Concord Grape Belt Association Kicks Off Membership Drive
The recently organized Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association is kicking off a membership drive throughout Northern Chautauqua County and Erie County, Pennsylvania. The Association’s goal is to better market and to increase promotion of the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt region to ultimately increase tourism throughout the area and increase the promotion of the various grape products being grown and produced throughout the belt.
The Association has set an aggressive goal of establishing a membership base of 1,000 members and is seeking support from all facets of the community. The Association currently is made up of various representatives from both states including National Grape Cooperative, Westfield Development Corporation, Growers Cooperative Grape Juice Company, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Lake Erie Grape Program, Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation, Lake Erie Regional Conservancy, the Chautauqua County Planning Department, Penn State Erie-PA Sea Grant and various growers and farmers.
“This “two-state” agritourism initiative is truly unique in that we have eliminated the political boundaries and brought to the table all factions of the grape and wine industry to better promote and market one of our greatest assets of this region, stated Rick Dunst, Co-Chair of the Association’s Promotion and Tourism Sub-committee. “Our goal is to create an identity for our region focused around the heritage of the Concord Grape. We are the largest and oldest Concord Grape growing region in the country and it is important we celebrate that heritage and share it with the rest of the world.”
The mission of the Association is to encourage and support the dynamic economic development of the grape and wine industries, tourism and associated industries throughout the Lake Erie region that is built upon the Concord grape heritage and results in an enhanced quality of life for all the region’s citizens
“We have estimated that the Concord Grape Belt Industry has an overall $50 million dollar economic impact on our area directly employing over 2,000 people and indirectly employing over 5,000 people,” stated Co-chair Dave Momberger. “We have over 30,000 Vineyard Acres, 6 Major Juice/Wine Processors, a progressive Wine Trail with over a dozen quality wineries and many other agritourism potentials.”
“The ultimate goal of the Association is to establish the Concord Grape Belt as a “point of destination” for tourists, stated Momberger. “With the commitment from our volunteers and members, we expect our efforts to draw national and international attention to this unique region and, in turn, lead to economic development that will strengthen the grape industry as a whole.”
The goals for the Association’s subcommittees (heritage, museum, promotion/tourism, interindustry) for 2005 are to establish signage along all major highways in and out of the belt, conduct a detailed economic impact study, publish quarterly newsletters, create an interstate heritage park designation for the area, build on the 2004 local grape displays and initiate a feasibility study for a regional grape museum, and promote farm and farmland preservation.
The Concord Grape Belt Heritage Harvest Project, which got underway in the fall of 2003, began with the Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation (CBRDC) submitting a proposal to Cornell requesting the university work within the Concord Grape Belt area, as it is a region that entails a unique agricultural heritage and is still in need of further promotional efforts. The Concord Grape Belt area was the only region in New York State, chosen by Cornell University, to partner with to further enhance the promotion of the region and its agricultural assets associated with the belt.
The “Concord Grape Belt” running 50 miles along the southern shore of Lake Erie from Silver Creek, New York in Northern Chautauqua County, down into Harborcreek in Erie County, Pennsylvania, is part of the Great Lakes Basin that includes the major extent of commercial grape production in eastern North America. There are approximately 30,000 acres of vineyard in the Lake Erie region of New York and Pennsylvania grown on 840 farms, making this the largest grape-growing region outside of California. Due to the temperature extremes moderated by Lake Erie, the unique air movement and the acidic soils, the Concord Grape Belt is in a unique position to produce a consistent quantity of high quality concord grapes.
If you would like more information on becoming a member of the Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association, please contact Dave Momberger at 326-3161.