By Brooke Schultz
With just a short drive from campus, Washington College students can get a taste of Kent County and the greater Eastern Shore during Crow Vineyard’s third CrowFest.
CrowFest, which is the fourth day of Chestertown’s annual Jazz Festival, will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 10 at their farm at 12441 Vansants Corner Rd., Kennedyville.
Admission is $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Those under 21 or acting as designated drivers have a reduced price of $10.
Judy Crow, owner of Crow Vineyard, said that she hopes the students come out in order to get acquainted with the farm.
“I think we’re like a little missed gem in Kent County,” she said at an interview last week at the vineyard. “People that come, whether they come to visit the town or College students come to stay here, they don’t recognize a business of this magnitude is right 15 minutes outside of town.”
The 365-acre farm has 12 acres of grapes, grass-fed angus beef, soy and corn, farm animals, and offers a “farmstay” bed and breakfast. They make 2,000 cases of wine for themselves, and additionally, make wine for start-up wineries.
Hosted at the farm, the day will feature hayrides; food and retail vendors that include tastings, wine, beef, and T-shirts; alpacas; grape stomping; music performed by Phil Dutton and the Alligators; tours of the winery, vineyard, and farm; an oyster seminar; and a celebrity chef demo with Chef Robbie Jester.
The whole festival began because of a public interest in “grape stomping.” When they were first getting started, Crow said she was worried they would not have the ability to do something sizable because they were new in the business.
“A few years ago, our son Brandon [Hoy] said, ‘OK, I think we can do the festival. I think we’re ready to bring people in larger groups.’ So that’s how it got started,” she said.
Hoy, Class of 2004, graduated WC with an environmental studies degree.
“It sort of gave him the ground work of understanding how to grow things and how to care for the environment,” she said.
The event grew when Crow began involving vendors who would visit the bed and breakfast.
“They told me they had a craft or skill and I invited them,” she said.
This year, they have about 20 vendors in addition to the events throughout the day.
“It’s our way of opening the farm just before harvest,” Crow said. “So we invite the general public to come out and take a close look at the grapes before we harvest them … We invite our partner vendors here. It gives the public a chance to interact with our local partners.”
As another way to get involved, Crow Vineyards also has internship opportunities for students.
One former WC intern went on to study in Australia and now works at another vineyard, on track to become a winemaker.
“Right after CrowFest, we will become extremely busy with harvest,” Crow said. “A lot of people from other areas come here to volunteer and become part of the harvest so they can see the process of wine-making because it’s so unique. I just think the kids from WC would love that opportunity.”