Highland Community College teaches students the ropes of the wine industry

Local News

WAMEGO, Kan. (KSNT) — The viticulture and enology program at the Highland Community College Wamego campus is the only one of its kind in Kansas.

Not only does it teach students how to grow grapes and make wine, it also helps them prepare to open their own wineries.

Bob and Joe Bodine took are no strangers to the agriculture industry. As fifth-generation farmers, they were looking for a new challenge to take on.

“We were sitting around talking about the farm and wondering how can we get into a different crop, a different product,” said Bob.

They decided to give the wine industry a try. That’s what led them to take classes through Highland’s viticulture and enology program.

The college recently opened 456 Winery at their Wamego campus, where they also teach their classes.

“Usually, it’s in the classroom in the morning and then after lunch, you know it’s out in the field,” said Program Director Scott Kohl. “Planting vines, doing pruning, canopy management and all those different things that go into harvesting and growing grapes. On the winery side, it’s the same thing. Classroom in the morning and then they’re in the lab or in the winery.”

But the instructors wanted to do more than just teach students about the wine making industry.

They also wanted to help them prepare to turn it into a business.

“How do we help folks get past that initial hurdle of the equipment, the building, the tasting room, the marketing and all the things that go into starting a winery?” said Kohl.

To do that, they allow winemakers to rent out space at the winery to make and sell their wine.

Kohl says it helps minimize the risk for those trying to start their own wineries. By providing winemakers with access to equipment and guidance from the instructors, the winery serves as a launching pad.

It’s what helped the Bodines start their own wine company Bodine Wine Co.

Instructor Matt Kahl said the program is helping grow the wine industry in Kansas and is showing people that great wine can be made in the sunflower state.

“‘I think it’s great for the industry, the state in general,” Kahl said. “Some really good wine is coming out of the state that is not only unique, but just as good as the other wines you can find around the country.”

Highland Community College also makes and sells its own wine at their winery.

To learn more about the program, click HERE.

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