The McDuffie farm in Bladen County, N.C., used to produce mainly peanuts, corn, tobacco and livestock, along with some timber.

But when Walter McDuffie, Elizabethtown, N.C., took over the farm 12 years ago, he thought there might be better enterprises for the sandy loam soil that might free more time for the pest control business he owned and operates on the side.

One such enterprise suggested itself when contracts for muscadine grapes for wine started to become available.

“We always had grapes on the farm for eating,” McDuffie said. “But back then, there wasn’t a good market. There were no official wineries. We ate them off the vine, made jellies and jams and occasionally a little homemade wine.”

In recent years, however, wineries have come to the Elizabethtown area looking for growers to grow grapes, and McDuffie decided to sign up. Now, five years later, McDuffie has just harvested his largest and best crop.

“My yields were between 6.5 and 7 tons,” said McDuffie. “That was really good considering I don’t irrigate and it was an extremely dry year.”

The quality was good. “One variety ‘brixed’ 17 and another 19,” he said. “Brix is the sugar content of a grape and a level of 16 is considered good.”

Growers frequently have to make a compromise between yield and quality, and that definitely happened this season.

“I could have had an even better yield had I picked a little earlier,” said McDuffie. “But we had to wait to make sure they were good and ripe.”

It was so dry and hot, there was some shrinkage of the fruit.