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Soil, first cut, and more

Three weeks ago, I started my internship working for the  Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP) in Cornell’s Animal Science Department, run by Dr. Quirine Ketterings. The main goal of the program  is to aid farms (focusing on dairy farms) to become more sustainable. The team does this by conducting a variety of research—both on farm and at experiment farms, lab work, and through Cooperative Extension outreach. The research evaluates numerous soil management practices and their effect on the farm’s sustainability by looking at the amount of farm  inputs  vs. the products exported from it. Some of the management methods under review  include: crop rotations, manure application, fertilizer application, yield monitor accuracy, and tillage.

My first week was largely assisting with a project examining the effect of different nitrogen fertilizer application rates on triticale and wheat fields. This project will be looking at the differences in yield as well as the nutrient content of forages. Pictured left are different levels of application on each plot and the distinction from the rest of the field. Once samples are harvested by hand, we take them back to the lab to be weighed when they are wet and then dry after three days in the oven. Once this is done, the samples are put through a grinder and prepared for nutrient analysis.

In week two I  assisted with a project evaluating the accuracy of yield monitors on choppers. This project evaluates the monitor accuracy of crop moisture content and the necessary frequency of monitor calibration. To do this, the chopper operator is given a sheet to record what the yield monitor reads for moisture content for each load of alfalfa. Samples are then taken from each load and dumped at the bunk (pictured left). They are then weighed to determine actual crop moisture content.

In week three, I received my summer research project. I will continue work with an on-going study comparing varying depths of zone tillage looking at differences in yield and soil quality. I will start with a farm visit that has been aiding in this research, and will include the details in my next post!

Start of Summer at Hosmer

Golf cart- One of the more thrilling parts of vineyard work.

Over the past week and a half, I’ve been working at Hosmer Vineyard and Winery on the west coast of Cayuga Lake. This grape farm was bought by Cameron Hosmer’s father and the vines were  planted in late 1970s by Cameron and Maren “the real boss” Hosmer. While expanding acre by acre over the decades, this family maintains excellent vineyard practices. The concept “a wine is only as good as the grapes” is truly embraced at this winery by Cameron Hosmer and the whole crew there.

At the end of last week, I showed up and was warmly welcomed. I’ve been introduced around vineyards helping to replace first year vines and maintain second year vines with Cameron, Matt, and Wilson, some of the vineyard workers. The tasks in the vineyard were easily learned, as the object of young vines was to add and remove grow tubes, suckers, and to train the vines onto strings. The work is not very challenging, but it has been excellent working outside, and the tasks vary on a day-by-day basis. Out in the vineyards, we (Emily VanFossen, a fellow Cornellian intern) get to zip around the vineyards in the golf carts (a bit of an adrenaline rush when we really get moving, I guiltily admit).

Emily joined me near the beginning of last week and we’ve been able to get each other motivated as we have been adjusting to our early summer sleeping schedule. The majority of the work so far during the good weather has been in the vineyard, but this past Thursday, I got to experience the bottling of the Estate Red wine, an excellent blend of Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Seyval.

Bottling Hosmer’s flagship “Estate Red”


Used French Oak Barrels

A little bit of cleaning

The bottling and labeling machine is an interesting piece of equipment, about $20-30,000 in value (not very expensive if you consider the millions that harvesters, laser precision planter, and tractors can cost). We spent Thursday morning and some of the afternoon bottling and boxing about 500 cases of the Estate Red. It was, once again, simple work, but it was a great opportunity.

Aaron Roisen, affectionately nicknamed “wine guy,” is the resident vintner who is responsible for producing Hosmer’s recent, award-winning vintages. Being able to work and hang out with him has been great so far, not only discussing how to make the wine, but about the lifestyle associated with it. While not being certain where I would like to go after graduating, a career in wine-making might be a great opportunity to travel and obtain a job that might have a high degree of creative freedom (depending on where I would be working).

As Emily and I work throughout the summer, we both are interested in getting an opportunity to work in the tasting room and pick the brains of Katy, Aaron’s fiance about her position as marketing director at Hosmer.

Well, that’s it for now! It’s dinner time, and then bed before another couple of weeks at the winery… Until next time! Ciao!

España Wine and Vines

I don’t know where this week has gone! I have been in Spain for a week and a half and if feels like just yesterday that I arrived. I have learned so much, met a million people, and am learning to adapt to the crazy Spanish schedule. 

Welcome to Casa Sicilia!  This is where I will be working for the next 3 months of summer.  It is a gorgeous winery in the small town of Novleda, Spain.  The farm was started in 1707 and currently has 80 hectares of  a mix of wine and table grapes.  They grow a mixture of  Spanish varieties including Macabeo, Muscatel, Tempranillo, and Monastrel as well as more traditional varieties, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Syrah.   Sebastian is the wine maker and winery director, and is originally from France.  I am very grateful to have him as a boss, he has a great passion for what he does and has an incredible knowledge of viticulture and wine making.  He and his family are the best hosts I could ever ask for. The only downside is that it is pretty difficult to learn Spanish from people who speak with a French accent!

Casa Sicilia  is named after the house that was built in 1707 in the center of the farm.  Since then it has been renovated. On the first floor is a restaurant, tasting room, and wine shop.  Attached is a large ballroom for hosting weddings and other events.  I live on the second floor of the house.  I won’t lie, it was pretty scary that first night but (knock on wood) I haven’t seen any ghosts yet.

Casa Sicilia ~ Built in 1707

Guest Entrance

I work mainly in the bodega (winery), but also in the campo (vineyards) and a little in the tienda (store).  Earlier this week I worked with Pascual, the Spanish enology intern, recording the floration  stages of all of the vineyard parcels. Right now most have very few flowers left and the berries are developing.  In the winery we have been busy mixing depositos (tanks) to create the coupage for the red wine.  Here in Spain almost all of the wines are a blend of different varieties to make vino tintos and vino blanco.  Yesterday we did a tasting of 13 different barrels the check their maturation and flavor.  I learned that the barrel has a huge effect on the taste of the wine.  There are barrels with the same wine but with different toasts and from various parts of France and they each tasted different.  Some of my other jobs have been labeling bottles and moving wires in the vineyard.  (Thank you mom and dad; who would have guessed that all of those days moving wires would have come in handy, I can keep up with any Española trabajadoro.)  I have been very busy, but also had  some time for sight seeing with Sebastian and his family. I learned a lot in the winery and will post more throughout the summer about all of the happenings in Casa Sicilia and España!


Making the “coupage”



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