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PORTLAND — U.S. Rep. Nick Langworthy is doing his part to better understand challenges for farmers in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.
This week the Republican congressman visited 21 Brix on Route 20, Portland to see their winery and also to hear about the farm operations there. Langworthy is one of two New York members of Congress on the House Agriculture Committee. Members are in the process of hearing plans for the Farm Bill, which expires at the end of September.
A new Farm Bill is passed every five years.
“I’ve got to understand how this Farm Bill, and the legislation and the hurdles that are in place, affect every element of agriculture in this district so I can be the best advocate possible,” Langworthy said. “Specialty crops are so important to our tourism , to putting this community on the map.”
Mike Jordan, one of the owners who oversees the farm operations at 21 Brix, agrees. ” There’s a lot of value in specialty crops in New York and the northeast. We don’t have big fields of grain here. We have other crops. We need to support those,” he said.
Kris Kane, one of the owners who serves as head winemaker, said they get a lot of their business from outside Chautauqua County. He estimates that 70% of their visitors are from the Pittsburgh and Cleveland markets. “I like it because it’s bringing dollars from outside of the state into New York state. It’s not just trading dollars within the state. We’re bringing money into the state,” he said.
Kane said they work with many wineries on the Lake Erie Wine Trail, as well as other tourist-based businesses like the National Comedy Center in Jamestown. “We’re trying to work together and bring people in from both ends (of the county),” he said.
21 Brix began Sept. 10, 2011. Today they have 14 employees. Those numbers go up in grape harvesting season. Kane said they have 20-25 variety blends. They grow grapes and other crops on the property. About 60-70% of the grapes they use are grown on the property. The remainder comes from area farms within a 30 mile radius. “We squeeze them, we process them, we ferment them and then we also ship out about 70,000 to 80,000 gallons of juice to other regions in Virginia, Ohio, and other areas, for wine use,” he said.
Kane said they ship out another 30,000 gallons of wine made on site for the wholesale market. They also ship their bottles to various retail outlets, doing self-distribution.
Langworthy thanked the owners for the visit. “21 Brix is helping to put Chautauqua County on the tourism map, partnering with our key drivers. It’s been great to hear the story of this great company today. It’s very educational for me and that’s why I do tours. I go out and we’re going visit as many places as I can during the time when I’m not mandated to be in Washington,” he said.