Members of the Douglas Town And Country Garden Club held their November 2016 meeting by taking a road trip to visit Paulk Vineyards in Wray, Ga.
We were greeted by one of the owners, Chris Paulk, grandson of Jacob Willis Paulk the founder of the vineyard.
Chris began our meeting by telling us how it got started ‘The Paulk Vineyard.’
Nestled in South Central Wray, Ga., you’ll find almost 600 acres growing ten different varieties of muscadine grapes. What began with 10 acres of vines planted in 1970 by Jacob Willis Paulk has grown into Paulk Vineyards, one of the largest muscadine producers in the southeast.
Paulk Vineyards began when Jacob Paulk, known as ‘Papa Jacob’ returned to the farm with his high school sweetheart after his share of time in the Air Force. He began growing traditional row crops including tobacco, peanuts and cotton.
After talking with a local county extension agent, his innovative spirit led him to a new crop that thrives in Georgia’s hot, humid climate - muscadines.
Since then, the family has grown alone with the farm, and currently, Jacon’s great grandchildren are the sixth generation of Paulks to work on the land.
“Our rolling fields with peble loam soils are ideal for growing muscadines,” said Chris.
“The majority of our business deals with fresh. Market varieties. Fry, Early Fry, Late Fry and Granny Val are scuppernong, or white-skinned varieties, and Supreme, Cowart, Noble andLane are our major muscadine (purple skinned) varieties.”
Some of the varieties we grow are specifically for juice, which produce more than the fresh market grapes and are machine harvested.
“We produce about three tons per acre depending on if we’re harvesting fresh market or juice,” Paulk says.
Muscadines For Health
While they initially focused on fresh - market grapes and juices, the vineyard expanded their market after Jacob suffered a health scare that led to a new idea. When he as 45, Jacob had a heart attach and quadruple bypass surgery, causing him to completely change his diet. As he was researching a healthier life style, he learned that muscadines are extremely nutritious. They’ve been shown to contain one of the highest levels of antioxidants of any fruit, as well as high levels of flavonoids, anthocyanins and flavonols. These combat free radicals, help with cardiovascular and digestive health, and relieve muscular pains Paulk worked with researchers at the University of Georgia to deteremine all fo the grapes’ health benefits, and Muscadine products corporations was born.
Today, Jacob’s grandson Chris runs the offspring company, which produces muscadine health products including seed capsules, grape juice and purple power muscadine skin powder, which can be added to smoothies or yogurt for an extra boost of nutrients.
Ison’s Nursery And Vineyard
Paulk Vineyards shares their love of muscadines with another Georgia farm - Ison’s Nursery and Vineyards in Brooks, Ga. Ison’s is the oldest and largest grower of muscadine vines in the world. Infact, Paulk Vineyards purchased their first vines from Ison’s Grady Ison, started growing muscadines in 1934. He grew a few plants and would give them to family and friends. Not until the early 1960’s did he begin to commercially grown muscadines for sale fo retail or to new vineyards.
Ison’s has 25 patented varieties of muscadines, and offers 200 varieties of fruit plants and trees for commerical growers, home gardeners and hobbyists. In fact, Ison’s says the backyard gardenerr is the largest sector of the company’s customer base.
“Our customers, like any business, are the lifeline to our company” he says “Backyard wish to enjoy the benefits of homegrown fruit.”
Coming in close behind are commercial growers, including Paulk Vineyards.
“That’s where developing relationships is so important to our success,” Ison adds, “It’s critical to advis growers which varieties are best for their specific needs. They are trusting us for our expertise.”
Paulk Vineyards also offer fresh fruit, juices and ciders, jellies and jams and muscadine seed and powder.
Both Ison’s and Paulk Vineyard’s plan to continue building relationships with other farmers and consumers to keep Georgia muscadine industry alive and thriving.
“There is tremendous opportunity to introuduce this fruit all over the country.”