The Stikeleathers turned their tired tobacco farm in to a thriving vineyard. Debbie and Gene Stikeleather purchased an old tobacco farm in Mebane North Carolina with the hopes of having a respectable winery. They wanted The Rock House Farm to be an inspiration to the community. And most certainly that is what has happened.
Come around for Halloween and you can compete in a pumpkin hurling contest. There’ll be more activities and plenty of good stories to swap. The Stikeleather’s land is beautiful but only cause they put out some back breaking effort to clear the undergrowth and expose the lake. Now the lake is a source of entertainment and social activities. Some folks get married there and others will have family reunions.
No two ways about it, starting a vineyard is scary and very labor intensive. Debbie says in her diary that she lost count of how many times they pulled some post out of the ground cause it wouldn’t square up correctly. When they planted the first vines in 2001, it dropped 20 degrees in a short time and then started snowing hard. There were many challenges in the NC clay soil and some spots just aren’t fit to hold life.
Debbie and Gene spoke to the farmer who had previously rented some areas on that land in which to plant crops. He told them that he knew all the good planting areas. Their first location turned out to be the hard grey clay that won’t hold nothing but water and then bake your roots in winter. It’s too costly to amed on such a large level. So they went on up their land and located a spot that is just right.
They are serious about protecting their grapes from marauding animals. The charged fences are high to keep deer out and secured to the ground to keep out raccoons. It’s also netted to keep the birds out. You can tell that each grape is a pride and joy. Debbie told me that her grapes had been picked and were up for the winter. She must be feeling that Autumn is going to be rainy and cold as most everyone is predicting.
I enjoyed my day nosing around the shop and peeking over the property. Debbie always wanted to live on The Rock House Farm. She passed every day on her way to work. So one day—she purchased it and has done a remarkable thing getting it in shape. It is her desire to maintain it as a working farm. The Harrells are conservative and good stewards of the land.
They enlisted the help of local and state environmental consultants to make sure they had done what was needed to be within storm water and farming guidelines for water quality control. The Stikeleathers have gone above and beyond to help the land heal itself.
Debbie was most kind during my visit and I purchased some muscadine wine from her. It was her special mix and I’m going to use it for cooking and marinating. I hope you’ll stop by The Winery at Iron Gate Farm in Mebane, North Carolina. Tell them Flowergardengirl sent you.