Kangaroo Inn Area School start a vineyard at school

Kangaroo Inn Area School Year 11 and 12 teacher Jack Cunningham has this term developed a combined biology unit focusing on eco systems and disease.

Mr Cunningham and his students will be looking at grape growing and vineyards from an eco system point of view and observing and learning about disease and pest management.

The students have been involved in inquiry learning about how to successfully manage a vineyard. Mr Cunningham explained that this included areas such as nutritional requirements for young grapevines, irrigation needs, pest and disease identification and spray management and training and pruning grapevines. They have also researched vineyard maintenance over the growing cycle.  

Mr Cunningham described how the vineyard idea evolved.

“We noticed that down at the agriculture farm there was a single grapevine just sitting there in the middle of the block and it had been there for a few years,” Mr Cunningham said.

“We thought ‘If this is here, then there’s probably been some sort of vineyard here in the past’ and the students thought it was worth pursuing again.

“Working together with the  groundsman, the students and I measured up the vineyard and researched trellis options and vine and post spacing.

“We drew up a design of how it was going to look, went down to the ag block with shovels and started digging out all the post holes.”

The students worked out the quantity of posts required before digging them in and setting up the wire trellising. 

They also learnt how to strain the wires and make sure the posts are all square.  

“That was a good experience for them because fencing techniques are handy living out here especially if the students want to do some part-time work in that field.”

Once the post and wires were finalised, the students were involved in setting up the irrigation, digging trenches to tap into the existing fruit tree irrigation line, running the irrigation pipes down each row and place drippers where each vine will be, crucial for developing an automatic watering system for the coming summer. 

Mr Cunningham said the students and staff have now finished building the vineyard, completing it during the last week of term.

“At the moment we’ve planted six shiraz vines, they are just rootlings so they are about an average of about 50cm tall.

The rootlings are just starting to bud now as it’s coming into spring,” Mr Cunningham said.

“A company in the Barossa Valley have also donated 100 grenache rootlings and 100 vine guards which will protect the plants as they grow."

The students will be planting the new root stock next term. 

The vineyard is approximately 450 square meters and will contain Grenache and Shiraz vines.

The students will continue to monitor the vineyard and complete the maintenance tasks including training and pruning.

Mr Cunningham was enthusiastic about the future of the vineyard.

“Hopefully in two or three years the students will be able to do a bit of winemaking,” he said. 

“We received a STEM career development grant in 2017 so part of the grant funding has been used to buy materials for the vineyard, with the hope the students will become interested in that industry.”

Mr Cunningham explained that if the students are looking to complete university studies in this area or seeking work experience or employment prior to attending university, they may be able work in the local viticulture industry in Coonawarra, Cape Jaffa or Robe, working during vintage or pruning season. 

Vineyard and viticulture experience at school will support them to do this as well as open up new employment and study pathways.