Starting a Vineyard

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petulant
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Starting a Vineyard

Post by petulant »

Have any of the BH gone through the steps of starting a vineyard? Any experience or insight? How did you get started?
MJD
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by MJD »

General region, vineyard size, intended use, and establishment details might allow folks to come in a little more thoughtfully.
Personal, commercial, or a hybrid where it's a personal vineyard you sell grapes on Craigslist or the like?
cadreamer2015
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by cadreamer2015 »

As the saying goes, the way to make a small fortune growing wine grapes is to start with a large fortune.
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Pu239
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by Pu239 »

Japanese beetles in my area have turned my grape vine into a skeleton. I have no interest in spraying the vines or building a protective enclosure. Hops work better.
Between the idea And the reality...Between the motion And the act...Falls the Shadow - T. S. Eliot
Globalviewer58
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by Globalviewer58 »

I have not started or operated a vineyard. What I have seen are results based on soil, micro-climate, grape selection and wine making experience. Visit the area you want to have a vineyard. Talk to the locals, look at the successful operations and the not so successful operations. One example we reviewed in Australia told the story succinctly. A novice purchased land in a wine growing region, planted grapes and was disappointed in the crop. The owner did not understand that soils vary so much in a short distance that he bought land that was totally inappropriate for growing grapes. Less than 2 miles away is a very successful, award winning vineyard.
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F150HD
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by F150HD »

most vineyards in my area buy their grapes from other people to make 'their' wine. Sounded odd to me when I first learned that. They make like 1 of their bottles with their grapes, all else is someone elses grapes.
Starfish
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by Starfish »

Is the intention business or pleasure/hobby? The approaches would be very different.
kiwi123
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by kiwi123 »

Depends on your definition of a vineyard... is it an agricultural business that will sell grapes to winemakers? Or do you intend to grow grapes and make wine. Or, is it a multi revenue stream destination?

Everyone i know in the industry (doing all 3 of the above) either started with many multi-millions (>$50M net worth) or they worked their way up from assisting the winemaker. Some also went to college and did an ag degree.

If you're lucky you will probably just pay the bills. It's not as glamorous as it sounds. The best combination seems to be a tourist/event/restaurant destination that happens to also grow/sell wine (although the wine tends to be mediocre in these businesses). I'm thinking of some of the TX etc. wineries (and one in TX I know does very well).

Whats funny is their better wine is made with grapes grown in CA... the lowest risk way is to buy grapes from a VINEYARD and make/bottle your own wine (or buy surplus wine made from the existing labels and get rebottled with your own label) e.g. like trader joes or Kirkland does.
Vanguard Fan 1367
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by Vanguard Fan 1367 »

I am having fun in Florida with a few Muscadine grape vines. Vineyards seem to be popping up in Florida where I live. Good luck with the vineyard.
Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
mrmass
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by mrmass »

Maybe OP wants to make jelly and grow Concord Grapes...
Topic Author
petulant
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by petulant »

MJD wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 9:04 pm General region, vineyard size, intended use, and establishment details might allow folks to come in a little more thoughtfully.
Personal, commercial, or a hybrid where it's a personal vineyard you sell grapes on Craigslist or the like?
Thinking Midwest, 10-20 acres, lifestyle business. Something I can make a little money from and give part-time jobs to younger family members some day. I have read cabernet sauvignon grows better in my area due to more hardiness against late winter freezes.
Topic Author
petulant
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by petulant »

kiwi123 wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 11:25 pm Depends on your definition of a vineyard... is it an agricultural business that will sell grapes to winemakers? Or do you intend to grow grapes and make wine. Or, is it a multi revenue stream destination?

Everyone i know in the industry (doing all 3 of the above) either started with many multi-millions (>$50M net worth) or they worked their way up from assisting the winemaker. Some also went to college and did an ag degree.

If you're lucky you will probably just pay the bills. It's not as glamorous as it sounds. The best combination seems to be a tourist/event/restaurant destination that happens to also grow/sell wine (although the wine tends to be mediocre in these businesses). I'm thinking of some of the TX etc. wineries (and one in TX I know does very well).

