Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Poughkeepsie Farm Project

I just returned from a yearly sojourn up the coast and
wanted to share with you a project in the Hudson

Poughkeepsie NY is not a pretty town. Like many urban
areas, it is in a constant state of decay and renewal.
While Vassar College is certainly a lovely place, the
surrounding neighborhood has gone through the usual
flux of affluence and poverty. A five block walk in
any direction repetitively demonstrates the 'two

Last week my sister drove me through some grubby
streets then hooked onto a narrow dirt and gravel
drive into a stand of trees. Beyond a bend there were
a couple of tiny buildings--and seven acres of
thriving fields. Tucked between city streets, Vassar
College, and office parks is the Poughkeepsie Farm
Project. On land leased from that college, a group of
people devoted toward a just and sustainable food
system for the Mid-Hudson Valley have reawakened
farmland not only for the use of members but to
provide fresh and local produce for local soup
kitchens and shelters and as an experiential learning
arena for students and community members.

My children headed for the strawberry fields where
they turned over little leaves to find tiny sparkling
sweet berries--nothing like the fat fruit we see in
markets (the ones that emphasize the 'straw' not the
berry). A local baker set up his goodies on a plank
under the spreading canopy of a maple tree just before
the distribution building, a cool cave of brick with
barely room to walk through the crates and shelves
stuffed with greens, garlic tops, zucchini, broccoli.
They are still in the late spring season--salads,
young and mature greens, peas, and the beginning of
cucumbers and squashes. The ten pound weekly
allotment is ample for my siter's family of four.

A few steps out of the doorway brings you to the herb
garden which is protected by chicken wire and a woven
vine fence. Paths separate the different beds with
bee balm brightening the entrance. The oregano was
so pungent you could find it in the dark and the
basil! In the center is a small gazebo-meditation area
built by members.

It was so beautiful that I cried.

If you are in Upstate New York up until November, I
encourage you to stop by. The people, of course, are
wonderful and the project is inspiring.




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