A crop of certified organic grapes are ready for harvesting for the first time in Long Island history, according to one Calverton farmer who claims to have successfully pulled off the challenging feat.
Rex Farr, owner of The Farrm on Youngs Avenue in Calverton, said he planted vines on his farm in 2005 and planned to pick them in 2009 before severe summer rains destroyed 15 percent of his vines and most of his grapes that year.
Now he says the grapes are finally ready.
Mr. Farr said that beginning next week he plans to pick 10 to 12 tons of four grape varieties — Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot — making him the first farmer to successfully grow certified organic grapes on Long Island.
Mr. Farr’s farm was certified organic by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York in 1990. The organization, which has been accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture since 2002, inspects his farm annually. Mr. Farr said NOFA most recently inspected his farm in June.
The Farrm does not have a wine production facility, so Mr. Farr is looking to partner with a local winery or community-supported agriculture network to produce and bottle organic wine.
“We are the only [local] vineyard with a certified organic grape,” he said. “I’m offering an opportunity for whomever. They all realize the marketing value of an organically-grown grape.”
Mr. Farr said he’s already spoken to a half-dozen wineries about a possible partnership.
Long Island Wine Council president Ron Goerler said other local farmers have failed in their attempts to grow an organic grape, something he said is “extremely challenging.”
“Hats off to him,” Mr. Goerler said. “If he can grow grapes out here organically … God bless you if you can do it.”
Both Mr. Goerler and Mr. Farr said harvesting the certified organic grapes this year, in a rainy season when many local vineyards have struggled to produce a healthy harvest, makes the feat even more improbable.
Mr. Farr attributes his success to his organic farming practices, good soil management and a touch of luck.
“I like to think good farming practices help to enhance Mother Nature,” he said.
The fact that he only attempted to grow red grapes, which hold up better in the rain than white varieties, may have also played a role in Mr. Farr’s success.
The Calverton farmer is also quick to admit his first crop won’t be perfect.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “We could have taken fruit off for the last four years. This is the first year the grapes are ready.”