Whats funny is their better wine is made with grapes grown in CA... the lowest risk way is to buy grapes from a VINEYARD and make/bottle your own wine (or buy surplus wine made from the existing labels and get rebottled with your own label) e.g. like trader joes or Kirkland does.
Thinking grow grapes for own wine with part of it sold, can think about the winery later. I've considered working part-time or free at vineyards in my area to learn. I've also thought about starting small with wine making kits to learn more on that side.

This is very long term, think semi-retirement job after 5-10 years from now. Paying myself barista wages while building an asset I can enjoy and leave to heirs would be fine.
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petulant
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by petulant »

Globalviewer58 wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 10:02 pm I have not started or operated a vineyard. What I have seen are results based on soil, micro-climate, grape selection and wine making experience. Visit the area you want to have a vineyard. Talk to the locals, look at the successful operations and the not so successful operations. One example we reviewed in Australia told the story succinctly. A novice purchased land in a wine growing region, planted grapes and was disappointed in the crop. The owner did not understand that soils vary so much in a short distance that he bought land that was totally inappropriate for growing grapes. Less than 2 miles away is a very successful, award winning vineyard.
That's quite terrifying and a good cautionary tale. I've read about the importance of soils and assume I may need to actually get a consultant to test the soil if I'm thinking about purchasing.
MJD
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by MJD »

Caveating that I am not a vineyard owner. I happen to make a lot of wine, and know some folks who own personal and commercial vineyards.

In a place like the Midwest (big though that the region is), you should go into this with the expectation that it will be a lot of work, a very pretty penny (whether it's a lot depends on your personal definition of the term), and perhaps a slight chance of breaking even.

You will be subject to the random, unpredictable whims of nature such as frost, bugs, fungus, mold, birds (really!), fruit not ripening due to weather...... etc.

Nature is rather unforgiving to fruits and vegetables without a lot of attention from the grower....and even then, Nature might still win.

I say that not to dissuade you, but just to encourage you to go into this with eyes wide open, and that this is indeed a lifestyle choice as opposed to an investment, as you've described in your last post.

Wthout knowing exactly where you are....the University of Minnesota is a well respected authority on growing grapes in the Midwest. Highly recommend heading to their site:
https://mnhardy.umn.edu/varieties/fruit/grapes

Read everything on their website, consult with an extension specialist (your tax dollars at work!), really understand what soil you have, match appropriate varietal(s) for the soil and weather, understand the establishment and maintenance expenses, and you're all set!

Best wishes.
Last edited by MJD on Wed Sep 30, 2020 8:10 am, edited 2 times in total.
daheld
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by daheld »

Trying to get into the vineyard/winery business with absolutely no experience is basically a surefire method to losing every penny you invest. A very few people get lucky and wind up with something that's a viable business. Most lose everything, like most who start a restaurant.

I am friends with some folks who purchased and now run an already established winery, but they have lost more money in couch cushions than I make in a year. This is the only way I'd ever consider doing something like this with basically zero knowledge--if I was rich enough that losing everything didn't really matter.
DesertDiva
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by DesertDiva »

Are the heirs willing to work with you on this? Or would they be better served by another form of inheritance?
Topic Author
petulant
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by petulant »

MJD wrote: Wed Sep 30, 2020 8:07 am Caveating that I am not a vineyard owner. I happen to make a lot of wine, and know some folks who own personal and commercial vineyards.

In a place like the Midwest (big though that the region is), you should go into this with the expectation that it will be a lot of work, a very pretty penny (whether it's a lot depends on your personal definition of the term), and perhaps a slight chance of breaking even.

You will be subject to the random, unpredictable whims of nature such as frost, bugs, fungus, mold, birds (really!), fruit not ripening due to weather...... etc.

Nature is rather unforgiving to fruits and vegetables without a lot of attention from the grower....and even then, Nature might still win.

I say that not to dissuade you, but just to encourage you to go into this with eyes wide open, and that this is indeed a lifestyle choice as opposed to an investment, as you've described in your last post.

