Article Contributed by
Daniel J. Heitzenrater
President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce
It’s Prime Time for the Business of Farming in Chautauqua County
It’s harvest time, and in Chautauqua County that means you can literally smell the grapes from the vineyards as you drive along Route 20. But it’s more than just grapes that are being harvested right now. Chautauqua County growers have seen a plethora of tomatoes, squash, and other vegetables this year. Late season corn is still available, and pumpkins are everywhere right now. Field crops such as grains and hay are also being harvested.
What does all of this have to do with business, you may wonder? Farming is business. It’s big business in Chautauqua County and across New York State. In Chautauqua County alone there are more than 1,500 farms, producing all types of products from milk to poultry to beef to fruits and vegetables. And that doesn’t even count the enormous number of individuals who have their own backyard gardens, raising produce and herbs.
Many local farms sell their products to consumers in a variety of ways: farmers markets, direct sales to supermarkets, farm stands, and more. Tons of grapes harvested locally go into local winemaking, but they also go into other grape products, especially juice and jelly. Beverage and food production companies abound in Chautauqua County, featuring everything from craft beers, wines, and spirits to grape pie filling.
Our region has not only a strong agricultural economy it also has strong support systems in place for local growers. Cornell Cooperative Extension houses a Community Educator for Dairy/Livestock as well as a Business Management Specialist for Field Crops. There is a whole facility with support staff for research and extension in the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program.
This past week, State Senator George Borrello hosted legislators from other parts of New York State in a regional farm tour with focused stops at a variety of agribusiness and research sites in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties. But you don’t have to have any special title to learn more about agriculture. Cornell Cooperative Extension is holding Visit the Farm Day on Saturday, October 1, at Brehm Farms at 3456 Dry Book Road, Falconer. This event is family friendly and free. It will feature guided walking tours of the farm from 11am-3pm and will include interactive stations where guests can learn about caring for calves, feeding, and housing dairy cows, farm equipment, crops, and more. You can learn more about this event at www.facebook.com/CCEChautauqua. If you’re a home gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension also has resources for you through the Master Gardener’s program and through its LEAF Workshop series featuring a variety of classes from Basics of Home Food Preservation to Yeast Breads. Learn more at www.cce.cornell.edu/chautauqua.