Grape stomping, seed-spittin’, U-pickin’ farm day for the agriculture and tourism students from the Junior and Senior High Schools across Putnam County. Ever After Farms, located at 372 Sisco Road in Pomona Park, graciously hosted over 200 students at their luxurious wedding barn and vineyards loaded with Muscadine grapes. It was a day filled with new experiences, laughter, competition and lots of grape fun! In addition to sweet muscadines, the
students engaged reptiles with Welaka hatchery, fossils with Michael Stallings, and goats and chickens with MYC Farms. Wendy Mussoline and Heather Pogue made sure that this event embraced a core 4-H value, offering multiple hands-on learning opportunities. Traditional grape stomping was a popular pastime in wine
making, so students suited up in plastic bags and made muscadine puree with their feet. Others watched from a bird’s eye view as drones captured real-time footage and cast it onto a large-screen TV. Brandon Stouffer, 4-H drone extraordinaire, shared how drones are becoming an integral part of agriculture in regards to detecting disease, crop deficiencies and harvest readiness.
Nikki Cummings assisted with gathering multiple sponsorships from the local businesses including Musselwhites, Crystal Tractor, Crescent City Winn Dixie, and Hills Hardware. Prizes were awarded to students that could spit their muscadine seeds the farthest or accurately guess how many muscadine grapes were in a one gallon jar. So many community members including UF/IFAS Extension Agents, Ever After Farms Staff led by Jenny Cahoon, Putnam County Career and Technical Education Team lead by Renee Hough, and Putnam/St. Johns Farm Bureau represented by Breanna Pierce all played an equally important role in making this day a complete success.
This educational opportunity helped students learn about a well-established fruit crop grown in Putnam County.
Muscadines are either grown for fresh market (typically U-pick, farm-to school, or farmers markets) or for commercial wine production. When perfectly ripe, they are intensely sweet with a tough skin that you bite open to extract the soft inner flesh, spit out the seeds, and suck the inner lining of the skin to maximize the goodness from this southern tasty treat. This year, three commercial vineyards (Forest Groves, Log Cabin and Continental Farms) in South Putnam County
mechanically harvested their grapes. Collectively, 37 acres of wine grapes were
harvested, yielding approximately 7 tons per acre and producing over lots of wine from our local region. According to Jeanne Burgess, VP at Lakeridge Winery in Clermont, 830 bottles of wine were produced from each ton of ‘Carlos’ and 930 bottles of wine per ton of ‘Noble’ muscadines. That’s approximately 228,205 bottles of wine produced from Putnam County grapes in 2022.