Wthout knowing exactly where you are....the University of Minnesota is a well respected authority on growing grapes in the Midwest. Highly recommend heading to their site:
https://mnhardy.umn.edu/varieties/fruit/grapes

Read everything on their website, consult with an extension specialist (your tax dollars at work!), really understand what soil you have, match appropriate varietal(s) for the soil and weather, understand the establishment and maintenance expenses, and you're all set!

Best wishes.
Thanks for the link and advice!
forgeblast
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by forgeblast »

Go to your local department of ag, you probably have a county agency. They will have a ton of information for you, on top of that info they can probably do soil tests etc, and might know of people in your area that are doing this. They will have contacts and are very very helpful. Good luck, a friend that I work with has been able to get grapes the last two years this year I think they said after crushing they ended up with 50 gallons of must.
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F150HD
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by F150HD »

midwest = Icewine
ByThePond
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by ByThePond »

Long-time hobbyist grape grower and "garagiste" winemaker here. You have gotten some good advice on the realities you will encounter.

Figure at least a year of site preparation before planting. Then three years of growing the vines til they're mature enough to take a full crop, pruning annually and spraying multiple times each year against insects and fungal diseases. Critters and birds are in competition for whatever you grow, and this year I lost three entire rows of grapes to raccoons.

Then there's a new threat called the Spotted Lantern Fly, coming to a vineyard near you. I have 'em; they're ruinous and require even more frequent spraying.

It's a lot of work, and there's no guarantee of success.

Also, just one really bad cold snap can ruin your year's work, and maybe kill the vines outright. Without knowing exactly where you are, you were well advised to look at the grape varieties being developed in Minnesota and at Cornell University. They have some decent cold hardy varieties. There's a little-known variety from Germany called "Regent" that might suit your needs if you can't grow Cab sauv. I'd recommend that you get a copy of "The Production of Grapes & Wine in Cool Climates", by Jackson and Schuster. It has the answers to some of the questions you'll be facing.

And this is just for a hobby vineyard, no sales allowed. A hobbyist as head of household can make up to 200 gallons per year for personal use. That's 1,000 bottles! Commercially, making wine for sale, you'll need federal, state and possibly local permits, and strict inventory and tax records must be kept. I've often been encouraged to go commercial, but that would turn a fun hobby into drudgery, imo.

It can be a very rewarding hobby, but it's a long term proposition, a lot of work, and at risk to the vagaries of nature. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Feel free to pm me
BogleFan510
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by BogleFan510 »

A friend wrote a good, simple book `Vineyard Simple'. As a hobby after his legal career he created a company that managed and installed vineyards in homes for roughly the cost of traditional landscaping. He would be a good resource. You might consider buying a copy online, as it is a less intimidating starting point than a full blown agricultural college web site. If vineyard managers exist where you are, you could focus on hiring them and learning the wine making side first, while they get the vineyard up. A costlier appproach, but a higher success rate. As said above, if you are good at marketing and retail events, host services, etc, as a worst case the vines are for show and you purchase mostly sourced grapes. Many wineries rely on farmers to grow the grapes well, while they focus on hospitality, branding and the food/wine taste profile and vision.

Another good resource is to join a wine making club. Roughly half of our club's membership have home vineyards and happily share their resources and know how. In our area, there are people who consult on soil, vines, spray and prune for you, if money is no object. You could help them and learn, after hiring.

That said, there is a very non trivial amount of work and learning to ramp up to a great harvest. Good luck.

PS. an acquaintance started a winery, did everything right, won gold medals, was hosting weddings and business growing. Bankruptsy was the end result during the last real estate crisis due to a credit crunch (wine is a very bond like payoff, with a lot of capital up front, difficult distribution issues, legal compliance challenges, etc. It is a crazy type of business to grow wealth if you didnt inherit land or build a brand as a brilliant wine maker for someone else first).
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F150HD
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by F150HD »

ByThePond wrote: Wed Sep 30, 2020 5:32 pmThen there's a new threat called the Spotted Lantern Fly...
Saw SLF mentioned in a different thread month or few back, did some reading on them. :shock:
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petulant
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by petulant »

ByThePond wrote: Wed Sep 30, 2020 5:32 pm Long-time hobbyist grape grower and "garagiste" winemaker here. You have gotten some good advice on the realities you will encounter.

