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People In Your Neighborhood
By Anne Pyburn Craig
“My grandfather was a beekeeper,” says Keith Duarte, owner of Damn Good Honey Farm in Kerhonkson with his wife Jennifer. “He died when I was young, and it just always stuck in my mind as something I wanted to do. And when I started, I found it really hard to find practical advice and resources. That’s the impetus behind our business, to get as many people into successful beekeeping as we can.”
It’s a worthy goal. Ancients considered the honey bee absolute proof of the existence of the Mother Goddess. Cave paintings and sculptures dating back as far as 15,000 years celebrate bees as an aspect of divinity.
Early naturalists may not have had the same vocabulary with which to explain that bees communicate with “waggle dances” or that the relationship between individual members of the hive-mind mimic that between neurons in the human brain—but simple observation led them to be understandably amazed. Ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Romans all learned to domesticate the honey bee, and prized them not just for the nutritional and antiseptic qualities of their honey but for the wonders of their wax, used both to form candles and to mummify corpses. Romans believed bees and their blessings to be a gift from bliss-oriented Bacchus.
A thriving colony of queen, 600 to 1,000 drones, and 50 to 60,000 workers is a fine-tuned community in which each bee leads a life of service to the whole; taking care of one another and making more bees. The queen is the only fertile female; given that she can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day in the peak of the season, having tens of thousands of helpers with the rest of life’s daily chores only makes sense. Young female worker bees nurse the babies, choosing the rare future queens to be raised on royal jelly in larger cells, and older workers go out scouting and harvesting.
The males live for one purpose, to impregnate a virgin queen and die. When an excess of virgin queens assembles in one hive, the queens often fight to the death until only one remains. It takes less than a month for a larvae the size of a rice grain to develop into a full-fledged honey bee, capable of flapping its wings 11,000 times a second and seeing an ultraviolet spectrum of color that humans cannot —a creature perfectly designed for harvesting pollen and nectar and capable of processing them into honey and wax with which to build themselves the perfect home.
Under favorable conditions, bees are capable of carrying on with all this in close proximity to humans and without seeming to mind in the least if we invade and scoop out quantities of the sweetness they create from nectar in a process that is part regurgitation and part tongue kiss. Ethical beekeepers take care to harvest only surplus honey, leaving plenty for the hive to sustain itself with over winter.
Things get sticky, so to speak, when bees are treated as a commodity. Bees are big business. Honey bees contributed an estimated $19 billion to the agricultural productivity of the United States via pollination in 2010, and produced about $317 million worth of honey in 2013—and that’s when you calculate the cost of honey at $2.12 per pound.
Humans have been harvesting and eating honey for thousands of years, and only in the last few hundred have we figured out how to do so without completely destroying the hive, as movable-comb hives allowed beekeepers to remove the surplus. But bees, although not overly hostile to being kept (there is a lively and longstanding debate about whether bees learn to recognize their keepers or not) aren’t truly domestic. Beekeeping is understood by its wise practitioners as bee management, rather than bee ownership.
And bee management that is aimed solely at maximizing profit can be lethal. Commercial beekeepers may keep thousands of hives, disrupting their natural cycles by shipping them all over the country as migrant agricultural labor (California’s almond harvest alone requires the services of at least 75 percent of the commercial beehives in the US for two months each year), feeding high fructose corn syrup in place of nutritionally complex honey, and failing to apply the meticulous standards of attention and inspection each hive requires to thrive.
Bees are self-sufficient when they’re allowed to be, but are susceptible to a number of ills. Varroa mite infestations and a bacterial disease called American Foulbrood are only two of a list of conditions that can kill a hive; contagion is a common problem when all those bees are gathered together for major orchard pollination jobs. Add to those the effects of chemical pesticides and the disappearance of habitat caused by urbanization and and monoculture plantings of corn and soy. It’s easy to see why honey bees have had a rough couple of decades.
