Benton farmer raises “the other grape”

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published September 6, 2012 at 10:23 a.m.
Updated September 6, 2012 at 10:23 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Boyd Allinson grows muscadines near Benton. He runs Boyd’s U-Pick-Em Muscadine Vineyards.

— Boyd Allinson first grew grapes almost 80 years ago.

“I was helping my grandfather in his vineyard in Sheridan when I was 5 years old, and I’ll be 84 later this month,” Allinson said. “He raised grapes. We would get the muscadines from out in the woods.”

After a career that included being a radio announcer, a data-processing programmer, a real estate developer and a farmer, Allinson is now a grower and promoter of the native grape of the American South — the muscadine.

“Everyone should try to have something from the muscadine every day to stay healthy,” Allinson said.

“The pulp is good for the blood, and the seed and hull are good for the brain. My daughter’s a medical analyst at [Arkansas] Children’s Hospital. She could explain it better.”

Medical and nutritional research has found that muscadines are one of the richest sources of antioxidants found in nature. The hull and seeds are good sources of dietary fiber and minerals, according to research at Mississippi State University.

Research has found evidence that muscadines might fight against some mechanisms that can trigger cancers, and phenolics found in the muscadine have “positive effects against blood, colon and prostate cancers,” according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Unlike common grapes, the muscadine has a tough skin, and the traditional way to eat the raw fruit is to make a small hole in the skin and suck the pulp out, then remove the seeds from your mouth. Allinson said the health benefits of the hull and seed are too important, and he just pops the berry into his mouth and chews it all together.

Allinson has a vineyard of muscadines he has been tending for almost 10 years next to his house on the Bauxite Cuttoff. The vineyard began when he purchased three plants from Georgia.

Those are Ison muscadines, and now he also has Nobles, Supremes and Scuppernongs. The latter is a large greenish or bronze-colored muscadines first found in North Carolina.

Allinson kept out a large handful of muscadines that he planned to enter in the agricultural show in the Saline County Fair this week. His wife, Neva, said he makes jelly from the muscadines.

Allinson has also set aside several gallons of muscadines to make wine. The rest of the crop he sells with an old-time deal.

“I sell them on the thirds. If you pick 3 gallons, I will give you 1 gallon for free, and I will sell the other 2 gallons,” Allinson said. “If you buy one of the gallons you picked, it will be $7 a gallon. It you buy a gallon someone else has picked, it’s $10.”

Making muscadine wine is easy, he said.

“It just takes a gallon of muscadines, about 2 pounds of sugar and some yeast,” Allison said. “There is a wine yeast and a champagne-type yeast.”

He said a gallon of muscadines makes a gallon of wine. It is usually a red wine but can be a light pink that is considered a white wine by professional vintners.

“I keep it for medicinal purposes,” Allison said, with a laugh. “I don’t drink it; I sip it. A sip at night, and I sleep really well.”

While he sells muscadines to his neighbors and other customers, he advocates that every family should have one vine in the yard for family use.

“One vine will make 10 to 15 gallons, and that’s enough for a family,” Allinson said.

Planting muscadines is an important step in improving wildlife habitat because the vines provide shade and fruit.

Allison said he knows that is true. He said that about every other year, his muscadines attract a bear who wants to sample the product.

“We run them back into the woods,” he said.

Allinson has a lot of energy for a man his age — or even for one much younger. He said he enjoys work as much as he does play.

“We enjoy life,” he said. “Neva and I go dancing down at the Benton Senior Center, and I play guitar. I get my deer every year, and some years, I will take a turkey.”

Allinson joined the Air Force at the end of World War II and served in the occupation forces in Germany until 1949. He returned to Arkansas and attended the University of Central Arkansas in Conway for two years and was a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve.

Called to duty during the Korean War, Allinson served on the USS Boxer, an aircraft carrier. The ship supported the landing of Marines at Inchon and the invasion of North Korea. The ship and crew were awarded eight Battle Stars for their service in Korea.

Back home again, Allinson studied radio engineering and helped build and operate a radio station, working as an announcer. He later sold data-processing machines for the National Cash Register Co. and learned computer programming. He retired in 1992.

He then earned a real estate license and worked as a real estate developer in Saline County.

While the dry summer has reduced his crop, Allinson said, there are around 100 gallons of fruit in his vineyard still needing to be harvested. He said muscadines will be at their peak for another week or so.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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