Legislators get a taste of agribusiness

KAYLA BREEN/STAFF PHOTOThe new Greefa apple sorter at Chazy Orchards looms over visiting legislators during a stop at the orchards as part of the 2019 Agricultural Tour of Clinton County. Other stops for officials on the tour included Giroux Family Farm, Dragoon's Farm Equipment, Vesco Ridge Vineyards and a catered lunch by My Cup of Tea.

PLATTSBURGH — Technology is changing the face of agribusiness.

A quick peek at Chazy Orchards’ new Greefa apple sorter could be confused for machinery straight out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

The system dumps, soaks, waxes, dries, sorts, stickers, bags and boxes apples in a continuous cycle.

Helen Giroux, whose family owns the orchard, said an advanced sorting process individually examines each apple for size, color and internal defect using respective scale, photo and light technologies.

Any “bad apples” that don’t match with the orchard’s standards are automatically dispensed out of the mix, she said.

“It’s honestly incredible.”

WHAT FARMERS NEED

Chazy Orchards was the last stop before lunch on this year’s Agricultural Tour of Clinton County.

The annual event of 15-plus years buses local legislators to the county’s hot spots in agribusiness to show them the ways agriculture impacts the local economy.

Officials on the tour included Clinton County Legislature Chairman Harry McManus (D-Area 1, Champlain), State Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay), Clinton County Legislator Mark Dame (R-Area 8, City and Town of Plattsburgh) and Clinton County Legislator Mark Henry (R-Area 3, Beekmantown).

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County coordinated the event with the help of Clinton County Soil & Water Conservation District and the Clinton County Farm Bureau.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture Educator Sara Bull said the tour gives legislators a closer look at local farmers, including their workload, struggles and advancements.

“We hope that what they see on the agricultural tour helps them better understand what our farmers need and what opportunities and challenges that they can help with.”

‘WANT TO BE BETTER’

This year’s tour showcased the county’s advances in farming technology.

Local farmers are evolving to cater to the future of agribusiness, Bull said.

“Clinton County definitely has producers that want to be better,” she said. “They want to improve themselves and they want to improve their industries.

“We’re definitely strong in our agriculture today and doing things to make ourselves stronger.”

BUGGY TO SPACESHIP

That’s exactly what Chazy Orchard’s Greefa apple sorter aims to do.

Prior to installing the new system, Willie Giroux said the family-owned business was eyeing each apple by hand.

Helen said that on a good day with their old system, the orchard was processing about 100 bins per day.

“With the new machine, we can comfortably do 200 to 250 bins per day,” she said.

Willie described the change as going “from a horse and buggy to a spaceship.”

EVEN HIGHER

Chazy Orchards isn’t the only agribusiness advancing to spaceship-level technology.

When the 16-passenger bus emptied at D&D Meats in West Chazy, local legislators saw the newest meat-processing facility in the county and got a taste of its products.

The business was revamped last fall with a 2,600-square-foot expansion and Shane Dutil said his family’s business is at max capacity.

Dutil’s Jeezum Crow Smokehouse’s 140 products, including beef jerky, beef sticks and cheeses are smoked in their new German-imported smokehouse.

The machine allows him to program for all types of products.

It’s not something you can find made in the United States, he said.

“Last year we processed about 110,000 pounds (of meat),” he said. “This year, it’s even higher yet.

“It shows that there is a need for this type of work in the county, dealing with local farmers and hunters.”

THE VERMONT MODEL

In the presence of local politicians, Dutil professed the troubles with current United States Department of Agriculture certification laws.

Local farmers must travel outside the county to gain the certification that allows their meat to be wholesaled to local retailers, including grocery stores.

“That’s where New York State is lacking,” Dutil said. “The state should start their own program with their own inspection process.”

Vermont laws follow this model, Dutil explained.

“I would love to see New York go that way,” he said.

“It would keep all of the local beef in New York State and would keep a lot of the western beef from coming in.”

Dutil had hoped D&D Meats could become USDA-certified, but he said he has too much on his plate.

“But that would benefit local farmers tremendously.”

LOOK AT FUTURE

The tour also bused legislators to Giroux Family Farm’s new barn complete with milking robots, Dragoon’s Farm Equipment to discuss agricultural equipment sales, Vesco Ridge Vineyards to hear about wine production and finished off with a catered lunch by My Cup of Tea.

“I hope the legislators got a look at what the future looks like,” Bull said.

Email McKenzie Delisle:

mdelisle@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @McKenzieDelisle

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