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Agrarianism and Hudson Valley Agriculture

When today's Hudson Valley growers are lionized in the pages of foodie magazines or the travel section of the New York Times, they are depicted as practicing a dying trade and preserving open space for the cultural and environmental good. Many of the region's farmers see themselves as part of a hardscrabble agricultural tradition (my own hometown in the region celebrates an annual "Hardscrabble Day"), and certainly their precarious economic position relative to owners of factory farms supports this perspective. Many of their ancestors came from very humble backgrounds, and some struggled against the oppressive tenant system of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Though they may own hundreds of acres of land and hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of farm equipment, their ability to stay afloat from year to year is never assured. Yet advocates of open space preservation see farmers' valiant fight to "hold on" as a defense against the developer's bulldozer.

At the same time, these farmers are enjoying the revival of interest in Hudson Valley agriculture by living up to the idealism of boutique farms, heritage fruit, pick-your-own venues, and branded products. Farmers' markets have proliferated all over the region, and numerous restaurants tout local products on their menus. "Violet Hill