Around the middle of the last decade, beekeepers and scientists noted an alarming increase in colony collapse disorder (CCD), in which the vast majority of a hive’s workers simply vanish, leaving the queen and a few infants to perish without them. No one is entirely sure what the cause of CCD might be, but although it has slowed since 2010, beekeepers continue to report unsustainably large losses year after year from various causes, and “feral” bee populations have dropped off alarmingly as well. One class of pesticides in particular, neonicotinoids, has come under particular scrutiny for disrupting bees’ navigational abilities and has been banned in the European union.
Doubt and dispute still reign over the question of exactly what is jeopardizing honey bees, but there is no doubt or dispute about their importance. Although other species do pollinate crops, honey bees are the only pollinators humans have learned to manage. The commonly quoted statistic is that about a third of the food humans eat would cease to exist without their help.
Humans, therefore, have stepped up to try to understand what the pollinators need and provide it for them. Best management practices guidelines have been developed and advocated by beekeepers’ associations across the continent, including measures such as minimizing bee exposure to pesticides, disease control, and allowing bees access to a varied diet. In our state, NYBeeWellness.org studies and advocates for honey bee health. Thirty states have developed or are developing Managed Pollinator Protection Plans.
At the federal level, President Obama established a Pollinator Health Task Force to be managed jointly by the EPA and USDA in 2014. The strategy they have implemented is intended to restore honey bee and butterfly health, regulating the use of toxic pesticides during the bees’ residence on orchards they’re pollinating and restoring seven million acres of diverse habitat. Both agencies announced new steps they were taking in 2015; the USDA has found that the farmers and ranchers it works with have stepped up to protect not seven million but fifteen million acres of habitats, and the EPA has announced a ban on new neonicotinoid approvals until the data it has can be further analyzed, along with proposing to develop a list of other bee-friendly regulations.
Along with the government, many smaller organizations and individual humans have taken action on behalf of the bees. Urban beekeeping has grown increasingly popular, as bee enthusiasts have noticed that urban bees thrive away from monoculture farming and the attendant pesticides.
Don’t swat them; if a bee won’t let you be, try stepping from the shade into the sun or vice versa to discourage it. And should your property acquire a wild swarm, call a beekeeper instead of an exterminator; beekeepers can capture them alive and will be happy to re-home them.
You can also take it a step further, and establish a hive or two in your backyard. Besides marketing honey and beeswax products, Damn Good Honey offers beekeeping classes and hive management services, although Duarte says bees are not terribly labor-intensive.
“You learn about your bees and how they interact with your location, and after that you mostly just keep an eye on them,” Duarte says. “Their activity tells you if they’re doing well. Right now, I’m basically doing maintenance checks every two or three weeks.”
There are a number of things non-beekeeping individuals can do to help. Buy only local honey, which benefits both your local beekeeper and your health. Plant a variety of bee-friendly, wide-blooming flowers such as sunflowers.
“People ask me what I think the problem is with the bees, and I tell them the bees don’t have the problem, we do,” Duarte says. “After we’re gone, they’ll re-populate.”
It’s obvious, though, that if we wish to postpone that departure, we’ll keep figuring out how to serve the divine honey bee’s needs.
By Maria Reidelbach
Thin-skinned, glowing, red strawberries, freckled with a multitude of seeds; deep indigo blueberries, glazed with a frosty bloom; juicy, deep pink raspberries; sparkling, claret-colored wineberries; inky, fragrant elderberries; blackcurrants, black caps and blackberries with incredibly complex flavors—these are just a few of the fantastic variety of berries that grow in abundance in our corner of the world. Berries are among the favorite flavors of most of us humans—have you ever wondered why?
I’ve always taken berry-love for granted—why wouldn’t you adore a sweet, juicy, fragrant mouthful of joy? Now, Mark Schatzker’s book, The Dorito Effect, explains the surprising reasons we desire the food that we do and how our innate good taste can be simultaneously hijacked and left high and dry by processed food that promises gustatory bliss.
Turns out that scientists and nutritionists have pondered the question of food attraction for a long time, and marketers have, too. Animal studies are fascinating—goats, left on their own in a meadow with a great variety of plants, will choose their menu as carefully as the most discriminating gourmet, eating very specific amounts of particular plants in a certain order, and varying their menu depending on the season and their state of health. When analyzed for nutrition, it turns out that the goats’ diets meet the exact needs of their biology, and that even the order that the greens are eaten affects things like nutrient absorption rates. Further studies have discovered that the goats are guided by flavor, because in nature, flavors always signify specific nutrients.
