We recently attended the 30th Annual Kansas Grape Growers and Winemakers Association conference in Manhattan, Kansas. Although this was our first year attending this event we anticipate that it will not be our last.
The KGGWA is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1987 as a coalition of Kansas grape growers and winemakers to improve the wine industry practices and wine products in Kansas. The KGGWA hosts an annual conference for the Vineyards and Winery's located throughout Kansas. In addition to the conference, the organization also sponsors an annual amateur wine competition every year in January in conjunction with their Annual Conference.
When we booked our conference registration, we had several priorities that we were hoping to accomplish during this conference;
- Networking – Being new to the industry, we were hoping to meet fellow vineyard and winery operators from our area and have the opportunity to network with individuals in the wine industry
- Training – We were looking forward to the seminars that were presented during the conference and hoping to further our knowledge about the wine industry in general
- Vendors – We were looking forward to the vendor booths and collecting information about the vendors that support the wine industry
From a networking standpoint, overall, we were generally pleased with our experience at the conference. Unfortunately for us, we were only able to attend a single day of the 2 day event. However, in that single day we met several established vineyard owners that welcomed us to their industry and invited us to tour their vineyards and winery facilities. We will definately be reaching out to these gracious owners and accepting their invitations as we try to further our knowledge about this business.
During the day we sat through 6 conference sessions presented by various well respected experts. Some of the training we enjoyed was;
- Perfecting the Customer Experience in the Tasting Room
- Site Selection and Preplant Considerations
- Beginning Wine Making
- Vineyard Establishment – Planting and Training the First Year
Since we are fairly new to the industry, I would definitely say that I found the two presentations presented by Marlin Bates of the K-State Research and Extension office to be my favorite seminars. Mr. Bates presented the Site Selection and Preplant Consideration along with the Vineyard Establishment – Planting and Training the First Year seminars. These two topics were perfect for our fledgling vineyard and winery business and provided a lot of valuable information and ideas.
Ironically, Mr. Bates is the Horticulture agent, K-State extension office for Douglas County which just happens to be the county that our vineyard is located in. Hopefully, we will be able to leverage some Mr. Bates' knowledge and expertise in the growth of our vineyard in the years to come.
We were a little disappointed in the show of support by the vendor's from the wine industry for this show. There were not as many as we were hoping to see there. However, the few that were in attendance were very helpful and provided us with a wealth of information, in the form of suggestions, brochures, catalogs and advice, to take home and ponder after the show.
In summary, our thoughts on the KGGWA conference are that it was well worth our time and we will plan to attend again next year. However, the next time we will plan to stay at the conference hotel and attend the entire event!