“Cheers” to Local Agriculture
By: Muriel Palanca, marketing specialist
On a crisp September Monday, I had the pleasure of experiencing a Future Harvest Field Day where I toured Stillpoint Farms (a brewery) and Black Ankle Vineyards (a winery).
I started in Stillpoint Farms where I met some fellow MAFC coworkers and about twenty other people from all walks of life. Some were people with farms looking to expand into value added agriculture. Some wanted to learn about the sustainable practices utilized on these farms so they could implement them on their own. And some were just genuinely curious about how to grow hops and grapes.
Tom, one of the owners, led us through the process of growing, sorting and drying hops to brew their own beer. On their roughly forty acre farm, only one acre is devoted to growing hops. They also raise sheep, which he uses to help keep the weeds down instead of using chemicals. Sounds like a win-win situation for everyone!
They sell their hops to local breweries like Heavy Seas (Clipper City), Flying Dog, Barley and Hops and Pratt Street Ale House. Most of all, they do not filter or clarify their beers with “finings” (substances used to clarify your finished wine or beer in a short period of time), which makes a “natural” and delicious difference we can definitely taste!
Next, my co-workers and I took a scenic ride to the picturesque Black Ankle Vineyard. Ed and Sarah, co-founders, warmly greeted us into a wine tasting facility where 95% of the materials used to build it come directly from their farm! They grow all of the grapes used for their wines and farm with the ideology of “less is more.”
They don‘t use herbicides because they believe the wine tastes better without it. Lots of love is put into their grapes. They painstakingly wrap them with netting so animals don’t eat them and even going to far as to hoe them by hand. In the next few weeks, they also plan to put solar panels on the rooftops of their facilities.
Overall, today was a “happy day” instead of just a happy hour because I had a chance to sample at least five marvelous offerings at each farm, like a malty, full bodied harvest ale called the Stillpoint Farm Harvest Pale Ale and a fresh, bright blend of wine at the Black Ankle called Passeggiata. On top of that, these farms are taking meaningful steps to farm in a way that’s environmentally sound and sustainable.
And that’s definitely something we can say “Cheers!” to.