Although everyone thinks that humans have lousy noses compared to other animals, that’s only partly true. Schatzker explains that humans have “a cavernous nasal cavity, with ten million smell receptors, like a sensory echo chamber.” A dog’s nose, for example, senses incoming air, but human noses sense incoming and outgoing air, plus aromas wafting up nasal cavities from our mouths. Additionally, a disproportionately large part of our brain tells us what we’re tasting and exactly how it makes us feel. This amazing system is much more accurate than the most advanced aroma-sensing equipment available, even better than chromatograms costing over $350,000. And, like other animals, all that sensory information is there to guide us in eating the most healthful diet.
Meanwhile, animal scientists striving to grow livestock as efficiently and cheaply as possible get cattle, chickens and other animals to eat corn, soybeans and other inappropriate feed by flavoring it to taste like the nutrients the animals naturally crave. They’ve developed all kinds of chemical additives to give the feed enticing flavors and variety. Commercial chicken feed is now so tasty that chickens will keep eating it even if they have the opportunity to go outdoors and peck around for their original favorite grubs, insects, seeds and grasses (so much for “free range”). They’ll eat it until they get so fat they can’t stand up. The added flavors, called “palatants” (because they make the feed palatable) are cheap because flavor chemists synthesize aromas and flavors from widely available chemicals extracted from unrelated plants and other sources. The animals will keep eating, and eating, and eating the phony food because their needs for missing nutrients are never sated.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. Turns out that food scientists have been using the same strategy on our food. It’s no secret that much of the processed food that fills the middle aisles of the supermarket is also made from corn and soybeans, either directly, or indirectly in the form of animals fed the same. Now, virtually all processed food contains human palatants—additional flavoring—usually listed among ingredients as “natural flavors.” (Since the 1980s, it’s been legal to call synthesized flavors, like chemicals extracted from pine trees to make fake vanilla, “natural,” as long as the chemicals don’t come from petrochemicals.)
So when our bodies and souls crave the myriad nutrients found in strawberries and we turn to strawberry Vitamin Water, we’re getting refined sugar, artificial color, “natural” flavors, and a small handful of vitamins, paltry compared with the numbers and balance of phytonutrients in real strawberries. We keep drinking it because it tastes so right. The same thing happens with Buffalo-chicken-wing-with-blue-cheese-flavored corn chips—our exquisitely sensitive taste receptors tell us we’re getting a big variety of foods—chicken, cheese, tomato bbq sauce, and celery with their attendant protein, vitamins, and micronutrients, because in nature, flavor always signifies nutrients, but what we’re being fed is corn starch, high fructose corn syrup and corn oil, with lots of salt, too.
Because food manufacturers have gotten so good at making substances that masquerade as real food, eons of evolution are subverted. Our big beautiful brains are no match for power of deceitful marketers and we keep eating and eating, just like the poor chicken who eats until she can’t stand up.
The good news is, we have a choice! We’ve got real berries here in the Hudson Valley, kick-ass berries that you can grow in your yard, can pick in the wild, or get from your local farmer. I like to use them to make delightful drinks that are ever-so-much more delicious than anything concocted by chemists.
Not long ago, I picked up a bottle of Hudson Valley Standard Strawberry-Rhubarb Shrub at Duo Pantry in Kingston. Shrub is an antique drink that’s been recently revived by creative foodies. It’s outrageously delicious—packed with flavor, sweet, tart, and colorful. Basically, it’s a concentrated syrup made of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. After tasting it, I remembered a shrub recipe in an old cookbook dozing on a back shelf. When I read the recipe years ago, I was curious, but since it was described as being a good drink “in case of emergencies” I passed it by. I made a black currant shrub and it knocked my socks off—this is a very sophisticated drink that is instinctively likeable at the same time. And it’s easy to make a rustic version of shrub from almost any fruit.
