Strengthening the ability of the land grant university system to execute its rural development mission

Challenges Facing Small and Medium Sized Entrepreneurs in Emerging Cool Climate Wine Regions

PI: Ross, B. (Michigan State University)

Co-PIs: Chaddad, F. Univ. of Missouri), Gómez, M. (Cornell University)

Award: $20,000

Project Abstract

In the last decade we have observed the rapid establishment of new small- and medium-sized wineries in non-traditional, cold-climate wine regions. These rural entrepreneurs include grape growers that have decided to vertically integrate into winemaking and also non-farmer investor-entrepreneurs who have opted for a rural lifestyle. As a result of this entrepreneurial activity, wine clusters are emerging in nontraditional regions such as in the states of Michigan, Missouri and northwest New York. These wine clusters might become economic vectors of rural development as they have the potential to foster the development of related industries (e.g., tourism) as is the case of established wine regions such as Napa Valley.
In this research project we seek to identify the challenges faced by rural entrepreneurs in these regions with particular focus on economic, business and marketing challenges at two interrelated levels – the firm (i.e., the winery) and the cluster (or region). We are also specifically interested in exploring how collective action by small and medium- sized wineries might assist them in overcoming common challenges and establishing successful wine clusters. Our approach is to conduct an exploratory comparative analysis of the three emerging cold climate wine regions. This analysis will follow a multi-method research design that will include an extensive literature review, a multi-state survey, and mini case studies of small- and medium-sized wineries. This project will lead to an inventory of Land Grant faculty and staff providing resources to wine producers in the North Central region, a publication of a research article, a NCRCRD general-audience webinar, and a proposal submission to the NIFA-AFRI grant program as well as to other potential external funding sources.