Don’t crush our grapes

Published 2:37 pm Sunday, November 6, 2011

To the Editor:
Did the article of Oct. 7 about the N.C. Wine Industry by Governor Perdue catch the attention of no one else besides the Turners (article of Oct. 19) and I?
Governor Perdue clearly stated that in 2009 alone the wine industry had an economic impact of $1.28 billion and that it has experienced a 58 percent growth from 2005-2009. She went on to write, “This growing industry is a significant economic engine for N.C., helping to preserve farmland and bring revenue to our rural communities.”
As a vineyard owner and a concerned businesswoman, I cannot believe the antiquated views of our county. I repeatedly hear that Polk is focusing on agri-tourism to generate revenue to the county yet the reality is, there appear to be more steps backwards due to the ABC’s renewed crack-down and the fact that conservatives in Polk are embracing its status as a dry county.
In June and again in August, as Giardini was denied annexation, I thought to myself how sad that a viable, thriving business was not given the support it deserved to flourish.
In September, as I volunteered for the second annual Farm to Fork Supper (to benefit the Mill Spring Agricultural Center), I was told that due to the ABC crackdown, we could not have donations of wine for our silent auction and would have to forego the revenue from “donations” of wine and beer graciously given from regional companies. Not only did this greatly affect the amount of monies earned but it also gave an unfair disadvantage to the community since several businesses, under the imposed circumstances, chose not to participate.
The last, and perhaps final straw for me was at FENCE’s Wine & Art Festival. Again, due to ABC’s enforcement of “Polk being a dry county,” the organizers had to move the event to South Carolina.
Personally, I thought about not attending (as attendance of exhibitors was way down from the prior year) but decided that it was more important for me to make a presence and support fellow artisans and wineries. Yes, the event was wonderful but we all lost out. Polk County lost the benefit of tourists spending time and money in the area and our local N.C. wineries lost many sales.
I attended the Friends of Agriculture Breakfast last Wednesday and made sure to introduce myself to Libbie Johnson (newly hired economic tourism development director), as did some acquaintances from a new vineyard in Mill Spring. We, as well as many others in Polk County, are hopeful that she will be a catalyst for change.
I encourage anyone who has a viable interest in agri-tourism, preservation of farmland and economic growth here in Polk to speak up, get involved and ensure that we ready all of our townships in the county for the success it deserves.
– Mindy Wiener

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