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Erin Troxell Practices Winemaking

By Becca Lesser '12

Erin Troxell

Erin Troxell ’10 augmented her winemaking skills during an internship in Germany’s Mosel River region.

As a six-year-old, Erin Troxell ’10, a senior CALS Viticulture and Enology (VIEN) major, first discovered her love for viticulture while trailing her mother down the rows of her family’s Pennsylvania vineyard. Growing up, Troxell learned to spot signs of disease in grapevines and observed the winemaking process alongside her parents.

Last summer, she received a new form of education, producing Spätburgunder and Sauvignon Blanc under the watch of a four-generation winemaking family in Germany’s famed Mosel River region. The internship, funded in part by a $4,000 scholarship from the CALS Alumni Association, introduced Troxell to German techniques for tending to cool-climate grapes.

“One of the main themes I observed in their wine industry is efficiency,” Troxell says. “Because there are so many wineries, generating a great deal of competition, winery owners have adapted practices to reduce the amount of effort that they require.”

For example, Troxell noted that rather than thinning grape clusters by hand, German growers often use mechanical and chemical approaches to adjust crop size and improve grape quality.

Alongside a wine consultant in a German enology lab, Troxell learned how to analyze the chemical and sensory traits of wines. She also learned about the difficulties of growing grapes on inclines and steep slopes, not unlike the terrain in upstate New York.

“It’s important to travel to different wine-growing regions and gain exposure to what others in the profession are doing,” she says.

Troxell, who entered Cornell as a Plant Sciences major before CALS added the VIEN major in fall 2008, says the internship built upon her agriculture experience as a lab assistant to Ian Merwin, MS ’88, PhD ’90, the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Horticulture, in the Cornell Orchards. She is on track to graduate this spring as a part of Cornell’s second class of VIEN students.

After graduation, Troxell intends to go back to Europe, perhaps working in another region, such as Austria or Switzerland. She hopes to return to work at her family’s vineyard, and dreams of one day running her own winery.

After nearly 60 years of operating housing facilities for farm workers in the heart of New York’s fruit and vegetable growing region, the Wayne County Growers and Processors has decided to disband and donate all remaining funds—$150,000—to Cornell. The money will support education and research on agricultural labor in the Department of Applied Economics and Management (AEM).

“We wanted the money to go where it would benefit farm employers and their workers,” says William E. Bishop Jr., president of the Wayne County Growers and Processors and chairman of the board of Sodus Cold Storage Co. Inc. “We feel that funding Cornell extension projects is the most effective way to accomplish this objective.”

Tom Maloney, senior extension associate in AEM whose extension program seeks to improve the abilities of farm employers to attract and retain a productive, satisfied workforce, notes that the agricultural economy depends on the hardworking people employed on farms. “Workforce issues continue to be a major concern for New York farmers,” Maloney says. “These funds will be used to continue applied research and extension projects in agricultural labor policy and human resource management.”

Maloney announced the gift on behalf of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the Jan. 25 Robert Becker Forum in Liverpool, N.Y., an annual gathering of the state’s food and agricultural producers that Maloney chairs. According to Maloney, the Wayne County organization wanted to use its funds in the spirit in which the money had been raised, which was helping growers and processors with their workforce needs.

The Wayne County Growers and Processors group was formed after World War II, largely to house Puerto Ricans who came to work in fruit and vegetable processing plants in western New York. After many years of operating worker housing in Marion, Williamson, and Lyons, the group sold the facilities one by one. Last fall, Bishop and two other remaining board members, Dave Smith and Gary Verbridge, formally disbanded the organization and distributed the remaining funds.