Establishments in this industry are primarily engaged in the production of grapes.
Grape production has consistently constituted one of the largest U.S. non-citrus fruit crops, usually competing with apples for the greatest amount of total fruit produced. In the general fruit category, however, grapes have always trailed oranges. The farm value of the grape crop has totaled approximately $1.5 billion to $2 billion each year since the mid-1980s. The two types of establishments engaged in the production of grapes in the United States are grape farms and vineyards. Grapes are grown for table use, processed into wine or juice, canned or frozen, and dried for raisins. California, Washington, and New York lead the country in grape production, although California alone produces about 90 percent of the country's grapes. California also leads in wine consumption. California had more than 100 wine grape farms in 2003.
While European grape varieties account for 90 percent of cultivated grapes in the world, early attempts to grow them in the United States were unsuccessful because of native pests and diseases. As a result, U.S. grape growers began domesticating native species. The Concord grape, an American variety, is a favorite of eastern growers and accounts for 80 percent of the eastern crop. Most eastern grapes are processed into grape juice and wine, while California is the major table grape growing region of the country.
Grape growing is labor intensive. The vines are trained to grow on a system of stakes and wire and are pruned to develop the desired shape for maximum production and quality. Hand pruning continues throughout the year. Other practices used by growers to increase production or quality include thinning of the berries, and clusters and girdling.
The many diseases and pests that attack grape vines are a continuing threat to the industry. Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Napa Valley of California was infested with a new strain of root pest. Industry losses as a result of the infestation were estimated to be $600 million.
Harvesting is also an arduous task, especially for table grapes, because they require special care to avoid bruising. Because of the higher cost for field labor, mechanical picking is used for grapes intended for wine or...