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Homegr by Clint Branham,


T e original plan was to grow enough grapes to satisfy the growing demand of the state’s budding wine industry. Six years ago, Mack Hayes broke ground on a 25-acre


plot in the Ozark foothills of northeast Oklahoma. A lush vineyard soon began to take shape on the sprawling family homestead located near the Wickliff e Community in east- ern Mayes County. Everything Mack had heard about Oklahoma’s wine in-


dustry was telling him that more grapes were needed. With a grape-grower right in their own backyard, he surmised, wine producers in the region would not need to seek out- side grapes to replenish depleted inventory. “We heard there was a need for Oklahoma-grown


grapes,” Hayes said. “We didn’t say a whole lot to anyone. We just came home and went to planting.” To ensure the success of his vineyard, Hayes sought ex-


pertise anywhere it could be found. He did his homework. He studied the fi ner points of grape-growing. He researched carefully the work of experts. Vineyard soil was prepared for planting following a


blueprint laid out by Dr. John Clark from the University of Arkansas. Only hardy varieties recommended by Dr. Clark were selected for planting—strains designed to tolerate un- predictable Midwestern climate and fl ourish in rocky, native soils. Success did not come cheap. Nor was it without adver-


sary. Hayes knew his vineyard would require a steady supply


of water during those long summer stretches when Oklaho- ma skies turn dry. He spent over $150,000 on wells, pumps, irrigation equipment and pipe. “We’ve got three holes 1,500 feet to the Roubidoux


Aquifer,” he said. “Below all the shallow water. Down to the commercial water zone. We’re at 600 gallons a minute at


4 - Northeast Connection


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the bottom. You can’t get 600 gallons a minute at a hundred feet.” Added Hayes: “With water you have potential. Without


water you only have dreams.” Opposition to the vineyard’s success lurked in the shad-


ows. Intruders from the woods nearby soon discovered the vineyard and began infl icting damage. Wild hogs made themselves right at home in the vineyard. Relative new- comers to the area, the hogs began rooting the soſt ground around the vines and tearing at delicate root systems. Hun- gry deer devoured the vine’s soſt buds throughout those fi rst winter seasons. Hayes was forced to take drastic measures to protect his


precious crop. He fenced the entire perimeter of the 25-acre vineyard with an eight-foot fence at a price tag of $25,000. T e fence is by no means an impenetrable barrier. Hayes said determined hogs still tunnel under and younger, more athletic deer clear eight feet with little eff ort. Hayes, however, maintains a unique perspective when it


comes to dealing with opposing forces. “Without adversaries in your life you’ll never grow,” he


said. “You’ll never amount to anything. No matter where you go you are going to have them. Without resistance you will never stand the test of time.” All of Hayes’ hard work should have paid dividends as


soon as the fi rst crop of grapes was harvested in July of 2010. However, his investment didn’t pay off at all like he imagined. When he informed a local winery that he would have


fruit for sale, the response was disappointing. “When it got to be grape time, I had about forty ton


hanging on the vine. But they only wanted four ton,” Hayes said. “So, I had to fi gure out what to do with the rest of it. I asked if they could help me sell to other wineries, but they


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