July 16, 2007

Ripened blueberries draw customers 


Cortland Standard/Evan Geibel
Lisa Snyder, of Virgil, picks blueberries at Hall’s Hill Blueberry Farm on Tower Road in Virgil. Saturday was the first day local blueberry patches were open for business.

Staff Reporter

FREEVILLE — After a dry early summer, Terry Perfetti, the owner of Cherry Knoll Farm on Freetown-Hoxie Gorge Road, said he’s hoping some rain will come through within the next few days to fatten and sweeten up the 5.5 acres of blueberries on his farm.
Saturday was the first day for berry picking at Cherry Knoll, and Perfetti said it was just a bit earlier than usual.
“Normally, the season opens up sometime between the 15th and the 20th,” Perfetti said Saturday morning on the hill overlooking his berry patch. “But this year they turned blue the week before the Fourth of July, and it takes approximately two weeks before they’re sweet. Between the sun and the rain, that’s what makes the sugar.”
As she picked and plopped blueberries into the pot on the shortly trimmed grass between the bushes at Hall’s Hill Blueberry Farm on Tower Road in Blodgett Mills, Lisa Snyder, of Virgil, said she expected not only herself but all the other pickers to start turning out more frequently as the season picks up.
“It’s early. The blueberries look good, but it will take another couple of weeks,” she said early Saturday evening. “You sort of have to pick around.”
Kathryn Along, Perfetti’s mother, said they had already seen two customers before 11 a.m., but Perfetti said it would be another week or so until the crowds really start to pour in. He estimated that more than 5,000 people a year pick at the blueberry patch.
On Cowan Road, in Locke, Grisamore Farms saw “a few” pickers on their first day Saturday, Mary Ann Grisamore said that afternoon.
“We used to start around the 20th, but now we have a new field that has some different varieties that get picked earlier, so now, we usually get started around the 15th,” Grisamore said.
The Grisamore family’s 20 acres of blueberries are frequented by between 200 and 300 people a day at the peak of the season, Grisamore said, estimating that their bushes will produce about 60,000 pounds of blueberries a year.
Meanwhile, the lack of rain is not as much of a problem at Grisamore Farms.
“We have irrigation in ours, so a good rain is always better than us putting it on, of course, but our blueberries are nice and big still even though it hasn’t rained because we’ve watered them,” Grisamore said. “We’re also picking cherries now, and if it rains on them they crack, so we’d like the rain to hold off for a few days.”
Cherry Knoll Farm has roughly 5,400 blueberry bushes of about 10 different varieties, and Perfetti said close to 30,000 pounds of the bluish-purple fruit are picked there each year.
Another 10,000 pounds or so are used in the making of Cherry Knoll blueberry wine — Perfetti said he has four different kinds — and wine vinegar.
In the past year, Perfetti said both his sweet and his dry 100 percent blueberry wines have each been awarded two bronze medals at two separate wine competitions — one for each at both the Indianapolis International Wine Competition and the New York Wine and Food Classic.
Last year was Perfetti’s first batch.
“For the first time out of the box, it’s pretty impressive,” he said. “It’s fun to do in the wintertime; to play around with the different varieties and different blends.”
His mom, Along, said the Early Blues and Bluetta varieties of blueberries were already ripe enough to be picked. The Bluetta has a flavor similar to an elderberry and makes a “delicious jam and pie,” and the Early Blues have that more conventional blueberry flavor.
“Our most favorite is the Northland, because they’re good for everything,” Along said as she discriminately made her way from row to row and from bush to bush. “The bigger ones aren’t good for muffins, because they leave too big a hole.”
Northlands will be coming along later, she said, and the season should last into September — but it all depends on the weather at Cherry Knoll, which is not irrigated.
“If we don’t get the rain, they’ll be gone before that, because they’ll dry up on the bush,” Along said.
Grisamore said she could not keep track of all the different varieties of blueberry on her family’s farm, which has been growing blueberries since 1972.
“We have two main ones in the big field — the Blue Ray and Blue Crop,” Grisamore said. “Blueberries are a relatively new crop for us.”
And with all the new health benefits being discovered, Snyder, the blueberry picker at Hall’s Hill, said that it’s worth making lots of trips to a nearby pick-‘em-yourself patch.
“I told my family that I was going to make blueberry pancakes, but I make pies and muffins and all those things, too,” Snyder said as she dropped another fat berry into her pot.



