Tuesday, Oct. 11 through Thursday, Oct. 13, every student learned about raising and harvesting grapes thanks to a Farm to School pilot program. Teachers, teacher aides and the school nurse, Deanie Thorsell, were the instructors and between them they visited each classroom and shared the information using a variety of props. Each one prepared and presented a certain aspect about raising and harvesting the fruit.
Third grade teacher Kristin Goldberg talked about how the industry of grapes first began in Westfield. The kids learned that grapes were introduced there by Dr. Charles Welch. He had lived previously in Watkins Glen and it was there he started raising grapes in 1896. After one year of success there he moved to Westfield and introduced the people to the occupation of raising and harvesting grapes. Some of them became grape farmers and Welch built a factory to process the fruit into juice and eventually also making grape jelly and jam. The business grew and Welch hired numerous local people to work in his factory which eventually was comprised of several buildings. Goldberg gave other facts and also played a CD that demonstrated the kind of work that must be done in a vineyard so a good crop will be produced.
Thorsell explained some “grapes of math” facts to Joel Fisher’s fifth and sixth graders. They each had a sample of grapes to eat and also had a cookie with grape juice on it. She said the crop needs sunshine, but too much sun can make the grapes rot. There are 38 varieties of grapes, but the only ones grown in our area are Concord, Catopra and Niagara. The state of Washington is the number one producer of the product, New York State is second and third Michigan. There are numerous products that are made with grapes such as jelly, jam, pies and juice. They are also used in some cereals and a host of other items, Thorsell said.
Being a grape farmer is not the easiest task. It takes a lot of work and much of the success is determined by the weather. The grape season is a short one and it doesn’t start until certain conditions concerning the fruit are met.
The Farm to School idea is a pilot program that originated with the Chautauqua County Agricultural Center with Cornel Cooperative Extension and the school carried it out. Its purpose is to create a healthy place to live, work and play with local people working toward improving nutrition in the school by using products from local farmers.
The trial program concluded with a Community Harvest dinner last Tuesday at the fire hall. The food was provided by local the harvests of local farmers.
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Photo by Elaine G. Cole
Sherman Central School agriculture teacher Kelly Maleski’s presented the topic of grapes as part of the Farm to School program, and her horticulture class gained first hand experience of skinning grapes which were used make grape meringue pies for the Sherman Community Harvest supper held last Tuesday in the fire hall.