Purdue Wine Grape Team Newsletter

Dear Indiana Winemakers,

I wanted to take a moment to offer my thanks to you for 11 great years of serving the Indiana wine industry.  

My first job out of college was as a farm broadcaster.  I spent 7 years producing radio reports, talking about commodity prices and trends, interviewing farm news makers, covering Indianapolis politics and politics in Washington DC.  I interviewed 4 current or past US Presidents, numerous politicians, a whole herd of county fair queens and so many farmers from all walks of life and commodities.  It was a dream job.

That dream came to an abrupt end in December 2003.  The radio network I worked for was purchased by a competing network in Kansas City, MO. Because my husband and I are farming with my family in rural Peru, IN., there was no way I could move to Kansas City.  I was also 8 1/2 months pregnant with our first child.  So I left the radio job to figure out what my next career would be.

After the birth of our daughter, I started my own freelance PR company, Jammer Communications.  The company served a variety of ag companies focusing on their public relation needs.  

After about 8 months of doing freelance work, my predecessor at Indiana Wine announced she was not returning from maternity leave.  I had worked with her during my time in radio, doing stories on the growing wine and grape industry.  While it was a commodity that I was not as familiar with, I knew it was a job that I wanted to do and would enjoy telling the story of Indiana wineries and vineyards!  I went through the Purdue interviewing process, interviewed with former Department Head Suzanne Nielson and members of the Purdue Wine Grape Team; Bruce, Jill and Ellie.  

I also presented to the Board of Directors.  And I must tell a funny story from that process.  I had fallen in love with Turtle Run Chardonel.   I had never interviewed Jim Pfeiffer or even met him.  But I liked that wine and had found it in the local Marsh supermarket near my home area.  And then I couldn't find it!  So I had a great back-and-forth conversation with Jim about the wine, the grape and how much I loved it! And he promised it would be on the store shelves again.  Fast forward to my "why you should hire me" presentation to the board of directors.  I didn't know anyone in the room.  Dr. Charles Thomas asked me if I drank Indiana wine.  Excitedly I told him I loved Oliver, Easley, Huber and this Chardonel from Turtle Run.  Sitting in the back corner was Jim Pfeiffer! I was pretty excited to meet the guy I had been talking to about his wine.

I accepted the Wine Marketing job in December 2004.  I have watched our industry grow from 28 wineries at that time to over 80 today.  There are a few things I am very proud of accomplishing.  First, getting Indiana wine and grapes recognized as a part of Indiana's agricultural landscape.  Wine used to be considered a party.  Not a crop.  Not economic development. So I spent a ton of time changing that image.  Now our Department of Agriculture, Governor, Lt. Governor and many ag organizations recognize our industry as a leading crop for value-added agriculture.

I am proud of our Purdue Wine Grape Team.  Bruce, Christian and Jill are the best group of people.  Their knowledge on wine and grapes is second to none.  Please never take them for granted.  I'd like to think what our team has accomplished in the years we have worked together can not be replicated anywhere.  Recently, we started traveling on winery visits and have grown as a team.  I can't explain how much I will miss working with them.

I have said that I have the best job in Indiana agriculture and tourism.  I really believe it.  I will treasure the moments and friendships I have made.  This job was an answered prayer in a time after my radio days were over when I wasn't exactly sure what my next path should be.

For those who don't know, I am moving to a job that was dropped in my lap.  In late August, I was approached to consider applying for a job at Indiana Pork.  I think all of you know that my husband and I are large hog and grain farmers.  We are farming with my family as the 4th generation back to the farm.  Indiana is ripe for livestock expansion and consumers attitude about agriculture needs some help. People know they like bacon and pork chops, but they aren't certain they like the idea of farms. If I'm going to have a farm for my kids to come back to, then someone has to help change the image of modern agriculture.  Changing jobs was not an easy decision.  I spent many hours and late night conversations with my husband trying to figure out what to do.  I prayed alot for answers.  Finally my husband looked at me and said "If anyone is meant to promote pork, who else should it be but you?" I knew he was right.  And I accepted the job.

Effective January 4, 2016 my new contact information will be:

Jeanette Merritt
Director of Checkoff Programs
Indiana Pork
8425 Keystone Crossing #220
Indianapolis IN 46240

It's been hard to pack up 11 years of memories.  This has been a great experience that came at the right time.  Thank you for trusting me to serve the interests of the Indiana wine industry.  I'll still be around, now as a visitor to your tasting rooms.  God Bless all of you.  

Merry Christmas,

Jeanette Merritt
Marketing Director

Jeanette Merritt
Christian Butzke

Jill Blume

Bruce Bordelon