Make your own Rustic Fruit Shrub
Take 1 quart of ripe, juicy, fruit, put it into a large mason jar and smash it with the back of a spoon or whatever tool works. Pour 1 cup of vinegar over it and mix. Cap it loosely and put it in the fridge for at least a few days. Stir and smash some more, then strain through a fine metal strainer. Measure the juice and add the same amount of sweetener: sugar, honey or maple syrup. Stir until completely mixed and dissolved. Taste and adjust vinegar and sweetener.
Serve a couple of tablespoons mixed with water or seltzer ice, or use in mixed drinks. Experiment with vinegars (like the classic strawberry and balsamic pairing), add herbs or spices, or try shrubs made with vegetables like celery or beets.
Marianne Courville, co-founder of the Hudson Standard, shared a few tips with me. She said that her company began making shrubs because it’s great made with locally sourced ingredients—they make Concord grape, peach-lavender, apple-coriander-maple, and pear-honey-ginger shrubs, among others. Her only caution was to be aware that vinegar is a fermented liquid and when you introduce additional sugar it may kick off a wave of biological activity. The gas that is generated can explode a tightly capped bottle. So either keep your homemade shrub in the fridge or freezer, or boil it when finished to deactivate any fermentation. The Hudson Standard website has some great drink recipes and serving suggestions. If you’d like to try some of their shrubs, there’s a list of stores online, and they’re served at the People’s Cauldron on Main Street in Rosendale.
Maria Reidelbach is an author, artist and local food activist who lives, works and eats in Accord, NY. Mail to: email@example.com.
By Jodi La Marco
Dance on Friday to the Hillbilly music
I’m a likeable chap, the girls all say
I’ll tumble your outhouse over as a prank
Do what I do when they call me Abe
Now in his 90s, Abe Waruch has long put his days of upending outhouses behind him, but he’s still a likeable chap. The elder farmer’s story was recently set to music by singer/songwriter Kelleigh McKenzie as part of an event hosted by Sage Arts on April 24, entitled Unsung Heroes: A Musical Celebration. Kelleigh came to visit with Abe at his Cherrytown farm throughout this past winter, collecting stories of hardship, camaraderie, and farm life that she then put into song. With such a deep well of experiences to draw from, Kelleigh had plenty of material to work with.
After emigrating from the Ukraine, Abe’s father earned money to purchase his upstate dairy farm while working in New York’s Fulton Fish Market. His mother, also of Ukrainian stock, married her husband when she was just 17, and the two went on to have nine children together. During the early years, the family ran the farm without the assistance of machinery, indoor plumbing, or automobiles.
“In the old days, farming was drudgery,” Abe said. “It was hard work. Everything was by hand.”
I pick them rocks and crank that butter
Climb up in the mow and spread around the hay
Fetch the water from the creek in a pail
Work the field with my ass to the sun all day
Old-time farm life was fraught with hardships that are nearly unfathomable today. Dairy farming is a year-round business, as cattle need to be fed, watered, and milked regardless of the weather. The Waresh family not only ran their farm using limited technology, they also did so during a time when severe winters were the norm.
“We’d pound a hole in the ice in the creek for the cattle to get their snouts in to drink water,” Abe says. “Every night, it would freeze solid again. The cows would drink so much that they’d stand there and shiver. It would chill ‘em right to the bone.”
Challenges like these were par for the course during the early part of the 20th century, and tough times created strong bonds within families and communities. Today, Abe is the last living among his siblings, and his love for his deceased family members is immediately apparent when he tells stories of his sisters and brothers. On the farm, everyone worked.
“The girls could do it just as good as the boys,” Abe says, explaining that his sisters would pick rocks after plowing right along with his brothers. One of his sisters, Vera, even insisted on walking daily to Kerhonkson so that she could attend high school at a time when an eighth grade education was typical among both genders. “She was the only one who did it,” he says.
Abe himself may not have attended high school, but his quick wit and farming knowhow was indispensable within the family and the surrounding community.
