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This week George and Sonya Barber with White Hall Vineyards and Cape Fear Ag Services spoke at the quarterly Elizabethtown Foxglove Garden Club meeting at the Cape Fear Vineyard and Winery.

The couple are business owners, farmers, and parents to three young men. They live in Clarkton in a remodeled 1850s home.

The Barbers have excelled dramatically since their first contract with Duplin Winery. In 2000 they started their contract growing with six acres to now farming 87 acres in Bladen and Pender counties for Duplin Winery.

The couple told the garden club members it takes three years from plant to harvest when growing grapes. Grape management is hard work, but very rewarding. They grow Carlos grapes and Doreen grapes. Both types of grapes are in the muscadine grape family, a native crop in Bladen County, North Carolina.

“There are 218 vines in an acre,” Sonya stated.

“Sonya planted them all,” George said. “But George dug every post,” Sonya interjected.

George went over the process of grape management. He explained in February, the vines are pruned, he mows the grass around the vines all throughout the year, they spray for fertilizing and fungus reduction as needed, and around Labor Day, they harvest the grapes with a mechanical harvester.

When asked what percentage of the crop is left by the mechanical harvester, George responded, “Just enough for the birds and the deer to eat.”

They are the largest producer in North Carolina. They produce about 100,000 gallons of crushed grapes each harvest which produces about 500,000 gallons of wine.

Midnight Magnolia and Beaufort Bay are the two wines Sonya recommended to the club. Please find out more about Duplin Winery on their website at duplinwinery.com.

Before the meeting ended, the President of the club, Cathy Gantz, gave an update. The annual mum sale was very profitable. There were about 408 mums ordered this year for the fundraiser.

Gantz also announced the garden club’s Christmas tree for the Cape Fear Farmer’s Market had been ordered from the Elizabethtown Optimist Club. The Christmas Tree Decorating Committee Chair, Terri Dennison, said last year the garden club tree received a lot of positive feedback from visitors in the area.

“They really liked the natural decorating on the tree,” Dennison said.

The date for the tree decorating meeting will be announced at a later date.

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