Making a farm transition is a big job, but a Case IH Farmall® tractor can make it easier. That is why Shelby Watson Hampton was thrilled when she was named one of the runners-up in the American Farm Bureau Federation Discussion Meet and won a Farmall 55A tractor. The Be Ready blog featured Shelby and the other AFBF Discussion Meet runners-up in a previous post.
Have you ever gone through a major transition on your farm? What was the most challenging aspect?
Shelby’s family farm has a long history of success. Her grandparents purchased the farm in the early 1950s and raised hogs and tobacco at a time when both markets were good. In the late 1960s, they made the decision to transition the farm to a large-tree nursery business and became Robin Hill Farm Nursery. Shelby grew up on the nursery and this is what she remembers most about the family farm. Along with the tree nursery, they also hosted a fall farm festival, complete with hayrides and a pumpkin patch, and welcomed elementary school tour groups and families to the farm.
In 2005, Shelby’s grandfather passed away unexpectedly, and the decision was made to transition the farm out of the nursery business. A few years later, Shelby, along with her husband, Wade Hampton II, and her aunt, Susan Watson Hardy, decided that they wanted to carry on the legacy of Robin Hill Farm. After much research and consideration, they made the decision to transition the farm into the vineyard and winery business.
While waiting for the grapes to be ready for the winery business, they also decided to open the farm back up to the public, in the form of hosting on-farm events. Their old horse stable was renovated into a beautiful, rustic events venue that can be used to host weddings, family parties and other events. Shelby and Wade were the first to get married there earlier this spring. Currently, 26 other couples are scheduled to host their wedding festivities on the farm over the next two years.
Although Shelby was awarded a Farmall 55A, they decided to upgrade to a Farmall 75C, complete with 4WD, a cab, and front-end loader and fork attachments.
“Winning the tractor definitely saved us a good deal of expense and allowed us to further develop our infrastructure and get a head start on our transition,” says Wade.
The family plans to use the tractor, along with the attachments, for spraying the vines, harvesting and hauling the grapes, and various other tasks to maintain their operation and grounds. It also will come in handy for moving tables, chairs and décor for the event venue.
“The 12-by-12 gear box will be very helpful for spraying, and the hydraulic clutch will make the equipment very easy to operate,” says Wade.
Developing a vineyard and winery is not an easy task. Shelby advises those considering getting into the business to do research on soil types, industry trends and which grape varieties grow best in certain areas. She also encourages using industry resources. Shelby joined the Maryland Grape Growers Association and the Maryland Wineries Association to gain further insight from others.
The new vineyard is off to a great start! The trio, along with the help of 15 family members, planted two acres of grape vines of five different varieties. They are in the first-year stage now, and within three years, they hope to be harvesting the grapes. They plan to have a winery as soon as the grapes are ready to be made into wine. In the meantime, they are expanding their wedding and events venue.
“The entire family is very excited about the new events happening on the farm, and we couldn’t do what we do without their help,” says Shelby. “It truly is a big family effort.”