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Tennessee wine and grape industry experiencing strong growth

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Credit: Photo of ripening Tennessee-grown concord grapes by J. Ball, courtesy of the Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The state of Tennessee has always been rich in agricultural diversity, and recent statistics are proving that once again as the grape and wine industry in Tennessee is bearing fruit.

A University of Tennessee Extension analysis of the most recent data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the Tennessee wine and grape industry continues to show strong growth. Direct "covered" or hired jobs in the Tennessee winery industry have grown to 435 workers in the first quarter of 2016, which is an increase of more than 20 percent from the same time last year.

The number of establishments with hired workers has seen a similar increase. Discussions with industry officials and an analysis of bonded winery data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives indicates that the state now has 72 bonded wineries. Accounting for self-employment, which is not included in the employment numbers, Tennessee wineries currently provide well over 500 jobs. This growth is particularly important because the industry provides economic growth and employment opportunities in many rural areas where job options may be limited.

The data are based on analysis performed by David Hughes, Professor and Greever Endowed Chair for Agribusiness Development, and a team of researchers in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics in the UT Institute of Agriculture. Their analysis shows that employment in Tennessee wineries began experiencing strong growth in 2013 and has continued to gain momentum. Primary reasons for this growth include a continued and growing interest in local foods and local agriculture, the new availability of wines in Tennessee grocery stores and the easing of other legal restrictions.

"It has been great to see some barriers to entry and restrictions on the wine industry alleviated through legislation in recent years," said Don Collier, president of the Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance. "With the addition of hard cider sales, the ability to charge for wine tastings, and the opportunity to open satellite winery stores in high traffic areas, it is easy to see how this growth could occur. I think I speak for the whole industry in saying 'thank you' to those who support our Tennessee grape farmers and the wineries who buy their fruit."

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Patricia McDaniels
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