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Common Ground
Farm Credit Services of America Blog

A Family Winery in Nebraska Grainbelt

by Farm Credit Producing Excellence series | May 29, 2014
Mac’s Creek Winery Mac's Creek Winery and Vineyard has become a family business, located on 12 acres in Lexington, Nebraska.

Mac’s Creek Winery
Location: Lexington, Nebraska
Products: Wine
Size of Operation: 12 acres, 12,000 gallons of wine
Years in Business: 13


A Family Winery in Nebraska Grainbelt
By Karen MacDonald for Farm Credit

Editor’s note: This family profile is part of the Producing Excellence series published by Farm Credit at www.farmcreditnetwork.com.

Rural America has a strong tradition of people returning to the farm, most often as young adults after finishing college. For Max and Theresa McFarland, the return happened a little later in life, after they had built successful careers in academia -- Theresa for 25 years as a public school teacher and Max for 30 as a university professor.

“We both grew up as farm kids and we wanted to get back to our roots,” says Max. “We enjoy working hard, getting dirty, and planting something and watching it grow.”

The McFarlands also are a little different in what they decided to farm. Amid vast fields of grain, they grow wine grapes in south-central Nebraska. Their small winery produces up to 18 different types of wine. They use a combination of their own and other local growers’ grapes, as well as apples, cranberries, raspberries and other fruits. Two years ago, the McFarlands started an orchard of crabapples and pears to supplement their supply.

As founders of only the fourth vineyard in Nebraska, the McFarlands’ biggest challenge was finding relevant information.

“The only viticulture information we found had to do with California grapes,” says Max. “Finding information on cold plant hybrids that grow in this part of the country was difficult, and they act very differently than California grapes.”

The lack of a vibrant grape industry also made finding a financial partner a challenge.

“When we mentioned grapes, we could almost see what was going through their heads,” Max says, recalling meetings with commercial bankers. “And, once you plant, there are four years before they produce a crop that will earn a return.”

Advice from family members involved in farming sent them to FCSAmerica, where “we felt nothing but support from day one,” says Max. “The relationship has done nothing but strengthen ever since.”

Mac’s Creek Winery has proven a success. Its wines have won multiple awards and are distributed throughout Nebraska and to 15 other states. It also has solidified the MacFarlands’ connection to the Lexington area, where they employ eight to 10 people part-time and up to 50 during harvest. The family also hosts numerous entertainment events and support fundraisers and other community activities.

“One of our biggest joys is what we’re able to provide back to the area,” says Max

 “Our family commitment is to do the best job we can with a very positive, ethical business model. Sometimes that means we won’t make the maximum profits, but that’s how we fly in our family.”

While Max and Theresa didn’t set out to build a family business, their three children are now involved in the operation, each having returned after starting off-farm careers.

“We didn’t want them to feel trapped into coming back,” says Max. “But it’s gratifying to see them gravitate back.”

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