SUNY Cortland shaped  two distinguished alumni 

Staff Reporter

As a young man in Norwich, England, in the early 1960s, Christopher Leadbeater and his friends were noticed by Van Akin Burd, a professor emeritus of English at SUNY Cortland who was researching an 18th century English critic and social theorist.
At the time, Burd wondered if there might be a way to bring over one of SUNY Cortland’s first international students, current college president Erik Bitterbaum said Saturday at the Alumni Reunion Awards Luncheon at Corey Union.
The tuition was waived, and Leadbeater soon found himself with a one-way boat ticket to America, and he enrolled as a freshman at SUNY Cortland in 1963.
“I was thinking, ‘What do I really know about where I’m going? Well, I know about the Lone Ranger,’” Leadbeater said. “Of course they had sent me some details, but it was very, very different than a couple of postcards. I think my first year, I had six 8 o’clock classes, and we just do not get up that early in England; well, students don’t, at least.”
A member of the Class of ’67, Leadbeater, 63, and fellow alum Louis LaGrand (Class of ’57) were presented with Distinguished Alumnus Awards at Saturday’s luncheon.
The event was part of SUNY Cortland’s Alumni Weekend, which saw the return of 625 graduates to their alma mater, said Pete Koryzno, director of communications at the college.
Created in 1968, the Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes graduates who have brought great credit to themselves and their alma mater. More than 100 alumni have received the award, Bitterbaum told the crowd of hundreds, gathered around tables based on their class year.
As a college administrator in England for the past 25 years, Leadbeater was recognized for his own efforts to help disadvantaged youths obtain an education much like professor Burd had done more than four decades ago.
Upon arriving in Cortland, Leadbeater was fortunate enough to be boarded in the now defunct fraternity house of Gamma Tau Sigma.
“I can’t tell you how good living in Gamma was, how supportive they were of me and my many eccentricities — and my opinions, which were very different than the collective wisdom of the rest of the house,” Leadbetter told the crowd after being presented with the award.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics, and later attended the University of Buffalo for his master’s degree. While teaching at Llandrillo College in Colwyn Bay, England, Leadbeater developed a national diploma program in electronics and computer technology that allowed students who had not been accepted to a university to earn a two-year degree that fulfilled university entry requirements.
He lives in London and is executive director and head of the technology faculty at Newham College.
LaGrand, 71, was given the award for his work as a bereavement counselor and one of the world’s foremost experts on after-death communication, working with people who have had spontaneous contact with loved ones after death.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from SUNY Cortland, and was working as a basketball coach at SUNY Potsdam when he created a course on dying and death after he became interested in grief counseling and what he later described as “the extraordinary experiences of the bereaved.”
In 1978, as LaGrand had told Bitterbaum Friday, a meeting with a student whose grandson had come into contact with his deceased aunt sparked a 28-year exploration of after-death communication, writing four books on the subject in addition to dozens of other published works.
He earned a master’s degree in guidance from the University of Notre Dame, a master’s degree in physical education from Columbia University and a doctorate in administration from Florida State University. LaGrand lectures across North America and Europe, and directs Loss Education Associates, an education and counseling service in Venice, Fla., where he now lives.
“This is the greatest honor I’ve ever received,” he told the audience, before thanking his classmates for making him who he is today.
Leadbeater had similar feelings.
“Last night, I was talking to some of the other members of the class of ’67 and I said, ‘What’s wonderful is how Cortland changed me,’” he said. “And the reply I got back was, ‘Well, it changed all of us.’ I thought I was really very different, but apparently, we all had that experience.”


