New life being breathed into grapegrowers association

Grape growers of the region have decided it's time to bring back the Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association.

The association was organized in 2004 by cold-hardy grape growers in Clinton and Essex counties for the purpose to be an "informational and promotional resource for those interested in growing grapes and making wine on a commercial and pre-commercial level," according to information provided by LCGGA.

However, many growers found the venture to be more difficult than anticipated.

"A lot of people took ... more of an amateur approach," explained Rob McDowell, LCGGA vice president and owner of Purple Gate Vineyard in Beekmantown. "[They] had a lot of problems and there was a lot of discouragement at that level."

"A number of the people involved didn't have an agriculture background," he added. "So, [there were] a lot of poor results in actually getting good fruit from their grapes."

The grape growers who did have positive results from the investment, did not have the time to participate in the association. Eventually, LCGGA was pushed to the back burner.

"But, in the last couple of years [there] has been increasing amount of interest in grape growing in the area," McDowell said.

"We're beginning to make a big push for membership and growth and representation," he added.

Currently, there are 15-20 paid memberships in the association. The group is working on creating a Web site, creating bylaws, and welcoming more members.

"We're hoping to get to the point of being able to advice growers, particularly new growers, of what to plant ... what works and so on," he said.

Although McDowell feels the group is not getting a considerable amount of work done, as it is harvest time, they felt it was also a good time to get the word out about the organization.

"We felt that it was the time when everything is sort of at people's attention; right in front of their face," he said.

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