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Producing Excellence

Max and Theresa McFarland

Lexington, NE

Mac’s Creek Winery

Products: Wine

Size of Operation: 12 acres, 12,000 gallons of wine

In Business Since: 2001

Farm Credit Partner: Farm Credit Services of America

Working with Farm Credit Since: 2001

Rural America has a strong tradition of people returning to the farm, most often as young adults after finishing college. For Max and Theresa McFarland, the return happened a little later in life – after they had built successful careers in academia, Theresa for 25 years as a now-retired public school teacher and Max for 30 as a university professor – and they couldn’t be happier. “We both grew up as farm kids and we wanted to get back to our roots,” says Max. “We enjoy working hard, getting dirty, and planting something and watching it grow.”

The McFarlands are also a little different in what they decided to farm: in a state covered with vast fields of grain, they’re growing wine grapes and running a small winery that produces up to 18 different types of wine using their own and other local growers’ grapes and other fruits like apples, cranberries and raspberries. Two years ago, the McFarlands started their own small orchard where they’ll grow crabapples and pears to complement their supply.

As founders of only the fourth vineyard in the state, the McFarlands’ biggest challenge was finding relevant information. “The only viticulture information we found had to do with California grapes,” says Max. “Finding information on cold plant hybrids that grow in this part of the country was difficult, and they act very differently than California grapes.”

The lack of a vibrant grape industry also made finding a financial partner a challenge. When meeting with commercial banks, Max says, “When we mentioned grapes, we could almost see what was going through their heads. And, once you plant, there are four years before they produce a crop that will earn a return.” Advice from family members involved in farming sent them to Farm Credit Services of America. “We felt nothing but support from day one,” says Max. “The relationship has done nothing but strengthen ever since.”

With all the success they’ve enjoyed – Mac’s Creek Winery wines are distributed throughout Nebraska and to 15 other states, and have won multiple awards – their connection to their community remains uppermost in their minds. “One of our biggest joys is what we’re able to provide back to the area,” says Max. Beyond the employment they provide, which includes 8 – 10 part-time employees year-round and up to 50 during harvest, they’re very involved with their community: they host numerous entertainment events and support fundraisers and other community activities.

“Our family commitment is to do the best job we can with a very positive, ethical business model,” Max says. “Sometimes that means we won’t make the maximum profits, but that’s how we fly in our family.”

While their initial intention was not to build a family business, all three of their children are now involved in the operation, having returned after starting off-farm careers. “We didn’t want them to feel trapped into coming back,” says Max. “But it’s gratifying to see them gravitate back.”

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