Figure at least a year of site preparation before planting. Then three years of growing the vines til they're mature enough to take a full crop, pruning annually and spraying multiple times each year against insects and fungal diseases. Critters and birds are in competition for whatever you grow, and this year I lost three entire rows of grapes to raccoons.

Then there's a new threat called the Spotted Lantern Fly, coming to a vineyard near you. I have 'em; they're ruinous and require even more frequent spraying.

It's a lot of work, and there's no guarantee of success.

Also, just one really bad cold snap can ruin your year's work, and maybe kill the vines outright. Without knowing exactly where you are, you were well advised to look at the grape varieties being developed in Minnesota and at Cornell University. They have some decent cold hardy varieties. There's a little-known variety from Germany called "Regent" that might suit your needs if you can't grow Cab sauv. I'd recommend that you get a copy of "The Production of Grapes & Wine in Cool Climates", by Jackson and Schuster. It has the answers to some of the questions you'll be facing.

And this is just for a hobby vineyard, no sales allowed. A hobbyist as head of household can make up to 200 gallons per year for personal use. That's 1,000 bottles! Commercially, making wine for sale, you'll need federal, state and possibly local permits, and strict inventory and tax records must be kept. I've often been encouraged to go commercial, but that would turn a fun hobby into drudgery, imo.

It can be a very rewarding hobby, but it's a long term proposition, a lot of work, and at risk to the vagaries of nature. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Feel free to pm me
Thanks for the pointers! If I have any more questions I may pm you
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petulant
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by petulant »

BogleFan510 wrote: Wed Sep 30, 2020 5:48 pm A friend wrote a good, simple book `Vineyard Simple'. As a hobby after his legal career he created a company that managed and installed vineyards in homes for roughly the cost of traditional landscaping. He would be a good resource. You might consider buying a copy online, as it is a less intimidating starting point than a full blown agricultural college web site. If vineyard managers exist where you are, you could focus on hiring them and learning the wine making side first, while they get the vineyard up. A costlier appproach, but a higher success rate. As said above, if you are good at marketing and retail events, host services, etc, as a worst case the vines are for show and you purchase mostly sourced grapes. Many wineries rely on farmers to grow the grapes well, while they focus on hospitality, branding and the food/wine taste profile and vision.

Another good resource is to join a wine making club. Roughly half of our club's membership have home vineyards and happily share their resources and know how. In our area, there are people who consult on soil, vines, spray and prune for you, if money is no object. You could help them and learn, after hiring.

That said, there is a very non trivial amount of work and learning to ramp up to a great harvest. Good luck.

PS. an acquaintance started a winery, did everything right, won gold medals, was hosting weddings and business growing. Bankruptsy was the end result during the last real estate crisis due to a credit crunch (wine is a very bond like payoff, with a lot of capital up front, difficult distribution issues, legal compliance challenges, etc. It is a crazy type of business to grow wealth if you didnt inherit land or build a brand as a brilliant wine maker for someone else first).
Thanks--I'll check out the book.
Northern Flicker
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by Northern Flicker »

There are wineries in the midwest. Examples in Iowa:

http://iowawinetrail.com/index.html
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Topic Author
petulant
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by petulant »

Northern Flicker wrote: Sat Oct 03, 2020 10:22 pm There are wineries in the midwest. Examples in Iowa:

http://iowawinetrail.com/index.html
That's interesting since I imagine they have to work hard on cold resistance there
Northern Flicker
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by Northern Flicker »

petulant wrote: Sun Oct 04, 2020 3:59 pm
Northern Flicker wrote: Sat Oct 03, 2020 10:22 pm There are wineries in the midwest. Examples in Iowa:

http://iowawinetrail.com/index.html
That's interesting since I imagine they have to work hard on cold resistance there
If you look at the Brick Arch web site and their NV Main Street Cuvee (NV = non-vintage) you will see that they source the cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes for this Bordeaux-style blend from California with a comment that those grapes do not grow in the midwest.

http://www.brickarchwinery.com/wines/

You may need to adjust your planning around these grapes.

