League of Women Voters to highlight grape industry

Geology, climate, and market sustain the grape industry. The League of Women Voters of Chautauqua County will be hosting three presenters who will be exploring the grape industry along the shores of Lake Erie.

The league will be guests of the recently opened Grape Discovery Center located at 8305 West Main Road, Westfield on Wednesday, April 9 at noon. Grape growers, food processors, and other interested public are invited.

Luke Haggerty, viticulturist, will explain research projects and how they help 840 grape farmers growing 30,000 acres of grapes in four counties in New York and Pennsylvania. The recipient of a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, he has a strong background in grape berry phenology. Last July Haggerty became a team specialist at the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory in Portland.

Richard Erdle, a recently retired Welch executive, will address the economic impact of the grape industry. How many are employed in the grape industry? What are the markets for this fruit? New York has 281 growers and over 9,700 acres of Concord vineyards in Chautauqua County, the greater part of the Lake Erie Grape Region – the world’s largest and oldest Concord Grape producing region.

For 35 years, Erdle was the Director of Member Relations with National Grape Cooperative (Welch’s). His area of responsibility was crop estimation and harvest. He is a graduate of Silver Creek High School. His degree in Pomology is from Cornell University.

Agricultural educator Andrew Dufresne, who retired from New York’s Cornell Cooperative Extension after 35 years, will also speak. He will share his knowledge of the local agriculture and passion for the beauty of the region and its natural environment as it relates to the grape industry. Dufresne will discuss the geology and influence of the Ice Age in the formation of the landscape and lay-out of the first Grape Escarpment. This area extends 68 miles from Hanover to Harborcreek, Pa.

Dufresne is a native of Vermont, receiving his B.S. from the University of Vermont. He spent two years in the Peace Corps in South America and earned his master’s degree in agricultural economics from West Virginia University. He currently is working with Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association to develop the Grape Discovery Center in Westfield, the center of the Grape Belt.

Those who wish to hear the program portion are welcome to come at 1 p.m. Call Gen Ludemann at 672-4771 to be assured of seating. Guests will view several displays in the Center and learn about the current environmental and economic impacts of the Grape Industry. A question and answer session will follow the presentations.