Whether it be clearing brush from the vineyard, installing wire or work as specialized as laying tile drainage, viticulturists and other experts from Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences want to gauge how much Ohio grape growers pay farm workers and machinery operators to work in their vineyards as part of the college’s inaugural Ohio Vineyard Custom Rate Survey.

The survey is being conducted by Ohio State University Extension educators as a means of determining the cost of work completed on a vineyard by others, which is often referred to as custom work, said David Marrison, an OSU Extension educator. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

The survey is targeted at both those who hired custom vineyard workers and those who performed the work, Marrison said. A “custom rate” is the amount agreed upon by both parties to be paid by the custom work customer to the custom work provider, he said.

The ultimate goal of doing such a survey, Marrison said, is to help grape growers better gauge how to determine an appropriate price for custom work performed on a vineyard.

“This survey isn’t about showing absolutes; it will instead provide the average, range and median range of prices paid to vineyard workers to provide both vineyard owners and workers a cost range that they can better negotiate to have a task done,” he said. “While some vineyard owners and growers do the work all by themselves, the number of growers who look to hire outside help for their vineyards is increasing.

“Many vineyards across Ohio hire out machinery operations and others to perform vineyard-related work. In some cases, vineyard operators may find it more economical and efficient to hire out to do a task, while in other cases, the task may be so specialized that the vineyard owner may not have the equipment to do the task.”

The survey, which growers and workers are asked to complete, is available online at: go.osu.edu/ne-research. Some questions the survey asks include:

  • What you have paid to hire work.
  • What you charge if you perform custom work.
  • Custom rates that include all ownership costs of implement and tractor.
  • Operator labor, fuel and lube. 

All the data in the survey will be reported as averages/range in the final report, Marrison said.

“We need Ohio growers’ assistance in securing up-to-date information about vineyard custom work rates, machinery and hired labor costs,” he said. “Even if you know only a few rates, your responses are very helpful and needed.” 

The survey asks rental cost information on several topics including:

  • Land clearing.
  • Post installation.
  • Custom spraying per application.
  • Tile drainage installation.        .
  • Soil sampling.
  • Wire installation.
  • Pruning.                                               
  • Fertilizer application.
  • Custom spraying.

Once completed, the survey can be used by grape growers and workers across the region as a tool for custom work providers and customers to use to negotiate an agreeable custom rate, he said.

The deadline to complete the survey is Feb. 23. For more information, contact Marrison at marrison.2@osu.edu or 440-576-9008, ext. 106.

The survey results will be released in March, Marrison said.