A new vineyard cooperative started in the spring of 2018 featuring smaller Texas High Plains vineyards with their objective to grow high quality grapes profitably. I talked to President Joe Riddle about the organization and their plans.
The idea for the cooperative came about when a number of smaller growers were sitting around and discussing how the smaller High Plains vineyards had a problem getting a harvester in 2017 because the “for contract” harvesters were going to the big vineyards. So, the smaller vineyards decided to work together to get a harvester when they needed it.
That tiny seed was planted, and it grew from there. By April 2018, they were incorporated by the state as a cooperative. The organization currently has a website and are working on a Facebook page too.
Riddle said, “Right now, the biggest focus of the coop is on the marketing end trying to match up the small vineyards with wineries who need our fruit. It seems the most obvious matchup is to match the small growers with the small wineries.”
The cooperative is also trying to do some regular education, hopefully once a month. In May, Kirk Williams, member and Viticulture Certificate Instructor at Texas Tech University, held a class on contracts between wineries and growers. Other training planned will be on crop insurance, sprayers, and more. Besides the education, the monthly meetings will give the growers a chance to get together and network. Networking is one of the best ways to learn what other members are doing that might help their vineyards.
Another beneficial aspect goes back to the equipment which was from the original idea for the cooperative. A page on their website allows the different growers to list the equipment they have that other growers may be interested in using and to work out a loan or rental program.
Currently there are 15 vineyards that are members with 60 potential members with vineyards 10 acres or less in size in the Texas High Plains. Note there is not a set minimum or maximum size of a vineyard to be a cooperative member. Each member owns a share of the cooperative and they price the shares at a one-time fee of $100 each. That’s all it costs to become involved.
There are five members on the board of directors and they are looking right now at ways to generate revenue. One of the ideas is to look at models of fellow growers in other states, such as California, who have already created a similar grower cooperative.
Potential members can contact Joe Riddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.