Monday, September 26, 2011

Autumn in New York

Fall has definately arrived here.  School buses are back on the roads, goldenrod and the wild purple asters are everywhere, the trees are starting to don their fall colors, and in Fredonia, the grape harvest has begun.  We could tell last week-end that the harvest was getting close as we were out visiting in the Branch.  The aroma of concord grapes filled the air and was delightful.

Our Fredonia Branch lies in the heart of the grape belt in Chautauqua county, NY which is the largest grape producing area in the United States.  (The second largest area is the Yakima Valley in Washington.)  For 3 to 5 miles inland along the eastern shore of Lake Erie there are vinewards everywhere.  Lake Erie is a shallow lake and so the water warms up in the summer and freezes over in the winter.  This makes for ideal growing conditions for grapes.  The winds blowing inland from the lake in the fall are warmed by the water and prevent any early frosts from harming the grapes. In the spring, the winds blowing inland are cooled by the icy waters and those cold winds keep the vines from budding out too early.  Most of the grapes grown here are Concords.  60% are comitted to Welches which has a large juice processing plant about 15 miles south of Fredonia in Westfield.  There is another large plant in Dunkirk owned by Cott which processes juice for store brands, the main one being Kirkland for Costco.

This last Saturday after our teaching appointment, we saw our first grape harvester.  Pretty blue thing ready to start picking.

Grape Harvester

Here you can see right down the middle of the harvester which goes over the row of grape vines.  There are rows of paddles on each side which flop back and forth through the vines knocking the bunches of grapes off.  On the bottom are two rows of horizontal rotating discs which form a "floor" and move the grapes to the back of the harvester where they go on to a conveyor belt which moves them up to the top of the harvester and shoots them into the bin traveling along side in the next row. The discs are spring-loaded so that a post moving down the center can push the discs aside and then they spring back behind the post forming the floor again.

Down The Middle
 Here the harvester is starting at the beginning of the row.  Next to it drives a 2nd tractor towing the bin that the grapes are dumped into.  Notice the bin ready to be pulled into the next row.
Harvester with bin to the side
Here the harvester and bin are part way down the row.
Picking the Grapes
When the bin gets full, it is towed to a flat bed trailer that has 16 large crates on it.  The bin is hydraulically lifted and dumped into a crate.  Each bin and crate holds several tons of grapes.  When all the crates are full, the truck is off to the processing plant.  The trucks have to meet an appointment at the plant.  The grapes have to be processed within a few hours because the fermentation process will start if they stand too long.  The processing goes 24 hours a day, so the harvesters have to keep a well planned schedule to meet their appointments.  It also means they have to work all hours of the day and night. 

You might wonder how we know all this.  While we were parked by the side of the road taking pictures, the man in charge came over and invited us to come over and taste his grapes and was happy to explain it all to us.  As we were talking to him we noticed that his shirt had his company name on it with "Silver Creek, NY - Yakima, Wn" written underneath.  We asked him about it and he said that he also owned a vineyard in Prosser, Washington.  We told him that we had both been raised in the Yakima area.  He asked what brought us to NY and we told him about our mission to the Palmyra Temple and about how we spent our weekends in Fredonia.  He said that he had been to the Hill Cumorah Pageant years ago and that what impressed him the most was how good the people were.  All in all, we had a most enjoyable and informative visit with him and his grapes were sweet and delicious.

Susan filled up her 5 gal.collapsable jug with concord grape juice at a vineyard further down the road that sold the fresh pressed juice and took it home and bottled it on Monday.  We have juice to last the rest of our mission. 

Well, have a great week all of you.  Be sure and listen to all of conference.  What a blessing it is to hear from our prophets twice a year.  We just read the new Ensign.  What a great testimony of the Book of Mormon.  We love you all.

1 comment:

Maryle said...

I miss the home canned grape juice. I may have to see if there are any vineyards around here. How fun to learn all about the process.