Master Farmer Makings: Laytons See Grapes As Next-Gen's Future

Second of four features on what makes the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Master Farmer award winners click.

Published on: Apr 19, 2013

When Joseph Layton, Jr. and son William began exploring opportunities to grow Lazy Day Farms, they had specific objectives: Expansion would support both Vienna, Md., families through the next 20 years, develop at a controllable pace with an uptrending enterprise, plus provide a business the next generation would be attracted to.

That's why the corn-soybean growers vined out into LaytonsChance Vineyard and Winery. "Nothing's more fun than sitting on a combine harvesting really good corn," says Joe. "But this comes close," he smiles. And now the pressure's off to grow their corn and soybean base.

"And, a bad year for growing corn and soybeans is a good year for grape quality," adds William. While they didn't know grapes, they did know growing and already had market savvy.

THE LAB: This is where Vintner William does his finest work in creating wines that tantalize customer taste buds
THE LAB: This is where Vintner William does his finest work in creating wines that tantalize customer taste buds

So they ventured into grape and wine production with the help of a professional consultant. With online schooling and extra courses, William is now the vintner, and their winery is flourishing.

They market the winery experience in an on-farm setting, separate but adjacent to their grain farm center. "Our business plan was to market all of our wine out of our facility," he notes. "People may buy here initially, then look for our wines in local stores. Now, 25% to 40% of our wines are sold in 50 stores within a 60-mile radius."  

The same analytical thinking goes into their corn and soybean production – all no-till and grid-mapped and analyzed to produce the most profit per acre. That's one reason they're growing close to 260 acres of food-grade soybeans for Chesapeake Fields.

NO BEER HERE: Laytons Chances wine tasting center serves up wines like Joes Cool Red and Lazy Day White and provides pastoral rural setting for visitors.
NO BEER HERE: Laytons Chance's wine tasting center serves up wines like Joe's Cool Red and Lazy Day White and provides pastoral rural setting for visitors.

Nominate a worthy Mid-Atlantic Master Farmer candidate now
Know of an outstanding farmer who's deserving of the Master Farmer award? Then, nominate him or her now for the 2014 award. And they'll receive an application.

Since 1927, the Mid-Atlantic Master Farmer Awards program has recognized individual farmer leaders from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia who inspire others. These men and/or women are good farmers, smart business persons, excellent stewards of their resources and exemplary community servants. Size of the farming operation isn't a deciding factor.

BEATS CORN RETURNS: Joe Layton and son William built a vineyard and bustling winery enterprise almost in the shadow of their grain complex.
BEATS CORN RETURNS: Joe Layton and son William built a vineyard and bustling winery enterprise almost in the shadow of their grain complex.

The award is co-sponsored by American Agriculturist and Cooperative Extension in the above mentioned states. Email your nominations to: jvogel@farmprogress.com . Be sure the mailing address is current and complete.