By Tamas Mondovics
For more than three decades, Randy Thompson enjoyed his little more than three-acre property on S. Miller Rd. in the heart of Valrico.
Then in 2006, the Florida native decided it was time to turn his quiet picturesque land and home into a place that pleases not just the eyes, but also the taste-buds.
Fast forward to today, six years and a whole lot of hard work later, the Thompson Nursery and Vineyard is complete with three dozen rows of grape vines from Georgia. The vineyard boasts 10 different varieties of Muscadine grapes, a peach orchard with more than 70 trees and a fully equipped and certified kitchen to produce a large variety of homemade jellies. Thompson enjoys the status of being a staple in the community.
“I just wanted to do something more with the space and turn it into something useful and something that will give back to the community and my neighbors,” Thompson said.
Today, 71-year-old Thompson, along with his wife, LaRay, run the business. Most people know it as the home of the delicious U-pick Muscadine grapes. Randy’s labor would not be a reality today were it not for his love of the fruit, homemade jelly and wine over money.
“I was actually trying to sell the property and could have walked away with a pretty nice chunk of change,” he said. “Fortunately, we made a choice of keeping it. I am glad we did. It was the right and the best thing to do.”
Thompson Nursery and Vineyard sold more than 3,000 jars of jelly and 600 peach trees last year, not to mention the endless number of grapes picked one bucket at the time by those that visited Randy from mid-July until the grapes lasted.
For now, U-pick season may be over, but Randy and LaRay enjoy visitors to their kitchen, open at 8:30 a.m. from Wednesday-Sunday offering shakes, grape slushies and boiled peanuts, along with wine supplies.
For more information, please call 451-3391 or visit the vineyard located at 1104 S. Miller Rd. in Valrico.