Harry Potter mania at fever pitch 

Harry Potter

Living and Leisure Editor

Kiara Walker said Book No. 7 in the Harry Potter series is the be all and end all in the J.K. Rowling series.
“It’s said to be the last book and it decides everything  — like, everything!” said the Cortland youth.
Walker and a group of Cortland Free Library volunteers were planning the library’s Harry Potter Party, set for Friday at the Church St. library. Another party is planned around the corner at Mando Books — The Local Bookstore. The two entities are working together to celebrate the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
Enthusiasts for Harry Potter, the young wizard who does battle against the evil Lord Voldemort, discussed Book No. 7, set to hit bookshelves on Saturday.
One of the big issues is whether Harry dies, said Michele Stevens, 16, a self-proclaimed diehard for the series: “That’s the rumor.”
“I think he’s going to have to kill himself, to kill Voldemort. I think part of Voldemort is in Harry,” said Diane Horton, 15, of Homer.
Dan Yunghans, the textbook manager at Mando Books, is a fan of the series as well. He expects No. 7 to “tighten up all the story lines in that last book … I am looking forward to getting all the questions answered.”
Erin Moore, manager of the Local Bookstore part of Mando Book, said there are seven main questions that the book will answer: who will live and die; will Voldemort be defeated; is Snape good or evil; where are the horcruxes; will Hogwarts reopen; what are deathly hallows; and who winds up with whom.
Moore and Yunghans say they have not seen such furor over a book release, ever.
“This is insane,” Moore said. The two compare the hype to the release of a new electronic game system or an electronic device, like the recent hoopla over the Apple iPhone.
“This is the first time that a book has attracted this much interest, except for maybe 100 years ago, when Dickens serialized in magazines. People probably would wait outside the stores to get the latest issue. That was way back when they didn’t have TV or film,” Yunghans said.
Moore noted that 325 million copies of Rowling’s books, Book One to Six, have been sold worldwide in 63 languages.
Yunghans said J.K. Rowling is a cash billionaire author from the proceeds of her books, which have spun off into Warner Bros. movies and more than 400 Harry Potter products, including games.
Kay Zaharis, director of the Cortland Free Library, is just happy to see kids reading. She said she wanted to have a Harry Potter party because it’s fun.
“I think the library should be fun. And I want to get more kids in the library.”
Michele had another reason for a party: “Because Harry Potter is amazing.”
Both events at the Cortland Free Library and Mando Books — The Local Book Store will be free are open to all and take place Friday night.
The library’s party is slated for 10 p.m. to midnight.
“You have to enter the building on Platform 9¾,” said Zaharis, referring to the magical entry point to the train that takes wizards to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The library’s Children’s Room will be transformed into a Quidditch Stadium with dancing snitches and brooms hanging from the ceiling. Children 10 and under need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, muggles (nonmagical people) and wizards alike, said Zaharis. There will be a Harry Potter Jeopardy Game, word games, puzzles, anagrams, cross word puzzles.
As people come in, they will put on a sorting hat, get a name tag and will be assigned a house, just like new wizards at Hogwart’s. Youths can make their own wands. Food and drink will be available. Door prizes will be copies of the new book. There will be a costume judging and kids can guess how many Bertie Botts Beans are in the jar for a raffle.
People need to register by Wednesday, so library officials know how many supplies to buy. Call ahead at (607) 753-1043 to sign up.
A limited number of books will be available to borrow but those on the reserve list will get first dibs on library copies, Zaharis said. Or, people can buy their own copy at Mando Books — The Local Book Store, located at 33 Main St. Its Harry Potter Party will run from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
The bookstore will have a couple hundred books set to be sold at midnight, said Moore. And the books will be discounted 20 percent.
“Harry Potter is coming to sign a couple of the books and he will be dressed up,” said Moore.
And, kids can get a Polaroid picture with the famed wizard, she said.
“We’re going to have coloring contest, craft projects, a couple of games, word scrambles that we will give prizes for.”
Moore said according to a Kids and Family Reading Report survey from 2006, fifty-one percent of the readers of the Harry Potter series are between 5 and 17 and they didn’t read for fun before Harry Potter.
Harry Potter fans have many reasons to read the books, youths say.
“It’s so different,” said Michele. “And there are so many characters — everyone can relate,” said Diane. “And just like school, whether wizard or not, there’s always that one teacher out to get you,” said Kiara.
Diane said the series appeals to her because of the many details. “It’s so intricate.”
Kiara likes book four the best, while Michele likes No. 3. Diane also liked book three: “Sirius the Black was my favorite character. I cried when he died.”
Michele said she reads the books over and over, to keep the details straight. “I’m obsessed,” she said.