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Published February 02, 2009, 09:00 AM

Couple touts alternative ag

ZUMBROTA — John and Maureen Maloney turned a dirty garage into one of the most successful winery and vineyards in Minnesota.

By: Jen Cullen The Republican Eagle, Worthington Daily Globe

ZUMBROTA — John and Maureen Maloney turned a dirty garage into one of the most successful winery and vineyards in Minnesota.

The couple is confident others interested in alternative forms of agriculture like grape growing can also prosper in Goodhue County.

"Goodhue County is a half-day, maybe a full day, even a weekend destination," said John Maloney, owner of Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls. "That just plays in to agri-tourism."

Maloney was one of several speakers Friday at a Goodhue County Agriculture forum aimed at highlighting different area economic opportunities in alternative agriculture, biomapping and wind energy.

About 50 people — including organic farmers and state officials — attended the forum, which touched on everything from planting apples to canning food to selling nuts and decorative wood found on area land.

"We hope what you learn here today will be valuable to you and your business," said Ron Ziegler of the Southeastern Minnesota Development Corporation, which worked with the Goodhue County Economic Development Authority to put together the forum.

"We also want to be proactive and get people together to create those important relationships."

Talk about Goodhue County alternative agriculture and agri-tourism has intensified over the past year as people and companies outline plans for using area property in new ways, like for harvesting wind or planting grapes.

Officials understand concerns about preserving land but say alternative agriculture is critical for a healthy economy.

Farmers argue they have a right to use their land how they see fit, without interference from the government or neighbors.

"This concept of agri-tourism, there needs to be some education and information presented to get the rural population comfortable with new actions occurring," said Mike Wozniak, county planner and zoning administrator. "There are folks who misunderstand ... or are just resistant to change."

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