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Moldavian visitors get closeup look at farming

Nadejda Russu samples wine at Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards. Nadejda Russu samples wine at Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards.

Alan Ward stooped to point a finger at the lower part of a merlot grape vine.

“In a hard freeze we may have to cut one off,” he said of the vines. “But we’ve got one, two, three that we can pull from.”
The listeners were farmers and business people from Moldova, here on an agriculture mission to learn about American farming, packing and marketing. As an interpreter translated, Ward explained the Geneva double curtain trellis that allows more sunlight to pour in to the vines, increasing production.
“We get 50 percent more per acre with less spraying,” said Ward, an Edneyville native and financial adviser who founded Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards five years ago. “If we get a rainy season and it’s wet, the extra vine gives us more photosynthesis on cloudy days. We win a lot of national and international awards but we’re a family farm. We’re not mass production.”
The mid-day visit to the vineyard on Chestnut Gap Road was the third stop for the international ag tourists. They started the day at Jason Davis’s North River Farms in Mills River, where they looked at hay production, and next traveled to see Allen Henderson’s apple slicing operation. Wednesday afternoon they visited apple grower Wayne Pace, blackberry and blueberry grower Steve Dalton and Noble Cider owner Trevor Baker before enjoying dinner at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
“I am interested to see how the research institute through extension teaches farmers to produce the best fruits and vegetables,” said Iurie Fala, who runs a 170-member export organization of fruit and vegetable growers in Moldova.
A partnership of the Cochran Fellowship Program, the CALS International Programs and the cooperative extension service through N.C. State University, the program fosters the exchange of farming information.
At the winery, the guests sipped wines from St. Paul and enjoyed bites of rich German chocolate before moving on to apples, berries and hard cider.
“Henderson County allows them to see all these different commodities in one location and that’s why they like to come here,” said Marvin Owings, the Henderson County cooperative extension director.