On the first day of our seminar in the Northern Neck, we found ourselves at Ingleside Vineyards. The first vines were planted in the late 1970s with the first commercial harvest in 1980. This makes Ingleside Vineyards is one of the oldest vineyards in Virginia.
We had the pleasure to speak with Doug Flemer, whose family has farmed the property which Ingleside Vineyards calls home since 1890. Mr. Flemer has a unique perspective on the Virginia wine industry due to his early involvement.
The vintner has made a strategic decision to cut production from historical levels to reduce their sales through wine distributors and focus on direct market sales. While some might see a reduction in production as a sign of distress, I applaud his decision to focus on higher margin products. It takes a true businessmen and leader to make tough decisions, especially those that might be interpreted as a sign of weakness.
I believe that too often agricultural producers think the solution to all their problems is to get bigger. Bigger is always better, right? If there are existing inefficiencies within the fabric of the operation, then getting bigger will only serve to exacerbate those problems.
As agriculture enters a time of economic reset, I hope other producers can learn from Doug Flemer’s decision to think outside of the get big paradigm. I don’t think there is a one-size fits all solution to most problems within agriculture. I think that many tough decisions will have to be made during this economic reset and I hope that we as an industry have the same courage and foresight that the Flemer family did to take chances and make bold decisions.