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South River Vineyard, Grand River Valley, Ohio

Gene Seigel

For nearly two decades, I have been farming vinifera grapes in the Grand River Valley of Ohio. Starting with a 2-acre leased field, my family now owns 85 acres and manages another 80 acres for three wineries. Today hundreds of wind machines dot the east coast fruit region, but back in 1995 when we installed our first machine, nobody was running them. Today we use five machines to move cold air winter and spring in frost/winterkill areas. The original propane machine now has 500 hours and still starts on the first or second crank at subzero temperatures.

The most commonly asked question about our Orchard Rites® are 1) Do they work & 2) How much do they raise the winter low temperature? In our best site, currently protected by one 16hp. unit, the machine protects up to 15 at-risk acres and raises temperature 8-12°F on the coldest January nights when it is started early. On poorer sites, fewer temperature increases are to be expected (3-4°F), though the machines clearly reduce the time that the vineyard spends at the night's lowest temperature. On a 10-acre site, with wine grapes at $1,500/ton, avoiding a one-time 1.6tpa loss will cover the initial investment. On any one of the coldest nights between 2003-2005, each Orchard-Rite® paid for itself.