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Open house celebrates 25 years for grapes

September 2, 2017
By Tonja Dodd - , Westfield Republican

PORTLAND - A nationally renowned facility and research program is in our backyard. The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program (LERGP) held an open house in Portland at the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Lab (CLERL) to extend its knowledge and celebrate 25 years of research and outreach. CLERL Director Terry Bates and staff hosted government officials, scientists, growers and the public Saturday.

The morning started with State Senator Catharine Young presenting a proclamation to Bates and CLERL Team Leader Tim Weigle, in honor of its 25 years. The senator remarked she is very proud of the LERGP as it, "Gives (her) bragging rights throughout the state." She went on to thank the researchers at CLERL, with a special thank you to the growers who are critical to the local economy. Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, Chris Watkins, echoed Young's sentiments, thanking LERGP for, "Finding ways to maximize every dollar."

Beyond the brief panel of speakers, a hayride wagon tour was offered. Bates and Luke Haggerty of Constellation Brands narrated tours for interested open house attendees. The tour stopped at different stations throughout the CLERL farm, explaining more than 15 research projects. One such project is the Specialty Crop Research Grant which brings precision technology to grapes - this sensory technology studies the soil, canopy and crop yield, vine by vine.

Article Photos

Sen. Cathy Young presents director, Terry Bates, left, and team leader, Tim Weigle with a proclamation.

Other research includes examining pests, weeds and organic ways to control them. Additionally, methods to be more efficient in production and improve yield of many grape varieties and other crops are being studied.

A vegetable station, hops and willow station, cover crop station and numerous lots of grape varietals such as Concord, Niagara, Traminette and Riesling were all on the tour.

Grower Rebecca Joy, of Fredonia, was delighted to tour the facility and view the "ins and outs" of the research. The tour helped her understand what research is available to adapt to the J. M. Joy Farm operations. Owners of the Betts Farms, LLC, from Westfield were in attendance and noted the goldmine of knowledge that the LERGP has to offer grape growers. Logan Betts states that the LERGP is invaluable to their operation as it "links (we) growers to research." Her husband, Thom, adds, "We wouldn't be in business if it weren't for them (LERGP). Their research helps us keep costs down."

After the wagon tours, attendees toured the microscopic research lab, juice lab and barn and were invited to ask questions of the scientists and staff. The guests also enjoyed a hamburger and hot dog lunch.

Bates' vision for LERGP and CLERL is to create the most efficient production of grapes and best juice quality for area growers. Secondly, he aims to find other crops that can easily fit in with growers' production schedules such as hops, willow and vegetables. Bates stated he is pleased at how the regional cooperation has been sustained for 25 years. LERGP is a collaboration of academia - both, Penn State and Cornell; industry - namely, Welch's, Constellation Brands and Walker's Fruit Basket; and, government support - especially Senator Young and US Congressmen Reed as well as local officials.

The mission of the LERGP is to be the leaders in the development and dissemination of innovative, research-based information providing the New York and Lake Erie Region Grape Industries with integrated tools to maximize efficiency, profitability and opportunities for diversification.



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