Ohio’s food and agriculture industry is made up of a myriad of people working the land, supporting local communities, and capitalizing on science-based uses for home-grown products, all of which help secure our state’s future. It is made up of local families, each with unique histories, tales of how they got started, and outlooks on production and marketing practices. Ohio’s grape and wine industry is one important chapter in the state’s $105 billion food and agriculture industry that often gets skimmed over when, in fact, it offers a host of stories just waiting to be told.
Forty-five years ago, farmer’s market owner and entrepreneur Ken Schuchter purchased enough grape vines to plant what he thought would cover two acres on his Warren County farm. Imagine his surprise to find that what he purchased ended up covering 20 acres of land. This miscalculation ended up creating one of the state’s most prominent wineries. Today, he owns and operates Valley Vineyards, which is the second largest vineyard in the state with wines known nationally and internationally for quality.
Across the state in 1984, a 10-year-old boy’s decision to grow grapes for his 4-H project led him into a successful career in the grape and wine industry. Today, Andy Troutman owns The Winery at Wolf Creek in Summit County and created and built Troutman Vineyards in Wayne County.
There are so many great stories in agriculture — stories that illustrate the far-reaching importance of agriculture to our state’s economy and the daily lives of Ohioans. These are just two. Each farm, each vineyard, each family is a story waiting to be told.
Over the past three years, I’ve visited more than a dozen wineries and the diversity of our grape and wine industry is something to experience. Many of Ohio’s vineyards and wineries are owned by families, each unique in its history and with its own approach to marketing. I can say from personal experience that anybody can find a winery that will fit their individual style right here in Ohio.
During a stop in Stark County last November, I was fortunate to visit two equally successful wineries that operate under two different operating strategies. One hour, I was shooting a pumpkin from a fire truck cannon and watching pigs race, and the very next hour, just down the road, I was admiring the fanciest bathroom I’ve ever seen complete with wine bottle-shaped sinks with red accent lighting. Ohio is lucky to have both of these wineries.
Ohio has a long and proud history of wine production. As early as the 1800s, early settlers to this region were exploring Ohio winemaking, especially along the Ohio River. Ohio’s wine industry is now the seventh largest in the United States and is known nationally and internationally for excellence.
The grape and wine industry is deeply woven into the state’s agriculture industry and plays a significant role in our current economic success. The Ohio Grape Industries Committee, housed at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, commissioned an economic impact study that was released this month. The 2012 Economic Impact Study shows a $786 million economic impact of Ohio wine and grapes, a 34 percent increase from 2008. The study also shows that Ohio is the ninth largest grape producer in the nation with just over 1,900 acres of grapes and it provides 5,291 full-time jobs.
Whether you’re looking for downhome fun or an exquisite retreat, consider visiting one of Ohio’s nearly 200 licensed wineries during June, Ohio Wine Month. Along with an unforgettable experience and creating a story of your own, you’ll be supporting an important chapter in Ohio’s agriculture industry.
David T. Daniels is the Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. He can be reached at (614) 752-9810.