When people find out that I run a farm with my partner, they often ask me if I grew up on a farm. Yes and no, I reply. I grew up on subdivided farmland, as many raised in Dutchess County did. Both of my parents worked for the postal service, and while we lived in a rural area, most of the people that we knew did not have a direct connection to agriculture or land-based business. And while the culture of gleaning one’s livelihood from the land was largely absent in my early life, the land itself was very present. From our house in Clinton Corners, I could see a wide spread of our county’s hills, and the Catskills and Shawangunks past the Hudson. Enough time has passed that I can admit to having very little respect for property lines as I rambled through the forests and fields of central Dutchess county. I had very little connection to agriculture, but I fell in love with the land. In many ways, my journey thus far is a playing out of a love affair with the land of the Hudson Valley.
Certainly, there is a lot of politicking about land use. And as we have structured land as a commodity, many people have large economic interests tied up in land. But I feel like these issues and interests can sometime distract us from connecting with a real sense of gratitude for the place where we live. Whether your ancestors came to the Hudson Valley 10 or 10,000 years ago, in the 1970’s or the 1770’s, we are all immigrants to this place. All guests. The valley will still be here when all of our descendants have moved on. That the gift of this place has been passed on to us, and that we are responsible for it being passed onto future generations, should elicit a spirit of stewardship and care from everyone that deals with the land.
My child will grow up with farmers as parents, but it matters very little to me that he pursues agriculture as a profession or even as a passion. I do, however feel grateful that I am able to take him with me as I work, to have him experience the relationship that I am trying to cultivate with the fields that we manage, to have him see me try to make a career out of a land ethic. I feel proud to be able to raise him in the landscape that I hold so dear. And glad that he can see me pursuing my own version of what it means to feel gratitude for this place.
Owen O’Connor runs Awesome Farm, ltd with his partner KayCee Wimbish. They raise and sell grass-fed lamb and beef in Red Hook and Claverack, NY. Owen grew up in Clinton Corners, ans was working in organic vegetable farms before he and KayCee started their own project.