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HOME GROWN: A Quadricentennial Exhibit that explores local farms and gardening in Piermont and Rockland County

Tuesday Jun 2, 2009 Tuesday Jun 30, 2009

This exhibit was on display in June 2009.



Photo by Susan Freiman.

  • Photographs by Susan Freiman
  • Lecture by Joan Dye Gussow, Ph.D. - Sunday, June 7, at 2 p.m. Read more »
  • Opening Reception - Sunday, June 14, from 2-4 p.m. The public is invited to attend and refreshments will be served.

Susan Freiman says about this exhibit:

Rockland County is a fabulous place to grow a huge variety of delicious fruits and vegetables.


Photo by Susan Freiman.

In fact, some of my warmest memories of growing up in Rockland County involve gardens and farms. When I was a young child we had a family vegetable garden. I remember harvesting string beans with my dad after an intense thunderstorm, amazing my mom with our harvest. Another "local food" memory is walking down Maple Avenue with one of my grandfathers to buy apples from a neighborhood orchard, and then watching with delicious impatience as my grandmother made homemade applesauce. For other Rockland County kids of my generation, large fields of sweet corn whetted their appetites. Also nearby were vegetable farms, sheep and chickens.

Garlic and chickens

Photo by Susan Freiman.

In 1950, there were 406 farms in Rockland County, covering 17,360 acres. In 1999, there were only 5 farms left in Rockland County, farming only 250 acres. It's now 2009. Is anyone gardening and farming in Rockland? Newer (and smaller) farms include Camp Hill Farm in Pomona, Danny's Backyard Organics in Orangeburg, the Pfeiffer Center for Biodynamic Agriculture in Chestnut Ridge, and Bluefield Farm in Blauvelt.

Older (and larger) farms include Threefold Farm in Chestnut Ridge and Conklin's Orchard in Pomona. While Conklin's is the oldest by far (the farm will be 300 years old in 2012), the Conklin family no longer owns the farm. In 2000, Rockland County instituted a "Farmland Protection Plan". I put that in quotes because even though the County used this program to purchase three farms (Conklin's, Cropsey's and Erickson's), there are no permanent farm mandates in any of the new deeds. Two of the farms (Cropsey's and Conklin's) only have 25 year farm mandates. The third farm (Erickson's) had no farm mandate in its new deed at all. A printout from the County's Division of Environmental Resources even includes all three of these farms in a list of county parkland. Without real and permanent farmland protection, the most likely eventual fate of all three farms will be soccer fields, golf courses, etc., just like the excess RPC and Letchworth land. Is this what's best for Rockland County? I say no.

To understand why we should increase and protect local farms, increase and protect community gardens, and train home gardeners, one of the primary Rockland residents to listen to is Joan Gussow. Joan, a teacher, mentor and inspiration to many, is one of the originators and prime movers of the nationwide local foods and farms movement. While Joan often works on a national level to support local foods and farms, she is working with a number of local farm and garden organizations including the Rockland Farm Alliance and Hands 2 Mouth.

The Rockland Farm Alliance is working hard to accomplish many worthwhile goals regarding local foods, local farms and real permanent farmland protection in Rockland County–but they will need lots of public support and help to accomplish their goals.

What about community gardening and home gardening, which are two additional and important aspects of local foods? The Hands 2 Mouth Garden Initiative was started and developed by Rocklanders Lisa Kaess and Anthony Geathers. Hands 2 Mouth helps facilitate and support both community gardens and home gardening. Plus, the Cornell Cooperative Extension has added a new Green Gardener training program and it still has its popular Master Gardener training program.

Farming and gardening are a big part of our Rockland County history. Farms and gardens can help provide a greener future, too. Let's keep Rockland moving forward in the 21st century by protecting and increasing our local farms, community gardens and home gardens. With your help, we can.

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