Chautauqua Pride

Local residents had the opportunity to see where their food comes from Sunday.

Pride of Chautauqua, an annual event that allows the public to meet and talk with local farmers, was held at the Fluvanna Fire Hall. In its seventh year, about 40 vendors from wineries to dairy farms showed up to educate the public on what they do and to sell some of their wares.

Karen Barie, vice president of New York Farm Bureau and chairperson of the event, credits the idea for the Pride of Chautauqua event to Bob and Judy Schultz of the Busti Cider Mill. She said what a lot of people don’t realize is that there are over 1,600 farms in Chautauqua County and the acreage of those farms constitutes 35 percent of the county’s total acreage.

“We are number one in the state for number of farms,” Barie said. In the county, 100 farms sell products directly to the customer.

Chautauqua County leads grape production across the state due to the 22,276 acres of grapes grown on the Lake Erie Plain. Most of the grapes raised are Concord grapes, but other varieties include Niagara, Catawba, Delaware, Elvira, Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay. The top five agriculture sales items in Chautauqua County – according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture – are: milk and other dairy products; fruits, tree nuts and berries; cattle and calves; vegetables, melons and potatoes; and grains, oilseeds, dry beans and dry peas.

“I don’t think (the public) understands how big of a business it is here for Chautauqua County,” Barie said. “I don’t think people realize the heart and soul that goes behind the people that grow their products on the farm – their livelihood, their business and generations of families.”

That’s where the event got its name – farmers are proud people, according to Barie. They wish to share their heritage with people to give them the best quality product.

Some of these proud farmers took the time to talk about their livelihood.

Dick Kimball, president of the Chautauqua County Farm Bureau, is a dairy farmer in Dewittville who came to New York from Massachusetts five years ago. He has 650 cows and works the farm with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and youngest son. While he has been a farmer his whole life, he didn’t go into his family’s farming business and instead decided to start his own. The farm provides raw milk – that is milk that hasn’t yet been pasteurized – to the Dairy Farmers of America, who then ship the milk across the country.

Adrienne Ploss and her husband, Tim Gleason, are the fourth generation to operate Hickory Hurst Farm. The family-owned farm sells a variety of products from cut flowers to vegetables and fruits to honey and maple syrup. Ploss and Gleason moved to the farm in 2009 and grow their products using mostly organic methods with the intent of becoming fully organic. Typically from April to November, Hickory Hurst Farm has a roadside farm stand, although due to the cold winter this year, it will be pushed back to around Mother’s Day weekend. They also have a booth at the Farmers’ Market at Chautauqua Institution during the nine-week season. The farm can be found at 4083 W. Lake Road in Mayville.

The goal of the New York Farm Bureau is to improve the environment for farms in New York state, work with the state legislature, county legislature or U.S. Congress to change the playing field to be more fair to farms, according to Timothy Bigham, area field supervisor for New York Farm Bureau. Members are farmers and their supporters. Those interested in joining can either visit the website at nyfb.org or call the regional office in Batavia at 1-877-383-7663.

Pride of Chautauqua was sponsored by Z & M AG and Turf, Wegmans, Nationwide, Grape Discovery Center, Farm Credit East, Shults Auto Group, Cargill, Militello Farm Supply, Cornell University and Chautauqua County Farm Bureau.