Norliah Asma and Erwin Kalmar, owners of Four Maples Vineyard & Winery in Champlain, N.Y., are familiar with the risks that North Country food producers face: unpredictable weather, destructive pests, rising costs and labor shortages among others. With much of their revenue generated from their wine sales, tasting room and event venue, the pandemic created additional financial stress for their business.
When faced with these challenges, the multicultural couple (Norliah hails from Singapore and Erwin is from Switzerland) got their creative juices flowing. They built an outdoor pavilion for wine tasting and started welcoming RV guests for overnight stays. Where possible, they used energy-efficient materials in their buildings. They started building sales partnerships with local liquor stores, restaurants and businesses that are proud to feature local products, and they are looking to partner with wine distributors too. They also participated in VineBalance, a sustainable winegrowing certification pilot program initiated by the New York Wine and Grape Foundation.
To make their operation more sustainable and self-sufficient, Four Maples is now working with ANCA CPR to install a 30-kilowatt solar array and wind turbines on their property. Utilizing the expertise and networks of ANCA Energy Circuit Riders (ECRs), Norliah and Erwin are pursuing NYSERDA initiatives and financing incentives and have begun coordinating with local solar and wind turbine contractors. With planning support from CITEC, they are developing a business model that will help them reduce costs, budget for growth and build stability.