growers,” Christ said.

Moving forward, the association aims to build membership and increase engagement. They hope to proactive, rather than reactive, to political issues.

“I think we’re in a good position right now, and our voices are being heard in spite some of the big challenges,” Christ said.

Association members also are working with farmers to address herbicide drift concerns. Vineyards are susceptible to damage from spray drift.

“If you have a two-acre and are surrounded by 1,000 acres of corn or beans, it’s very easy for that farmer to look at that two acres as being a very small piece of property,” Christ said, “without realizing the value added component of that vineyard.”

Two acres of vineyard could yield six or seven tons of grapes, he said.

“It’s nice to meet the adjacent farmers and communicate to them how important protecting our vineyards from drift is,” he said. “It’s an ongoing effort. But we’re proud of the strides we’ve made with that.”

The association also advocates for agritourism.

“My husband and I have 107 acres of grapes,” said Jennifer Lutter, owner manager at Country Heritage Winery and president-elect at IWVA. “We both grew up on farms.

“So, the educational component of agritourism is very important to us. One of the things we feel is important, at IWVA we fight for, is kids are allowed on farm wineries.”

Lutter’s 19-year-old son is able to work in the vineyard, even though he’s not yet 21.

“We want to keep kids allowed on farm wineries, to see the growing of grapes,” she said. “Yes it is an alcohol, and you have to be very cautious and responsible when kids are present. But being able to be out in the vineyard is important.”

Learn more at www.indianawinevine.org.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor