A provincial program is helping a Hants County winery cut down on losses related to wildlife visiting the vineyards.
The Avondale Sky Winery and Restaurant recently tapped into the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Damage Mitigation program to apply for a cost-sharing arrangement that would assist with the installation of more than two kilometres of deer fencing.
“They were all very supportive and informative throughout the process and we would highly recommend other farmers look into this program if they have any wildlife concerns,” said Louis Coutinho, co-owner of Avondale Sky Winery and Restaurant.
The resulting arrangement states that the provincial program will contribute up to 50 per cent, to a maximum of $15,000.
“When one factors in the costs accrued to growing grapes, from the fertilizer in the ground right up to every hour worked in the vineyard, it was a necessary cost to protect all the investment into the grapes themselves.”
The project is due for completion in March 2021.
“The fence helps us convert the protected crop into a finished product, which we can sell to our end consumer,” said Coutinho.
“Our vineyard was home to several dozen deer who destroyed young vines, and they had their particular favourites.”
Coutinho estimates that the Avondale-based business was losing 10 to 15 per cent of its planted crops to wildlife-related damage without the fencing.
“The fencing will pay back dividends over the next few years as it will stop the bleeding where we were wasting money in maintaining vines that were lost to wildlife.”
He’s optimistic that 2020’s final tally at the end of harvest will show marked improvements.
“We also were blessed to have one of the best summers in N.S. wine history this year,” said Coutinho.
“The fence has helped us protect and grow what should be our largest yield ever at Avondale Sky Winery.”
The Coutinho family purchased the storied winery from Stewart Creaser and Lorraine Vassallo in November 2019. The previous owners made international headlines by floating the repurposed St. Matthew's Anglican Church, now a focal point at Avondale Sky’s headquarters at 80 Avondale Cross Road, across the Minas Basin in 2011. The mid-1800s structure travelled by ferry from its original home in Walton to Hantsport, and from Hantsport to Newport Landing.
The story of the church is proudly told at Avondale Sky Winery and Restaurant, where the importance of a strong support network is far from lost on the Coutinhos.
“We are coming up to our first full year since buying the winery and COVID could have been a setback, but we were able to pivot and our online wine sales saved us from possible financial disaster,” said Coutinho.
“We have done well, and it is mainly because Nova Scotians and others have been supporting buying local, and that includes buying locally made wines. We cannot thank our clients and supporters enough!”