Meet the Erdle Family
It doesn’t take much to get the Erdles onto the topic of passing things down. Admire one of their grape vines, and they’ll quickly point out they didn’t plant it: It’s been there for a century, they’re just caretakers. Then there’s the farm and the part-ownership of Welch’s. Rich is handing it down to Colin. And even though Colin’s just starting his own family, they’re already hoping his kids will take it over one day.
Rich has grown grapes here on the shore of Lake Erie for decades. A few years back, he took on a partner: his son Colin. Colin tried working as a music teacher for a while, but his passion for farming brought him back. He still sings while he works in the vineyards, though.
To Colin, Welch’s co-op ownership makes all the difference. For one thing, the farmers who own Welch’s insist on making 100% grape juice with no added sugar, colors or flavors. For another, the farmers help each other out. Colin compares it to an extended family, “a bunch of uncles and aunts and cousins that look out for you.”
It’s that simple, says Colin. The few short weeks of the Concord grape harvest are a flurry of activity for the Erdles and fellow farmer-owners. They pick rain or shine, all hours of the day. When a truck is full of grapes, it heads down the road to be fresh-pressed. For Welch’s, the grapes must go from farm to press in eight hours or less. Usually it’s much faster, if Rich has his way.