John Beckwith of Lithia is a winemaker. He recently suffered an injury that left him unable to harvest his grapes, but his friends and co-workers came to his grapes’ rescue and helped him harvest them.

John Beckwith of Lithia is a computer software engineer by day, but on weekends he is a craftsman, boat restorer and wine maker. To say Beckwith is busy would be an understatement.

His home in Lithia is a farmhouse he built himself and it sits on his vineyard.

“Winemaking is my passion and I grow mostly Blanc du Bois grapes for wine making,” Beckwith said.

For those of you like me who don’t know what Blanc du Bois grapes are, they are a hybrid grape variety used for making white wine. First bred by John Mortensen at the University of Florida in 1968, the variety is now found throughout the Southeast of the United States, most commonly in Florida and Texas, but also in Georgia and Louisiana.

In May of this year, Beckwith was cleaning the rain gutters on his farmhouse when he fell off his ladder and dropped 20 feet. Beckwith shattered multiple bones in his left arm and leg.

“I was able to pull myself up on my fence and crawl around my house to my cell phone,” Beckwith said. “I called a neighbor for help.”

While Beckwith was recovering and attending physical therapy sessions, his vineyard was overgrowing. “I didn’t want to lose all of my grapes, so I asked some friends and co-workers if they would come out to my vineyard and harvest the grapes for me so I could make my wine.”

On July 18, Beckwith’s friends and co-workers descended onto his vineyard, armed with garden clippers, scissors and buckets, and picked his Blanc du Bois grapes. Beckwith gave all of them directions on how to cut, prune and crush them to make his wine, all from his wheelchair.

“I’m so happy everyone came out to help and I was able to save my grapes,” Beckwith said. “They harvested enough grapes to make about 5 gallons of wine.”

Beckwith is forever grateful of the help he received and he promised to have everyone back out to his property once the wine is ready for drinking.

“As soon as I’m better and the wine is ready, I invited everyone to come back to the vineyard to sample the fruits of their labor,” Beckwith said.

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Libby is a writer for The Osprey Observer/The Christian Voice. She started as an intern in 2009 and upon finishing her internship, she was asked to stay on as a permanent writer for both papers. Libby lives in Brandon with her two rescue dogs, Olive and Bogey.