Nancy Rogers of the John 15 Vineyard explains the process for growing grapes and gives a generous sample Saturday to a young visitor, 7-year-old Braedon Layman of Panora.<span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em> Photos by Lorena Lopez, Editor, La Prensa Iowa Hispanic Newspaper</em></span>
Nancy Rogers of the John 15 Vineyard explains the process for growing grapes and gives a generous sample Saturday to a young visitor, 7-year-old Braedon Layman of Panora. Photos by Lorena Lopez, Editor, La Prensa Iowa Hispanic Newspaper
Monday, September 17, 2012

SCRANTON — Don’t stereotype a grape.

That’s the message from a Scranton couple who have developed the picturesque John 15 Vineyard Meeting and Retreat Center.

Yes, there is a burgeoning wine industry in Iowa. But grapevines are about more than wine.

“We call ourselves the other side of the grape industry,” said Dean Rogers.

Dean and Nancy Rogers mine their vines for production of grape-based products such as jam-filled sugar cookies and grape pies, and, of course, a variety of grape jams, as well as bags and bags of fresh grapes.

On Saturday the Rogerses showcased their half-acre vineyard, an associated treehouse camping site and an early 1900s barn that has recently been remodeled into a three-story, 3,000-square-foot, meeting and retreat center. The facility is located on an 80-acre farmstead northwest of Scranton that had been owned by Nancy’s late father, Dr. Orman Nelson of Jefferson, and before that, his uncle.

“We feel so blessed to have this wonderful place that we want to share it with people,” said Nancy Rogers, a former Carroll Rotary Club member.

By about 4 p.m. Saturday more than 400 people had toured the facility — and cars loaded with families were still pulling up as the 6 p.m. close to the scheduled open house approached.

“This is kind of our kickoff day,” Dean Rogers said. “It’s been a good, good day.”

The Rogerses attend Faith Baptist Church in Carroll led by Pastor Tim Capon, whose son, Danny, of Des Moines, inspired the naming of the vineyard when he told the Rogerses their project recalled a Bible verse:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” — John 15:5.

While they don’t produce alcohol from the vines, the Rogerses did make their initial foray into the business by attending an event at an Indianola winery to learn some of the process for growing grapes in Iowa. John 15 has an elaborate vine system, with netting to prevent birds and deer from intruding, and an electric fence to fend off other critters. They have 350 vines in production with 100 more planted and in the process of maturing. An Iowa acre can support about 650 grapevines, Dean Rogers said.

The meeting and retreat center can seat up to 100 people. It is fully wired with a large screen television and Internet connections. There is a third-floor balcony, children’s play area, shaded parking, access to the vineyard farm pond and a full kitchen.

A treehouse sleeps up to eight people and is outfitted with a fire pit and picnic table.

The entire facility is alcohol- and tobacco-free.

“We prefer not to be in the business of making wine,” Nancy Rogers said.

Added Dean Rogers, “We don’t promote it (drinking alcohol), but we don’t condemn it.”

Dean Rogers, an Albia native, said the John 15 Vineyard has booked a number of business retreats and holiday events.

Customers can order grape products and review prices for use of the facilities at www.john15vineyard.com.