|By CINDY LADAGE
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The last weekend in February, the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Assoc. honored Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich with a Friend of the Industry award during its annual conference at the Hilton in Springfield.
The award was based on the expansion of the wine industry. In the past nine years, Illinois wineries have increased from 12 to more than 60.
“Gov. Blagojevich understands that this growth means more jobs, more tourism dollars and growth in the Illinois agriculture industry as a whole, which all leads to a stronger economy,” said Chris Herbert of the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA).
State government funding has allowed vintners to receive technical assistance needed to help them create wines that are now gracing shelves across the nation. Nearly 1 million has been spent by the IDOA in the past three years.
Besides the IDOA, the University of Illinois (UOI) and Southern Illinois Univer-sity (SIU) have assisted with the expansion of the state’s grape and wine industry. Through funding to UOI, an Extension Enology position was created for technical assistance to viticulture through workshops and a newsletter as well as offering one-on-one assistance to growers.
The UOI also has conducted research at an Urbana vineyard and the St. Charles Horticulture Center. SIU has provided viticulture technical assistance for ongoing projects.
Herbert said the SIU projects include the Northern Wine Grape Canopy Management Study and tunnels for improving the condition of overwintered vines.
The Illinois Grape Growers and Vintner’s Assoc. (IGGVA), besides hosting the conference, receives funding to conduct workshops and promote the wine industry through advertising, and trade events.
At the forefront of the IGGVA is Viticulturist Allan Dillard who Hebert said, “provides direct assistance and work with regional vineyard owner/operators; provides workshops in winter pruning, spring shoot positioning and thinning, summer canopy balance and late summer crop assessment.”
Funding has also partnered the wine industry with the Illinois Bureau of Tourism where the experts can give the industry a boost through their public relations and marketing campaign efforts.
This farm news was published in the March 1, 2006 issue of Farm World.