March 9, 2015 | By: Aimee Nielson

As Kentucky farms move from tobacco and other traditional crops to growing grapes, the University of Kentucky is supporting this growing industry through grape and wine research and education. A half-hour documentary, "Thrive: The Kentucky Wine Tradition,” will air on KET in March and April.

The film follows UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Extension research in the field and in vineyards across the state. It features UK extension horticulture specialists Tom Cottrell and Patsy Wilson, horticulture research analyst Jeff Wheeler, research farm technician Sean Lynch and UK vineyard and sustainable agriculture field technician Kristi Durbin, as well as Kentucky vineyard owners and winemakers Cynthia Bohn, Cathy Edwards, Tom Beall, Kerry Jolliffe and Jim Wight.

At UKAg’s Horticulture Research farm on the corner of Man O’ War and Nicholasville Road in Lexington, the viticulture team grows different grape varieties to identify those particularly suited to Kentucky’s climate and studies growing methods and pest management.

Making the transition from more typical Kentucky crops, like tobacco, to grapes can be a hard one for farmers. Many farmers don’t have a background in working with perennial crops.

“We were really nervous about that,” said Edwards, owner of Harkness Edwards Vineyard. “But we were farmers, so growing grapes is all about farming. We had the equipment, we had the land, we had the support from the University of Kentucky, which provided a lot of knowledge for beginning growers, and we found a lot of good networking out there. So we just got into it and learned by doing.”

“There’s a demand for local products, and what better product than wine?” Wheeler said.  “Everything about wine is a culture very much tied to the place. So if you want a sense of Kentucky, hopefully we can make wines that represent what that is.”

The documentary was produced as a collaborative project between Reveal/UK Research Communications and the Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments.

“This project was a unique opportunity to discover the history of winemaking in Kentucky,” said Alicia Gregory, producer and director for UK Research Communications. “Did you know that the very first commercial vineyard in the United States was in Jessamine County, Kentucky? This project allowed us to see, firsthand, how UK is partnering with farmers across the state to support a resurgence of Kentucky’s winemaking tradition.”

The documentary will air at the following times:

  • KET: Sunday, March 29 at 3:30 pm EDT
  • KET2: Monday, March 30 at 10:30 pm EDT
  • KETKY: Tuesday, March 31 at 9:00 pm EDT
  • KETKY: Wednesday, April 1 at 10:30 am EDT
  • KETKY: Thursday, April 2 at 7:30 pm EDT
  • KETKY: Saturday, April 4 at 10:00 am EDT

Alicia Gregory, 859-257-2980