Ready to harvest sustainable profits
Growers poised to create
wine country in the Ag Reserve
By Agnes Blum
Writer for Conservation Montgomery
Think globally; drink locally...Farmers in the Ag Reserve are beginning to diversify crops to include vineyards
Growing up on his dad's farm, Robert Butz was surrounded by Montgomery County's bounty. Peaches? Sure. Apples? You betcha. Corn, wheat, soy, Montgomery County had it. But nowhere in sight were grapes that might become a nice glass of Bordeaux or a crisp Chardonnay.
Now that Butz is farming the land, he hopes to change that.
Last spring he and his wife planted five acres of vines on their Windridge Farm in the hopes of selling them to local wineries.
The farm, located on Sugarland Road, sits in the heart of the county's 93,000-acre agricultural reserve. The reserve was created by the the county council in 1980 in an effort to promote conservation of rural areas and farmland. The reserve, which makes up almost a third of the county, runs along the county's northern, western, and eastern borders. Today there are more than 550 farms in the reserve, according to the county, and the majority are family-run.
The past 20 years have seen a boom in the wine industry in neighboring areas, especially in Virginia. Loudoun County has 27 wineries and Frederick County has seven, but Montgomery County is home to just one: Sugarloaf Mountain Winery.
That may be changing thanks to a new zoning amendment passed in July this year, which allows farmers such as Butz to grow grapes and sell them to someone else to make into wine. Previously, farmers could not sell their produce to be processed somewhere else, and not everyone who wants to grow grapes also wants to open a winery.
That change in zoning was much needed, said Jeremy Criss, manager of Montgomery County Agricultural Services.
Read the full story....