As the world-class food and agribusiness epicenter
Tell us about GreenSeam, the region. How is it becoming the world-class food and agribusiness epicenter?
Agriculture is what we are best at. The whole region has become an epicenter and we want to continue to promote it, be a part of it, and celebrate our strengths and successes.
What would you say is unique about the region?
We are in a very interesting climate which, in our industry, makes for a lot of unique products. Grapes are influenced by the climate, soil, and topography in an area, which eventually influences the wine as well. Terroir, a French term that means “sense of place,” is typically used to say that a wine tastes just like it should, considering the area the grapes were grown and the wine was made. You can grow the same grapes in different area of the country— even the region—and produce completely different wines.
Do you partner with other businesses or organizations in Minnesota?
We are proud of our partnership with the University of Minnesota, who are at the forefront especially with the Marquette grape. They continuously do research that helps us continue to grow this industry in the region where people thought growing grapes was impossible. We rely on local products. Some of our spirits are made with the beer from Mankato Brewery, our new rye whiskey with the rye sourced from a Mapleton farm, we use Minnesota oak for our barrels. It is important to us to support local.
How does GreenSeam shape the future of agriculture, businesses, and communities in the region?
GreenSeam is all about awareness, support, partnerships, and promoting what everyone here does best. What brings you, as well as Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery to the GreenSeam table? I have always been honest about this story: this was my husband’s vision and I wasn’t too thrilled about it in the beginning. Our lives were busy and I didn’t want us to make bad wine. However, I learned a lot and realized that this region and community have a lot to offer in growing grapes. I realized we could grow a product and get good, knowledgeable people to work with us. My husband Kent and I have lived here all our lives and we had no agricultural background. We had to learn and I’m really glad we did. We are still in the community and we provide something we make right here. I look at this as another way of giving back to the community. It’s pretty cool and it feels good. We are so happy to be a part of this amazingly-growing region and we see GreenSeam as a key part of it. Southern Minnesota is a great place to be.
What happens in the world of a winery in September and October?
Prior to harvest, it is important to put nets on the vines to protect the ripening grapes from birds who will want to eat them. There is a lot of sampling, where the vineyard manager and winemaker check the levels of sugar in the grapes and use that as one of the factors in determining when to start picking. Some grapes are hand-picked and, as of last year, we are able to mechanically pick some, as well, which is much quicker and less labor intensive. A big machine shakes the fruit off onto a conveyor belt and into little tractors. This is the time where our winery and production staff work long hours, seven days a week. A long-standing tradition in the wine industry is to have a local minister bless the first pick. This is about good fortune and bountiful harvest and we always find time for it.
Jane Schwickert adds an irreplaceable note of creativity and organization to Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery as its general manager. Together with her husband Kent, the chief manager, they share the dream and mission of making Chankaska one of the most prominent wineries in the Midwest.
Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery