Local Grapes Growing in the Show-Me State

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NEW FRANKLIN - The Show-Me State is home to more than 120 wineries, which could classify Missouri as one of the country's elite wine producers. 

But University of Missouri students and faculty are working on producing more than just wine grapes at the Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center (HARC) in New Franklin and the Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon, in southwest Missouri.

Ray Glendening has worked at HARC for about 40 years and said its two acre vineyard has 17 rows of grapes, two of which are ‘ready-to-eat' table grapes.

There are about 35 total varieties of grapes in the HARC vineyard, both red and white, according to Glendening.

A group of about five MU students has been managing the vineyard for about five years and is just now seeing abundance in grape production.

Viticulture Research Specialist, Jackie Harris said the group of about five students harvested about three tons of grapes at the HARC in mid October.

Glendening said they are testing the grapes to find out which varieties grow best in Missouri.

"People like to drink wine, people like to eat grapes. Mid-Missouri soil is really suitable to grow grapes," said Glendening.

Locally grown grapes probably taste better than grapes imported from states like California becuase they "haven't been shipped all over the place," said Harris.

Glendening said grapes could generate a good amount of revenue for growers, "probably a few thousand dollars per acre."

Even people with small sections of empty land could consider growing grapes, according to Glendening.

Table grapes can be harvested two to three weeks ahead of many other grapes because they are picked earlier in their maturing process.

The costs to growing table grapes are similar to that of wine grapes.

Although, table grapes must be cleaner and require some extra care, according to Harris.

Glendening said after MU students and faculty test the grapes, they will recommend them to producers, and then producers could sell them commercially.

Sarah Goodnow works in the produce department at Clover's Natural Market and said the store sells chestnuts MU students produce.

"A lot of our customers are interested in local produce and grapes are a really huge seller," said Goodnow.

And with emerging markets like these, the Show-Me State could become known for another new crop.