There are two separate skill domains: winemaking and viticulture (farming grapes to be used for wine).

Lots of wineries around the world source fruit from other growers to produce wine. Do an internet search on "negociant" and you will see in France there is a long tradition of this as well as sourcing wine to blend and bottle. This eliminates the need for viticulture expertise when you are starting out.
Risk is not a guarantor of return.
cadreamer2015
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by cadreamer2015 »

It all depends on whether OP wants to be a wine maker or a grape grower. Their original post did not mention wine making. It is possible to get started making wine by buying grapes or grape juice. But as the previous poster mentions, the skills and activities of a wine maker are quite separate and different from the skills and activities of a grape grower.
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Northern Flicker
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by Northern Flicker »

The OP said "start a vineyard" which refers to growing grapes, whether or not wine is made.
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Northern Flicker
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by Northern Flicker »

petulant wrote: Thinking grow grapes for own wine with part of it sold, can think about the winery later. I've considered working part-time or free at vineyards in my area to learn. I've also thought about starting small with wine making kits to learn more on that side.
It may take a while to develop the knowledge and skills to compete on quality with quality-focused wine. The article below shows what you are up against trying to compete on the lower end of the scale:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science- ... 180962783/
Risk is not a guarantor of return.
kiwi123
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Re: Starting a Vineyard

Post by kiwi123 »

petulant wrote: Wed Sep 30, 2020 7:58 am
kiwi123 wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 11:25 pm Depends on your definition of a vineyard... is it an agricultural business that will sell grapes to winemakers? Or do you intend to grow grapes and make wine. Or, is it a multi revenue stream destination?

Everyone i know in the industry (doing all 3 of the above) either started with many multi-millions (>$50M net worth) or they worked their way up from assisting the winemaker. Some also went to college and did an ag degree.

If you're lucky you will probably just pay the bills. It's not as glamorous as it sounds. The best combination seems to be a tourist/event/restaurant destination that happens to also grow/sell wine (although the wine tends to be mediocre in these businesses). I'm thinking of some of the TX etc. wineries (and one in TX I know does very well).

Whats funny is their better wine is made with grapes grown in CA... the lowest risk way is to buy grapes from a VINEYARD and make/bottle your own wine (or buy surplus wine made from the existing labels and get rebottled with your own label) e.g. like trader joes or Kirkland does.
Thinking grow grapes for own wine with part of it sold, can think about the winery later. I've considered working part-time or free at vineyards in my area to learn. I've also thought about starting small with wine making kits to learn more on that side.

This is very long term, think semi-retirement job after 5-10 years from now. Paying myself barista wages while building an asset I can enjoy and leave to heirs would be fine.
Don't expect to even make barista wages with a vineyard/winery... maybe your heirs will but that's also a reason why they may not want to take it over. It's more likely that the land will be worth more in 15+ years time as a housing subdivision and all your hard-work will be ripped out.

Personally i think an organic farm with a good bbq/taco stand and seasonal events (e.g. cider press; pumpkin patch; etc.) would be just as much work but gives you a decent chance to earn barista wages and serve the local community with healthy produce (both locals and the food industry). Throw on a few airbnb cabins like the europeans do with their "agri-tourismo" business model and you'll also get a bunch of folks that want to re-connect with the land. I volunteer at a local certified organic farm 1x per week doing weeding/digging/picking/etc. for precisely that reason. The owner also makes his own wine every couple of years when he can be bothered.

A farm will generate revenue in year one plus removes the complication of learning how to make wine. Of course you could also plant some wines on the side for personal fun. If you're thinking of volunteering at a vineyard i would also encourage you to reach out to some local farms too.

And regardless of whether it is a farm or vineyard i believe you would want to go organic to minimize health risks (even organic farming and vineyards use chemicals but has far less exposure to bad stuff).

Netflix had some interesting documentaries on local organic farming that were really good to watch. One was centered on the Chicago area and was really neat to see how they were connecting local restaurants back to the quality local farms.

Should be a fun and exciting journey no matter what you decide!
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