Culture is a part of agriculture. Art has depicted agrarian life in all eras. Here’s a look at modern farming. Organic farming and Community Supported Agriculture is helping many struggling farm operations stay in business as well as provided a path for new farmers. In the book, “Organic; Farmer’s of the Hudson Valley”, there are many photographs showing the people who are cultivating the organic movement in that region.
The images below of the Hudson Valley farmers shows four faces, all hard worn and sun soaked. None of the people depicted are smiling but there is something beautiful in each face. The people in these photographs show what it means to be a modern, organic farmer.
These images were taken by photographer Francesco Mastalia who used an antique form of photography, called wet plate collodion process, developed in the mid 19th century, to invoke the nostalgia of these images (Organic). With this antique look, we are reminded that the tenets of organic agriculture are not wholly new. Using organic methods is what was always done, up until the advent of chemical agriculture in the past century. Organic agriculture, however, is not wholly antiquated. It incorporates traditional farming practices with new innovations. These images show the juxtaposition of the old and the new, in the faces and styles of the people who practice organic farming.
The young man with long dread locks is not the typical image most people conjure up when visualizing a farmer. But in fact, people from many walks of life are finding their passion in farming. I found an interview with the young man in this photograph. His name is Jay Uhler. On a Peace and Carrots farm in the Hudson Valley, Uhler works as a laborer, sleeping in the greenhouse at night. The farm life is good for him. In the interview, Uhler says that while farming, “I’m happier,” (Dirt-Mag).
For many farms, the conventional methods have failed due to a variety of reasons but many of them being external forces such as market fluctuations and the push to consolidate into large scale operations. Many farms are going under while still others are adapting to the changes and growing what consumers want: local, organic, interesting and value-added. The Hudson Valley farmer’s are filling those niches.
When looking through other images from a magazine article published about Peace and Carrots farm, which is a small farm operation on the grounds of a larger family dairy. The small vegetable operation is ran by a young woman who is the descendant of many generations of dairy farmers. The young woman has red dreadlocks and looks both bright eyed but apprehensive. Standing next to her is her father and grandfather who are weathered with time, who’s hands show the labor of decades on the farm. Those men are facing the reality that the farm as they know it cannot exist in the economic realities of today and are mourning this change.
Change is hard, and to those who have worked a lifetime, only to find it failing economically, is a burden to the soul. May the old merge with the new in a positive way to provide to the livelihoods of people, be good for the environment, pay homage to tradition, look towards creative innovation and may all prosper in the future.
Mastalia, F. (2014). Organic: Farmers and chefs of the Hudson Valley. Brooklyn, NY: Power House Books.