Tonawanda News

Features

October 8, 2012

The struggles and success stories of Niagara farmers

(Continued)

Tonawanda News —

I asked him what he thinks people need to know about farmers. “We’re not stupid farmers,” he told me. “You want to do this work you need an education.” 

And when I asked him how he felt about his cows, this straight-talking young man who has birthed hundreds of calves, asked me “Do you have pets?”  When I replied I did, he asked again, “Do you love those pets?” and I replied, “Absolutely.” He smiled. “Well, I love my cows.”

He told me that cows have all different kinds of personalities; some are docile and some are trouble makers. He told me he likes some of his cows more than others. “Like an elementary school teacher there are some that I can’t wait to get out of my class,” he said with a grin.

At every stop on our tour we talked about migrant workers and the farmers we met said they were typically the hardest workers around. Each spoke of how the government’s intercession requiring the of documenting workers is hugely ham-handed, involving piles of paperwork dumped on the farmer. One more challenge in an industry full of challenge.

But among the farmers we also heard success stories. At Harris Farm Market, started by Nate Harris when he was a teen selling corn off the bed of a truck, there is a beautiful new expansion, new crops and even an ice cream stand, in a venue that’s doing so well that wife Vicky and husband Nate are pretty happy with things as they are right now. 

At Niagara Landings, it was a joy to hear that despite nearly three quarters fewer grapes to be harvested this year by the largest grower of grapes in the county. The owner, Pete Smith, said he is already looking forward to next year, because this is a region that can compete with more reknowned vineyards, the kind of place where “we can grow as good a riesling as anyplace in the world.”

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