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Orleans County’s other ‘big ditch’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 August 2013 at 12:00 am

BARRE – The Erie Canal tends to get all the attention as a man-made waterway in these parts, but Orleans County is home to another “big ditch,” the series of drainage improvements used to create the Elba Muck about a century ago.

The Elba Muck covers about 7,000 acres in Genesee and Orleans counties. Many immigrants and woodsman cleared a swamp and built 90 miles of ditches to drain the land. Farmers in the two counties formed a special watershed district and they pay to pump water with sump pumps and other devices and keep the land from becoming waterlogged.

Driving out to the muck is like visiting a different planet with the dark black soil. It’s worth a drive out there to check out the place that brought many hard-working immigrants to our community.

The muck remains highly productive farmland. Two Albion farms, Triple G and Panek, are among the 10 farms that still work the land at the former swamp.