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"The success of the fall depends on your spring activity," said Amy Fischetti, the museum's executive director. Fischetti rattled off a list of tasks that are being completed at the farm that would make any weekend gardener's back sore just thinking about it. From sending soil out to be analyzed for nutritional content and designing a field plan for crops to germinating seeds in the greenhouse and planting clovers for weed control, there is never a dull moment for the farm's 10 full-time employees.Two new editions to the farm are the irrigation windmill and a vineyard that is expected to produce a vintage within the next two years.The irrigation windmill was installed a few months ago and pumps well water to a 10,000-gallon holding tank where it is then sent out through thousands of feet of tubing by a modern water pump to the farm's various crop fields. The windmill is a replica from the late 1800s and was installed by an Ohio company using hand tools that were available during that time. "It's a fusion of technology and old-fashion hard work," said Fischetti. The vineyard consists of 1,000 vines covering an acre of land at the farm. Grapes that are currently being grown were selected with the help of a Long Island expert, Reed Jarvis, who picked the varieties that will best grow in the local climate, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc. "We're about a year and a half ahead of where we expected to be," said Gary Mitchell, who is in charge of the vineyard. "We should have wine-quality grapes in a year and a half."Mitchell has the arduous task of hand pruning each vine so they will grow properly and produce the maximum amount of grapes. He also has one of the most unusual commutes to work, driving from Dutchess County to the Queens County Farm to put in a day at the office. "Each one takes me a few minutes, but I'm getting the hang of it," said Mitchell, as he strolled through the rows of young vines.Mitchell also explained how as the years go by he can gauge the success of each grape and adjust the types of vines grown to ensure a maximum harvest."It's small, but it's a serious vineyard," said Fischetti. In the farm's greenhouse, employees are caring for seedlings that are part of an experimental project that will enable multiple harvest throughout the summer through staggered plantings. "We're gambling with the weather," said Fischetti. "We really have to hope for the best." As all of this is taking place, the farm is still hosting an estimated 100,000 visitors a year that range from students on field trips to weddings and corporate outings. Students visiting the farm can plant their own crops to take home as well as cooking food in kitchens that are equipped with only tools that would be found in the cupboards of an old farm house."It's exciting for people from the city to come and see how a farm works," said Mitchell.The museum is located at 73-50 Little Neck Parkway in Floral Park. Call 718-347-3276 for more information.Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 173.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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