Wendy Wooten and her husband Kelvin were sitting on their porch one afternoon when Kelvin began sharing stories from his childhood. The couple was in the process of building a new home, and being on his family’s land again gave Kelvin bouts of nostalgia. As he recounted memories from growing up on a tobacco farm, Wendy started forming a new vision for their future. Today, they are owners of Moon Lake Vineyards in northern Iredell County. We visited them to learn more about their story and their hopes for Iredell County where local food is concerned.
Can you give a brief introduction? Tell us more about your business.
Wendy: This used to be a tobacco farm, and as tobacco started fading out we still wanted to be stewards of the land. We love wine so it made sense to convert this into something we were passionate about, so we established the vineyard 10 years ago. We grow 4 varieties of wine grapes: Pinot Gris, Traminette, Tempranillo and Montepulicano.
Why are you rooted in Iredell County?
Wendy: We both were born and raised here. I grew up in this county on a very small 20 acre farm with chicken, pigs, cows and small gardens. This is my husband’s family land, so it was a no brainer that we had to keep farming it in some capacity. Conservation is a big part of it. They don’t make any more land. I was ready to give up my jobs in the city and get dirty again.
Kelvin: We saw so much land around us being developed and taken away, farming is a way to keep sustaining what we have. My family had tobacco, cows, soybeans, corn, we rotated different crops at different times of the year. It was pretty much just a little small family farm, the land came from our grandfather and my dad pretty much kept on the tradition from when he grew up.
Wendy: And we wanted to extend that tradition.
Being born and raised in Iredell County, how would you describe the agricultural landscape of the county? How has it evolved?
Kelvin: Historically, Iredell has been a dairy county. Right now, they're still the largest dairy county in North Carolina. Tobacco, has really gone away since the 80’s. In our neighborhood, we see landscaping, nursery trees, and small organic farms. I would say the poultry industry is also coming on pretty strong. Agriculture and farming is really thriving in Iredell right now.
So you both have a familiarity with agriculture given your background, but what drew you to wine?
Wendy: We researched probably seven years to learn what it would take. Then, I started taking courses at Surry Community College. They have a wonderful viticulture program there, and while I was going to school there I worked at a local winery. That was hands down probably the best education I got, and applied it here. Our farming background definitely didn't hurt, but this is totally a different way of farming
What’s the hardest part of owning your own vineyard and the most rewarding part?
Wendy: The hardest part are the hours. We start the vineyard in mid to late February. Then from late March until September or October, we work 10 hour days, seven days a week. It’s very demanding. There is no shade in the vineyard, and it’s just me. For four acres that’s a lot of work, but the rewarding thing is just that also. When it’s harvest time and you get to see those fruits of your labor literally coming into fruition, we always feel like we’re giving back, to the land, to our community.
Expanding upon that, why do you think its important for your community to buy local?
Kelvin: You're getting better quality food. Fresher, picked daily. The main thing is you want to help support someone local that’s trying to make a living, and keep things as they used to be.
Wendy: We support our local farmers in the community. Buying their fruits, vegetables and meats to put on our table, we’re in turn giving them something to put on their table. The money is going right back to them.
MOON LAKE VINEYARDS