Agriculture is another substantial part of the region’s economy. There are over 1,600 farms in Chautauqua County, with 35% of the county’s total acreage devoted to farmland. The county ranks third in the state for sales of fruits and berries, reflecting our heritage as a major grape growing region in the United States. Dairy production sales from Chautauqua County total over $69-million annually. While grape and dairy production dominate the agriculture industries countywide, there are also substantial sales of cattle, vegetables, other fruits, timber, and maple products.
Chautauqua County’s climate is conducive to growing things. Because of our proximity adjacent to Lake Erie, and due to the natural glacier formations of our topography, the region north of the Chautauqua ridge is ideal for grape production, while the rest of the county features rich soil, landscapes, and a stable water table.
Each year, about 800 growers produce 150,000 tons or more of grapes, which are processed locally for juice, wine, jellies, and other products that are sold worldwide. It is estimated that the grape industry in the Lake Erie Grape Belt region supports about 2,000 direct jobs and over 5,000 jobs in fruit and vegetable processing, with a total economic impact of over $300-million.
Chautauqua County dairy farmers each year produce enough milk to meet the dairy needs of nearly 700,000 people. While much of New York’s excess milk production moves east to meet the demands of New York City, Boston, and other east coast cities, more than two-thirds of Chautauqua County’s milk moves westward to processing plants in Erie, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and other facilities. Milk is one of Chautauqua County’s export products, bringing millions of dollars in the county’s economy.
Farm-to-table initiatives are plentiful in Chautauqua County. From restaurants focused on using fresh, seasonal produce to a variety of farmers markets and farm stands, locally grown and produced products are plentiful and delicious. Cornell Cooperative Extension in Chautauqua County and the Chautauqua County Farm Bureau work year round to provide information and resources for the agriculture community.
(Data from Cornell Cooperative Extension in Chautauqua County)