Living among the steel and skyscrapers, New Yorkers might think farming just simply isn’t a way of life here. When shopping for our food, many purchase chicken from brands like Tyson and National Beef Packing Co., probably never wondering where our food really is coming from. Although the lands of green pasture seem so far away, many might not be aware that there are plenty of local farmers here in New York.
In the world of major corporations running the show, like the GMO conglomerate Monsanto, it is important to know where our food comes from. Even though we live in a major city, that doesn’t mean we should settle on the health and wellness of our food. Factory farming is not only bad for the animals, it is also bad for us and the farmer. Animals are often treated under poor conditions. They are often pumped with hormones and antibiotics, even when they are not sick. Because their systems become susceptible to bacteria after being immune from the antibiotics, we can get sick from the illness they could be carrying. Factoring farming is also bad for the environment, polluting the air and areas around the factories. Who suffers the most is the local farmer who put their blood, sweat and tears into this way of life and are side-changed.
Would you trust those who won’t even properly label our food? Instead, we should be supporting our local farmers and if we care not only about our bodies, but for the environment we live in, we should be following a slogan used by the Slow Food Movement to aim for “good, clean, fair” food. (Slow Food Movement signs were displayed by Jeffersonville, NY.)
Farm life is indeed close to home, the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens both having functional farms. But just a few short hours away, the upstate region of New York is abundant with farm life. Maybe more importantly, the farmers embrace this way of life and while some live this lifestyle as an occupation, others do it simply for the love of it.
Along with his family, Jim Hughson, a lifelong resident of the Idyllic town of Jeffersonville, NY, operates one of the countries most recognized Excavation and Sanitation firms. He continues to employ many local individuals, even during this challenging economy. His immediate family still remains fully active in the farming business, over the mountainside. His mother, Helen and twin sister Hazel have been recognized as the County’s oldest siblings at 94. They drive into town daily.
The sounds and smell of being on any farm is quite awakening to the typical city nostril. For farmers, this becomes unnoticeable because of growing up and working in this lifestyle.
Jim Hughson works in the construction business as well as dabbling in excavation and sanitation. He is also the owner Silvio’s, the Jeffersonville Inn restaurant. Although he has a day job, in addition to all those responsibilities, Hughson also runs a farm. He does this not for the money, or because this he what he needs to do to provide for his family, but because farming is his passion. Hughson believes that getting on a tractor and being alone outdoors can put the mind at peace, something that is therapeutic.
As a city dweller tends to picture farms the way we see them in movies – the typical red barn that lies near the house where a family rises before the crack of dawn to collect eggs from the chicken coop, the whole farm closely structured together with the family right in the middle of it. For Hughson, this is not the case. Located on the other side of the mountain that is draped with trees baring rusted copper and golden leaves is Hughson’s family house. But minutes away is the land he owns land that is big enough for miniature horses, chickens, cows and pigs to roam around.
The first noticeable aspect of all the animal’s temperaments was that they were happy. They appeared to be liberated. They had the freedom to roam around the property, some looking like nomads, others isolated in peace.
That was until one removes eggs from the chicken coop, momma hens clucking in mourning, the egg warm after her tender loving care. The chickens and roosters were not caged up like prisoners and enjoyed afternoon strolls along the property. The cows, although were fenced in for obvious safety and tending to purposes had plenty of room to wander down hill or to stay close to calves that were unrestricted. They communicated by call and response methods, an angry “Moo!” hollered by one, followed by a collective and no in sync echo. While some cows seemed aggressive towards an outsider, it was as if they were only protecting their land. The baby calves wobbled in the dirt, all having their own personalities. One specifically resting next to a pig-pen was a ham. The approximately three-month old calf foamed at the mouth with excitement, sticking its slug like, greyish tongue out for shameless licks. Drool dropped down the mouth and her head bobbed pleasingly while being stroked.
One could tell these animals are loved, even if they one day would be dinner. This puts a fresh perspective on where our food comes from. Hughson uses the products of his farm for himself and his family and does not supply food in mass production. He also has small corn crops, but this specific farm is strictly a passion for this man, not a cash cow. However, his brother still remains to be a full fledged, functioning farmer. Although the existence of many local farmers has greatly diminish, Sullivan Count, NY, is a typical reminder of how America once was.
Compared to the city mice with green thumbs nursing mint leaves and the like in apartment fire escapes, the country folk take farming as not only a way of life, but as essential and meaningful part in their lives. One can’t get more organic than products coming straight from the farm itself. According to “The Old Farmer’s 2013 Almanac” by Robert B. Thomas, “An overwhelming 97 percent of the farms and ranches were still family owned as of 2009, but this figure doesn’t make include the small-scale growers who produce food in their own backyards and\or in community plots to save money and improve their health.”
While living in the big city, we have enough problems to worry about. Take care of your health and remember the local farmers who help subsidize your next meal might just be coming from kind-hearted, dedicated individuals like Jim Hughson.