WKU vineyard hosts workshop for students and local growers

Vineyard manager and WKU alumnus Ryan Phelps of Somerset, Ky., spends his Saturday afternoon pruning the vineyard at the WKU farm, Feb. 6, 2015. Ashley Cooper/HERALD ARCHIVE

Justin Turner

Those interested in growing and pruning their own grapes will find help at a local workshop this week.

WKU’s vineyard, located on the University Farm, will have a grape pruning workshop for anyone interested in viticulture on Thursday, Feb. 25, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The workshop will allow attendees to learn in detail the proper techniques for the dormant pruning of grapevines as well as lessons in propagation and grafting.


Ryan Phelps, WKU viticulture technician, will be helping to instruct the workshop. Phelps said it is essential for students and growers interested in viticulture to learn the proper techniques used to prune grapevines.

“Dormant pruning is probably the single most important thing you can do to a grape vine for better production,” Phelps said. “If you don’t get the dormant pruning right, it will affect the crops the rest of the season.”

In viticulture, the vines are pruned during their winter dormancy. Successful pruning allows growers to manipulate the structure of the vine, resulting in increased quantity and quality of fruit during the following season.

Patsy Wilson, extension specialist in viticulture at the University of Kentucky, will be joining forces with the WKU vineyard to lead the workshop.

Wilson said it is important to hold collaborative events with specialists from both WKU and UK. Events such as the workshop allow students and growers to concentrate in one location since distance can be problematic for the growers spread throughout western Kentucky.

“Our collaborative goal is to get educational information to the growers,” Wilson said.

The WKU vineyard has grown and improved much since its establishment in 2008.  In 2011 and 2012, the vineyard planted 550 new vines with plans to use the fruit in the future for winemaking.

However, Phelps said production is not the main purpose of the vineyard.

“Teaching is the primary goal for the vineyard along with research,” Phelps said.

Phelps teaches three different viticulture courses throughout the year, using the vineyard as a hands-on strategy for education students.

Students and faculty have also performed viticultural research at the vineyard.

Phelps said anyone interested is encouraged to attend the free workshop on Thursday. The workshop will not be cancelled due to weather.