Site of Our First Vineyard, Spring 1968

Building a community starts with one – and that one must have purpose.

In the mid-1960s, my dad had an interest in growing grapes that created good wine. He believed that Michigan had the potential. He had no big plans to grow thousands of vines or build a winery; rather he simply wanted a place to spend weekends away from Chicago and start his hobby. 

In 1966, we purchased a run-down farm near the little village of Baroda, about 90 miles from Chicago. We continued to live in Chicago and spent every weekend on the farm. We spent the first year cleaning up, clearing, and improving the property to plant grapes. In April 1968, dad was the first to plant French Vinifera in southwest Michigan. You might recognize Vinifera as vines native to warmer European climates, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Sauvignon Blanc.

In a few years, our vineyard acreage grew to 15. Most of these were French hybrids, but dad continued to experiment with Vinifera. Much of our crop was sold to home winemakers and dad used the balance to make his own wine. He also developed a relationship with next door wine maker, Len Olson, of Tabor Hill. Dad and Len had many conversations in those early years about growing grapes and making wine.

Dad had a vision. He was clear on his purpose and invested his time and resources accordingly. He communicated this purpose to his family and friends. While later in life he slowed considerably, he never wavered from that original vision to have a few acres of grapes and enjoy this as a hobby.

One of the principle roles of a leader is to set and articulate a clear vision or purpose for the organization. This must be well communicated to garner success. What is your vision or purpose? Is it clear? Are you passionate about it? Are the priorities clear? Do others around you understand it and know how to act on it? 

Today, there are 11 wineries within a few miles of Baroda. I cannot claim that my dad started all of this, but no doubt he had an influence on some of his neighbors. If you ever travel through southwest Michigan, stop at one of our wineries, and try some of our great wines.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

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