Producing Excellence: Marcia Kunde Mickelson
Producing Excellence: Marcia Kunde Mickelson
Size of Operation: 700 acres
Years in Business: 109
Farm Credit Partner: American AgCredit
Years Working with Farm Credit: 40
After four generations of successfully operating a California vineyard with their grapes in high demand by many established wine brands, you might think a family would be ready to rest on their laurels. Not so for the Kunde family, which broke ground on their very own winery in 1990.
“We were doing a great job selling fruit to other wineries,” says Marcia Kunde Mickelson, chief operating officer and 4th generation wine grower, “and we thought, if everyone else is making such good wine with our fruit, why can’t we make our own?” With 6,000 cases produced in its first year, Kunde Family Estate now offers 18 different bottled wines in three distinct lines: one series designed for everyday consumption; a reserve series that uses grapes from each varietal’s best blocks or rows, and one series only available for on-site tastings, website sales and wine club members.
Ensuring that their products appear on wine lists at targeted restaurant and in retail stores so consumers can enjoy them at home is an ongoing marketing challenge for this relatively new wine brand. “With so many brands out there, we know we need to set ourselves apart,” Marcia says. “What works for us is telling our story, which is pretty unique.”
Kunde uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest to tell their story for both the winery and vineyard businesses. The winery hosts live, online wine tastings with distributors and wine club members, with attendees sent both the wine and recipe suggestions in advance so they can fully enjoy the wine tasting experience with Kunde’s winemaker and key family members. The vineyard shares videos of crop care processes such as vine thinning that demonstrate the care given to the land and the vines. “We want to promote our products, and we also want to educate the community,” Marcia says. “Social media helps us tell our story: we live here, we work here, and we’re working to make great products and great companies.” Kunde also sells directly to consumers through their website.
Part of the Kunde story is their sustainability efforts, which start with the vineyard operation. Looking forward to its 109th harvest in 2013, Kunde Family Vineyards is a Certified Sustainable operation. “With everything we do, we think about how it’s going to affect the overall estate,” Marcia says. “We want our companies to continue for the fifth, sixth and seventh generations and beyond, so we know we have to protect our land.”
The vineyard is currently employing those sustainable practices to plant additional acreage to meet the growing demands of both Kunde Family Estate, which purchases 75% of the vineyards grapes, and other top-tier wineries that purchase the rest. The vineyard, which is financed by American AgCredit, is doing site-specific planting, meeting individual winemakers’ requests both for varieties and specific plot features such as elevation, orientation and micro-climate.
To carry on the family legacy, the fifth generation is now prepareng to join the family companies, although they won’t be starting their careers at Kunde: after graduating college, everyone must work elsewhere first, an advantageous practice for both the individual and the company. “It’s a huge benefit to the next generation,” Marcia says. “They need to learn what the business world is all about and how different companies work. Then they can bring their experience and their new ideas back to us.”
About Farm Credit
The Farm Credit System is a nationwide network of borrower-owned lending institutions and specialized service organizations. Farm Credit provides more than $199 billion in loans, leases, and related services to farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners, aquatic producers, timber harvesters, agribusinesses, and agricultural and rural utility cooperatives.
Congress established the System in 1916 to provide a reliable source of credit for the nation's farmers and ranchers. Today, the System provides more than one-third of the credit needed by those who live and work in rural America.
Farmers, ranchers, agribusiness, rural homeowners and rural utilities depend on the Farm Credit System’s funding and services to produce the high quality food and agricultural products enjoyed in the United States and around the globe.
The Farm Credit mission is to provide a reliable source of credit for American agriculture by making loans to qualified borrowers at competitive rates and providing insurance and related services.