Vineyard assistance program aims to boost local grape production

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ohio vineyards are dependent on Mother Nature, but a statewide assistance program aims to offer a little help for statewide grape growers.

The Vineyard Expansion Assistance Program, created to bolster the establishment of new, expansion or rehabilitation of vineyards in Ohio, is available.

Vineyards can apply for the assistance to replace non-bearing vines or to plant new ones. VEAP allows wineries and vineyards to invest in and plant high-quality, high-value grapes so they don’t have to rely on purchasing them from other states, according to the Ohio Grape Industries Committee.

The incentive program was created by, and is funded by, the OGIC, which falls under the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Due to the small number of grapes produced in Ohio, many wineries, farmers markets and retailers buy multiple varietals from other states to meet production needs.

Not only does the program offer a boost for vineyards, but it helps preserve agriculture in Ohio, said Donniella Winchell of the Ohio Wine Producers Association.

“Industry authenticity is based on fruit that is grown in soils from which the wines are produced,” said Winchell, who said the program is modeled after one in Missouri that encourages “fruit in the ground.”

“It’s designed primarily for small production, but some of the larger wineries have taken advantage (of VEAP) of either adding to vineyards or introducing some new varieties,” she said.

The program also has a macro, residual effect.

“Once you plant a condominium or housing development in an area that grows grapes, you’ll never get it back viticulturally,” she said. “It feeds the authenticity of the industry because we are growing grapes and making wine out of those in Ohio dirt, and secondly, it preserves the relatively unique areas for agriculture rather than housing developments.”

Larger wineries like Ferrante Winery in Geneva are applying, but it also encourages smaller ones as well, she said.

Ohio is the country’s sixth largest wine producer, with nearly 1,200 acres of vineyards producing and selling 1.2 million gallons, or 500,000 cases, of wine annually. Ohio has 370 licensed wine producers, creating more than 8,000 full-time jobs for residents, according to the OGIC.

Each grower can apply for as much as $1,500 per half acre with a maximum of three acres, or $9,000. Planting must occur in spring 2023. Applications must be received by OGIC by Friday, Nov. 4. For details, contact Christy Eckstein at

Related coverage: Concord grapes are in season: Here are 3 Greater Cleveland farms to pick your own

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I am on‘s life and culture team and cover food, beer, wine and sports-related topics. If you want to see my stories, here’s a directory on Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I talk food and drink usually at 8:20 am Thursday morning. Twitter: @mbona30.

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