Air, Water, Soil and Community

Finger Lakes Museum – wetlands paddle. Photo by Helen Heizyk

Hunt Country Vineyards and the Finger Lakes Museum & Aquarium are partnering to promote and protect the natural wonders of the Finger Lakes

by Matt Kelly

This April, Hunt Country Vineyards will be giving a percentage of all sales made during the month to the Finger Lakes Museum and Aquarium. It’s the beginning of a partnership between a local business and organization that share a common mission for promoting and protecting the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes.

“We are thrilled to establish this partnership with the Hunts,” says Natalie Payne, executive director of FLM&A since 2015.

The Finger Lakes Museum and Aquarium is not your standard collection of exhibits and displays. Instead, it’s currently a museum without walls. Its sole purpose is to spark curiosity and provide personal engagement with the natural wonders of the Finger Lakes. Yes, FLM&A is renovating the old elementary school in Branchport as its headquarters and has recently constructed a beautiful new barn on its campus along the banks of Sugar Creek. But these buildings are merely the jumping-off point for much bigger adventures: kayak trips through the wetlands and on the lake, guided woodland walks, and birding and photography classes, all led by expert guides and volunteers.

“Getting out on the water or into the trees is the best way for people to truly fall in love with this place,” says Payne.

“It’s exciting to collaborate with an organization that shares our passion for both the cultural and natural history of the region,” says Suzanne Hunt, director of strategic development at Hunt Country Vineyards and a global consultant on renewable energy. She is the younger daughter of Art and Joyce Hunt, who started the winery in 1981.

Hunt Country harvest
Photo by Matt Kelly

The Hunt family has been farming on the west side of Keuka Lake for seven generations. Art’s thrice-great uncle Josiah W. Prentiss is credited with introducing “grape culture” to the Crooked Lake when he planted the first commercial vineyard in the 1830s. (Unfortunately, Prohibition put an abrupt end to this earlier round of viticulture.) Many years later, in the 1980s, Art and Joyce started one of the very first wineries that helped the Finger Lakes become the wine region it is today. Art helped craft some of the New York State legislation that made growth of the industry possible. He also worked closely with Cornell Cooperative Extension staff, identifying new grape varieties and pioneering the technique for field grafting vines in cold climates like the Northeast. The Hunt family is committed to responsible, sustainable farming and production practices. They’ve installed award-winning solar and geothermal systems to reduce their use of fossil fuels. They make extensive use of mulch and compost in the vineyards to increase soil health. And they’re increasing habitat for bees, birds and other wildlife all around the farm to create a more resilient environment in which to grow grapes.

“We depend on clean air and water, healthy soil, and a stable climate to make great wines,” says Hunt. “As the museum educates visitors about all of the functions and services that these ecosystems provide — and that we all depend on — hopefully they will inspire more thoughtfulness about how our individual actions combine to create huge collective impacts.”

“I’m extremely encouraged by the continued show of support from local organizations for the museum, particularly from Hunt Country Vineyards,” says Payne. “The Hunts’ history and success is exactly the kind of story that the museum will share and showcase as we continue to grow.”

To purchase wine and support the Finger Lakes Museum and Aquarium, visit the tasting room at Hunt Country Vineyards or shop online at during the month of April. To learn more about the museum and all of the programs that will be offered this spring and summer, visit

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