specialty crops

Raffaldini Vineyard and Winery, photo by Wendy Jo O’Barr

For farmers everywhere, “patience is a virtue,” is more than a charming proverbial phrase. It’s a way of life for those who spend their days working the land.

That’s especially true for those growing crops that take years to produce a single harvest – such as grapes destined to become world-class wine and plump blueberries.

Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery The Raffaldini family has a rich history in the winemaking industry that dates back to 14th-century Italy. Fortunately, today’s wine lovers only need to travel to Ronda to experience the stunning vineyard and winery owned and operated by Jay Raffaldini and his sister, Barbara.

Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery sits on 120 acres, with plantings on 42 of those acres. The family grows everything from Vermentino and Montepulciano to Sangiovese and Sagrantino, utilizing patience and meticulous scrutiny to produce some of the state’s finest wine.

Quality Over Quantity

Grapes destined to yield fine wine take years to produce. Raffaldini custom orders a few vines from nurseries, paying a deposit and waiting for the plants to not only come in, but to graft to American rootstock and pass quarantine – all which needs to happen before they even arrive at the vineyard.

“Once they’re planted here, if they survive, it takes about three years before they can bear fruit good enough for winemaking,” says Thomas Salley, tasting room and media manager at Raffaldini.

From start to finish, the lead time for a quality red wine is about seven years.

Because they are intensely focused on producing only the best, Raffaldini may spend years growing a varietal only to discover it makes a subpar wine. When that happens, they remove the vines and start over.

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“One bad wine can reverse years of hard work,” Salley says.

specialty crops

Photo courtesy of Ivanhoe Blueberry Farms

Ivanhoe Blueberry Farms

Fourth-generation blueberry farmer Matt Moore works alongside his family on the land where his great-grandfather planted his first 5 acres of blueberries in 1941. The farm continued to grow with his grandfather and is now owned by his father and uncle.

“You could say farming is in my blood,” Moore says.

Those humble 5 acres that started it all have since expanded to occupy 620 acres of land, 520 of which are harvested for blueberry production.

These are no small numbers. Their bushes produce an average of 4.5 million pounds of berries in a single harvesting season.

A Long-Term Commitment

While blueberries thrive in the soil of North Carolina, they still require substantial time to develop into a profitable crop. From seedling to maximum harvest potential, you can expect to spend up to five years nurturing blueberry bushes.

“Being a fourth-generation farmer, our family has tried to grow little by little every year to get to where we are now,” Moore says. “We commit to growing blueberries with the understanding that it’s a long-term investment.”

It’s rewarding work, but it takes a great deal of planning to keep the fields in rotation and producing at full volume. Moore says they rigorously assess the production records of each field to determine when individual bushes have reached their maximum potential.

“When the longevity of the blueberry bushes expire, we have another field ready to thrive at maturity,” Moore says.

One of the ways they keep their fields in production is by propagating blueberry bush cuttings in a nursery. This practice allows them to cut down the in-field growth time from five to two years.

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They also commit to growing early, mid- and late-season varieties as insurance against potential bad weather or crop damage. Thanks to producers like Raffaldini and Moore, and their patient natures, North Carolina will continue producing some of the finest wine and berries in the world.

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