Mackenzie Beckwith knew she wanted to do something that would combine her love of the outdoors with the property her family has owned for generations in North Franklin, Connecticut. As a little girl, she rode horses and pitched in on the farm, which included a large auction house operated by her grandmother. Over time, that business closed and the building sat there. Beckwith began to make plans.
As a student in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, she majored in horticulture and minored in agricultural business, where her instructor, Associate Extension Educator Joseph Bonelli, gave her tips she follows today. All the while she was planning what she would do with the land and the building in North Franklin.
“I had the land. I had the building. I kept looking for the best way I could use it. I knew I wanted to work outside. I didn’t want to sit. I’m a hands-on person. I drove tractors as a child and I knew I could grow things,” says Beckwith. Soon her thoughts coalesced around establishing a facility for the community and beyond that would feature locally grown and locally made products. She started out small. She planted a vegetable garden, bought some pop-up tents and began selling the produce during the summer months. What she didn’t grow herself, she obtained from neighbors who own small farms in the area. Strawberries, blueberries and vegetables sold briskly. Then she moved into the former auction house and her business, Arrowhead Acres, was born.
With design ideas from her mother, a businesswoman herself, Beckwith revamped the rooms where livestock were once bought and sold into a warm, country-chic facility. She added a commercial kitchen, used at first to waste as little as possible of the homegrown produce by making jams, jellies and pies. Soon the tasting bar, fireplace room, gift shop area, take-out space, wine bar, wine tanks and outdoor deck were complete, with antique tools decorating the walls.
Beckwith hired a baker and began selling soups and sandwiches along with pastries, pies and bread to a crowd of dependable customers who work at nearby businesses as well as neighbors and passersby.
She says, “I like the homemade look, not commercial things. We make everything from scratch.”
About five years ago, Beckwith began planting grape vines. The land drops off sharply behind the winery and looks nearly as picturesque as a vineyard in France. She chose to concentrate at first on two varieties of grape, Cayuga and Chambourcin, from which she makes her very popular Farmhouse Red and Farmhouse White wines. The first big harvest was two years ago, with grapes picked by hand by Beckwith and her family and friends.
Winemaking is an art as well as a science. Beckwith took classes in winemaking, knows many people in the industry and reads everything she can about grapes and wine. She also has her own “wine mentor” she can call with problems or questions.
“I am the winemaker and I love it. First we harvest, then put the grapes in the crusher, test the sugar and acid content, ferment, press and bottle. I taste and taste throughout the process. I imagine what the wine will be when it is ready to pour. We sell our wines by the bottle and by the glass and offer tastings every weekend. We currently offer six different varieties. We’ve sold out of a number of them already,” she adds.
The winery is cozy in the evening and well suited to afternoon picnics. Every Friday evening from 6:00 to 8:00, local musicians perform. Patrons bring their own food or purchase trays of Cato Corner cheeses or flat bread pizzas made at the winery. Some weekends, local food trucks, vendors, crafters and artists set up their wares, creating a lively atmosphere. Children and dogs on leashes are welcome and patrons enjoy playing cornhole and relaxing in the twilight on the long green expanse of lawn overlooking the vineyard.
Arrowhead Acres wines are designed to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. From White Silo, a sweet white wine made with Niagara grapes, to Sunset Red, a complex red wine with a bold taste, to Beckwith’s personal favorite, She’s a Keeper, a petite sirah, the wines are selling briskly. From the harvest in mid-September through the winemaking season that runs until mid-November, Beckwith works long days to capture the essence of the grapes she grows in the wine she crafts.
On the wall of the winery is a framed arrowhead collection, all artifacts found by Mackenzie’s great grandfather on the farm where she spends her days. For the first time since she began working the land herself, she recently found an arrowhead, connecting her to the people who passed through the area long ago.
Arrowhead Acres honors the past, the present and the future of a talented entrepreneur who manages her demanding schedule with quiet determination and a warm smile.
Arrowhead Acres is located at 519 Pond Road, N, Franklin, CT. Visit the website at email@example.com.