MN Impact: Research and Extension Work with Wine Grapes Helps Diversify MN Rural Economies
Rural economies need to diversify. Commodity agriculture no longer spurs strong employment. Tourism, local foods and new horticulture products support economic diversification.
What has been done
Cold-hardy grapes contribute a new agricultural product to the Northern U.S. In the mid-1990s, the University of Minnesota, along with other private and public breeders, began releasing these grape varieties. As a result, vineyards and wineries across the northern region are developing an industry that combines product sales with tasting experiences, events venues and more. The first examination of the economic impact and industry status of vineyards and wineries of the north was conducted in 2013. It was updated in 2016.
In 2016, Extension's economic analyst examined the economic impact and the industry progress of cold-hardy grapes and wineries in 11 states. Comparing 2011 results to 2015 showed an overall shift from a young, fast-growing industry to a mature one. The industry generated an estimated 539.2 million of economic activity in these states. This is a 34 percent growth over 2011. Wineries generated nearly half of this economic contribution. Employment in the industry grew by 24 percent between 2011 and 2015, representing a shift from volunteer to paid labor. A leader in this industry, University of Minnesota grapes account for 52 percent of the red variety cold hardy grapes examined in this study, and 65 percent of white varieties.