Farmhouse Vineyards is part of a family farm owned and run by a brother and sister team, along with their spouses. Nick Seaton and his sister Traci combined with her husband Anthony Furgeson and Nick’s wife, Katy Jane, altogether a total of eight generations of farming families. Each owner brings a different personality to the company and serves in various capacities to help the farm flourish. Learn a bit more about this dynamic foursome and their efforts in grape growing in the Texas High Plains.
- What did you do before growing grapes (if anything)?
Nick and Anthony were already farming. Anthony has his Masters in finance and was working in banking. Nick bought his first tractor when he was thirteen. Traci has her Masters in education and is the General Manager keeping the whole farm afloat. The organizer Katy Jane worked in regional wine marketing, including Drink Local campaigns in Virginia and Missouri, as well as efforts in Texas.
- When did you first plant your vineyard, and how many acres did you start with?
In 2010, we started with 20 acres, adding more plantings in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2021.
- How many acres do you have today, and what grapes are planted?
We have 121 acres of vines on three vineyard sites: Farmhouse Vineyard (FHV) was planted 2010 and 2012, Whitehouse Parker Vineyard (WHP), South Block 2014 and North Block 2016, and Crooks House Vineyard (CHV), West 2015 and East 2016. We have twenty-one varieties to include:
- Roussanne – FHV
- Tempranillo – WHP, FHV, CHV
- Orange Muscat – FHV
- Viognier – FHV
- Muscat Canelli – FHV
- Malvasia Bianca – FHV
- Mourvèdre – WHP, CHV
- Counoise – CHV
- Cinsault – WHP, CHV
- Syrah – WHP
- Sangiovese – WHP
- Malbec – WHP
- Cabernet Franc – WHP
- Grenache – CHV
- Petit Verdot – CHV
- Petit Sirah – CHV
- Dolcetto – CHV
- Montepulciano – CHV
- Clairette Blanche – WHP
- Charbono – CHV
- Aglianico – WHP
We include as much detail as possible about our grapes on our website including rootstock, clone, vineyard location, and soil profile. We seek out warm-climate grape varieties suited to the High Plains’ arid climate. Some of our grapes aren’t well known to consumers, but winemakers love the choices, and fine wines can be made from these varieties. The Charbono planting is an example; it took five attempts to get enough inventory from the nursery to warrant a planting.
- Do you farm any other crops? And if so, what?
We farm 7,000 acres spread across five different counties. Some is our own land and much of it is leased to grow cotton, peanuts, melons, pumpkins, and black-eyed peas. We also grow grains and winter wheat for our herd of 4,000 Dorper sheep.
- What first attracted you to growing grapes?
Water! We needed to make better use of the water available. We love cotton and will always grow cotton, but the prices are the same as when the family’s great-grandparents farmed cotton. Seventy-eight cents a pound is the going rate for cotton if you can believe it! Equipment costs have gone up 500% since those years. And while every crop needs water, cotton needs water every day during its life. Grapes like to be stressed, and if the vine is healthy and in balance, the water can be cut back. This allows farmers to better regulate water usage. Cliff Bingham is part of the family, and Nick and Anthony helped him plant grapes back in 2004 and helped harvest once the vines were producing good fruit a few years later. They were gaining experience way before our vineyards were planted.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a grape grower in Texas?
Weather! Weather is a problem for every farmer everywhere. Growing grapes in this region means we have every plague in the Bible, while most regions have one primary plague. In Texas, it’s extreme. If we have frost or freeze, it’s extreme. Wind is extreme. Heat is extreme. And even with these extremes, Texas growers are still turning out top-quality premium grapes, which we attribute to the multigenerational farm families.
- If you didn’t grow grapes, what would you do?
Katy Jane always thought she would work for the American Quarter Horse Association or National Cattleman’s Beef Association. She would also be good as a brand image consultant. Nick only knows farming – it’s in his blood and in his heart. He started at age nine! Traci would probably be high up in education where she can change things – maybe with resources for rural education – doing something to make the world better. Anthony was a banker and a farmer’s son. In the real estate crisis of 2008, he was pushed a little more into farming – he’s good at it and likes to figure out how to execute something new and different. He’s incredibly innovative with new technology!
- After a long day in the vineyard, what do you like to do?
Being around water or live music as a family re-energizes everyone. For an escape, the Seatons head to the mountains of Oregon while the Furgesons head to the beach.
- What’s the best part about being a grape grower?
Watching the grapes become a finished bottle. No one ever thanks the cotton farmer for making great underwear. We get to sell fruit to a winery and have Farmhouse Vineyard on the label. When people are celebrating life with a bottle that has our fruit in it, that’s motivation to keep going when things are hard.
- What advice would you give someone wanting to start a vineyard today?
If you’re dreaming of starting a vineyard, turn your entire backyard into rows of tomato plants as if it is a vineyard setting. Try to keep those plants all alive for two years. If you can do that, then you should consider planting a vineyard. Otherwise, just buy the wine that we’re growing and enjoy it! Nicholas says when he’s asked by a friend if they should plant a vineyard, his response is, “There are easier ways to serve the Lord.”