Well, hello to you and to the month of June! As we look forward to the ending of school, backyard cookouts, pool parties, bike rides, camp getaways, and other summery pursuits, we are thrilled to have Terry Perfetti join us for our #farmerfridays post. Keep reading on, dear folks, and get to know Cherry Knoll Farms. Here's to making this the blueberriest of all summers!
SVHC: How long have you been growing blueberries and producing your lovely blueberry products in Cortland County?
CKF: I have been in Cortland for 36 years, producing my blueberry wine since 1998.
SVHC: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Cherry Knoll Farm and how blueberries became your crop of choice?
CKF: Well, when you are tired, hungry, and broke, you tend to come home--that's just what I did when I returned to my Grandma's property in Marathon. I am the sixth generation owner of this land. I first started with a variety of crops--strawberries, raspberries, asparagus and such. I did strawberries for six to eight years, but the weather wiped us out--twice!--and I decided to move towards a more sustainable crop. I currently have around 5500 blueberry bushes in the orchard and I am proud to say that I propagated about three-quarters of the field myself.
SVHC: 5500 bushes must produce a lot of fruit! What products or goods do you make with all your blueberries?
CKF: I offer U-Pick blueberries during the growing season, but I also make blueberry wine and vinegar. I started to make my blueberry wine in 1998 and officially became a winery in 2005. Making blueberry wine is a unique process and I am currently the only farm-to-wine in Cortland County.
SVHC: Blueberry wine, now that just sounds delicious! What has been your biggest joy as a wine producer?
CKF: Being able to put something on the shelf to compete with the big guys. I love to work with my hands--the propagation part is especially enjoyable--it’s very satisfying to take a stick and put it in the ground and then see it produce in 10-15 years. Also, I haven't used insecticide in my orchard for over 18 years. I am proud of that.
SVHC: What has been your greatest challenge as a local blueberry grower and wine and vinegar producer?
CKF: Dealing with weather-related issues is always a challenge, but also getting people to know I am here and then the local blueberry competition.
SVHC: If you could tell your community one thing, what would it be?
CKF: Buy local and give your neighbor a chance. When you do, you know it’s fresh. When you go to the grocery store, you don’t know how long your produce has been on the shelf. As for those who are thinking of getting into the orchard business, 36 years of experience has taught me to expand offerings and don’t rely strictly on U-Pick.
SVHC: How can the community purchase your goods or connect with you?
CKF: Although I make wine, I would like to say that I do not have a tasting room on my U-Pick property. You can find me and my wine at the Ithaca Farmers' Market, booth 77, on Saturdays and Sundays. U-Pick will begin just as soon as the bushes are ready--usually, it's around the beginning to mid-July. You can always check the website or call ahead to see if we are picking. (Please note, during picking times Cherry Knoll vinegar and wines will be available for tasting and purchase.)