When we bought our farm a few years ago it had been abandoned for almost 10 years. A local farmer leased a couple of fields to grow tobacco. The property owner lived in Connecticut and rarely came to the farm. The homeplace known as the “Rock House” has always been a landmark in the community. It was always a sad feeling to see it falling into disrepair. I can honestly say it was my dream to live on this farm.
I remember this farm as it looked in 1972 as I traveled by it every day on my way to work. In the summer I often saw the owners, Tom and Lucy Lynch sitting in the shade of the huge oak trees in the front yard.
When Gene and I began the process of restoring this farm in 1997 our main goal was to make it a working farm. We had an enormous task awaiting us. The waterways were grown up in trees and brush, the sandy topsoil of the tobacco fields had washed down the hill. The pond was filled with sediment from erosion. The house, barn, and other farm buildings were in a sorry state. We hauled truckloads of trash and debris to the landfill. We tore down dilapidated fences and built new high tensile fencing around the pastures. We cleaned and repaired the barn, sheds and shops. We cut down overgrown shrubbery around the house and mowed the yard. The impact on the property was immediate because it was evident that someone cared for it. It also made a difference in the community because neighbors came over to meet us and to let us know how much it meant to them to see this farm revived.
The decision to plant a vineyard was an exciting idea because it was different from anything going on in our area. We were developing a plan for our farm that would not only create income, but interest and diversity in this farming community. It was the realization that farmland in the Mebane area was rapidly disappearing that fueled my desire to preserve our farmland.
Along about that time I began to hear bits and pieces about sustainable agriculture from a couple of guys we built a fence for and who work for NC State. They sent me publications from ATTRA – Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas. We asked for help from our county soil and water conservation people to come out and advise us on the best way to maintain our waterways. If you follow their recommendations, there is a reimbursement program for maintaining waterways. Alamance County’s Agricultural Extension Agent, Rett Davis was and is a constant source of information.
Sustainable farming is away of growing crops at a profit while minimizing the negative impact on the environment. It is a whole-system approach that focuses on the long-term health of the land. To be sustainable we must meet three objectives; environmental health, economic profitability, social and economic equity.
Making the transition to sustainable farming begins with a plan. This plan must meet the needs, goals, and abilities of each farm. An important part of the plan is to monitor the results. New ideas, cultural practices, and products are constantly emerging and we must adapt our plan. Each management decision must be carefully weighed for its impact to the soil, water, air, workers, and community.
Historically known for producing brightleaf tobacco grown on small family farms, now we are continuing this tradition of farming the land. Iron Gate Vineyards proudly produces North Carolina wine as one of four local wineries along the Haw River Valley viticultural area, which has ben recognized as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) by the Department of Treasury and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
Come see and enjoy our vineyards, pondwith ample space for picnic y The tasting room gift shop features items by local artists and crafts people.
Award-winning wine list includes Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chambourcin, Brightleaf White, Pack House Red, Flue Fire, Iron Gate Blackberry, Iron Gate Green Apple, Carolina Gold, and Rustic Blooming. Click here for a photos of our awards.
Experience our wines during the week at our tasting bar located in our gift shop. On the weekend, you can tour our processing area and have a seated wine tasting experience in our event center.
Learn more about what it was like in the very beginning our our journey as winemakers in the archived pages of Debbie’s Wine Grape Grower’s Journal. Read more →