Family-owned and operated breweries aren’t as common as they used to be, even with a surge in craft beer popularity among consumers. However, that hasn’t deterred Mac’s Creek Winery and Brewery out of Nebraska from embracing a more sustainable approach to brewing beer and making wines. Still a relatively small and family-operated brewery, it has become a fantastic role model for other breweries to emulate.
Mac’s Creek is run by the McFarland family, who are no strangers to the craft beer business. They’ve been making beverages since 2001 and growing grapes in the small town of Lexington, Nebraska, since 2000. Sitting on the edge of Spring Creek, the brewery boasts 10 varieties of wine from all their locally-grown grapes.
“We grow grapes that are bred to thrive in our climate and soil; we believe that working with nature leads to a better product,” stated the Mac’s Creek website. Rather than making cheap wines and beers, the McFarlands are committed to using a sustainable approach to raising grapes and hops. They cut out the use of any fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, ensuring that no pollutants end up in Spring Creek and the crops aren’t tainted.
Without using chemical repellents, the McFarlands had to think outside the box to fight insects and other pests from eating their crops. They began using a product called Ozone, a completely natural pesticide, to ward off insects. On top of that, they installed a “Weed Badger” to their tractor, which is essentially a giant swing arm tiller to cut down weeds. All grapes are hand-harvested, so no bruised grapes are thrown out, and no juice is wasted.
Skins and seeds are used for compost in the vineyard, along with “pollinator” plants that attract pollinating insects like bees to help out. Without pesticides, barn owls and bat houses have been installed around the grounds to naturally take care of rodents and insects.
The sustainability of Mac’s Creek earned them recognition from Nebraska. In October 2020, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture announced grants for specialty crop projects. They fund education and research projects for crops they deem in increased demand. Mac’s Creek received this grant money as they continue researching and innovating more sustainable farming practices and beverage making. The grant’s focus was grapevine disease and weed control without chemical pesticides and herbicides. With more research and grant money, Mac’s Creek will continue to find new ways to grow grapes and hops without harming the environment.
Small, family-owned businesses can be overlooked when setting standards for sustainability. Mac’s Creek is not a big operation, but the impact they are making is immense.