“Abe knows cows,” says Kelleigh, who used her song not only to relate the overall story of the Abe’s life, but to capture tidbits of his farming expertise. After watching a veterinarian assist a mother cow during a difficult birth, Abe learned the telltale signs of a heifer in labor too long, and how to reposition a calf to assist in the delivery.
Cow got a problem, know how to solve it
Farmer come a’ hollerin’: The calf won’t come!
Rope around the feet, two fingers in the mouth
Pull the calf out, get the birthing done
Skills such as these were invaluable to neighboring farmers, who relied on Abe when a birth was going wrong. In turn, farmers in the community rallied around the Waruch family when they themselves needed help. One summer, at the peak of the haying season, Abe’s father broke his neck and was unable to work.
“Every farmer pitched in and got the hay in the barn,” Abe explains. “That was the ritual. Everybody pitched in. They knew that my dad had nine children.”
Kelleigh’s clear, high voice combined with the down-home sound of her 1897 Fairbanks banjo captures not only Abe’s experiences, but his joyful outlook in spite of a difficult life. Seeing the challenges of working the land first-hand, none his five children chose to pursue farming, instead moving to places as far away as Guatemala and Alaska to pursue lives and careers of their own. Cattle may no longer graze the land of the Waresh family farm, but the spirit of the men and women who toiled here lives on in the next generation.
All my kids I sent to college
All went out and made me proud
Growing their families all around the world
But they sprouted up in Cherrytown
By David Dewitt
Lately I’ve been performing again. Singing and acting. Something I used to do with more regularity years ago but had not pursued very much after Finn was born.
Rehearsals have required me to be in the city away from Finn and Erin for a couple of long stretches. It’s the first time Finn and I have been away from each other for extended periods since he was born.
Facetime has made it more bearable, but I think the most challenging thing is explaining to him what I’m doing. I don’t think he fully comprehends the acting thing yet. He has attended some live performances, but none where Erin or I have played a character.
On one of my days off we spent the day together and he wanted to know more.
“It’s just pretending,” I said, “like when you and I play pretend, but I’m doing it in front of an audience. I’m actually pretending to be someone’s Dad.”
“WHAT!!?” he said, followed by a dramatic pause. “That’s silly.”
At night we Facetime before bed. Being able to see each other’s faces when we talk seems to lessen the blow of the physical absence. At least it does for me.
But it also makes that link of communication feel more precious. A few days ago, the morning after performing in a concert on Long Beach Island, Erin and I were enjoying a rare and all too brief time on the beach. I had just snapped a few pictures with my phone when a sudden wave forced us to grab our blanket and belongings and run farther from the water.
Once we were settled back down, I discovered my phone was missing. With it being practically brand new, I was frantically digging in the sand. I immediately began thinking how stupid I was for not buying the insurance that the pushy cell phone salesman had urged me to get.
We used the phone finder app from Erin’s phone to see if it was still showing a signal. It was, but the blue dot it showed on the map covered a large area. For what seemed like an eternity I combed through the sand with my fingers trying to skim the whole circle.
Then Erin found a way to turn on a ping through the phone finder app. The sound was just loud enough to hear above the ocean waves. Thankfully it was a few feet away buried in the dry sand. I couldn’t believe how completely covered the phone had gotten in that instant.
Of course it would have been ok if we hadn’t found it. It would have been a pain, but I would have survived, gotten a new phone, and bought the insurance.
But it made me think about the importance of connection and the fear of disconnection.
How essential it is for Finn to have these opportunities to learn to deal with separation. And maybe through the process, his Father will learn to deal with it as well.
David Dewitt is an artist, blogger, and painter who lives with his family in the Rondout Valley. For more, visit daviddewitt.com.
By Lee Reich
Most garden plants need about an inch of water a week, which comes out to a three-quarter of a gallon per square foot. You can give that water in one shot, once a week, or in small doses, say one-seventh of an inch each day. For the benefit of your plants, you’ve got to be consistent in whatever watering schedule you choose. Of course, who’s going to remember to go out every single day to give all their plants just a little water? Hence the traditional recommendation to water deeply and infrequently.
Enter “drip irrigation,” an automated method of delivering water to plants in small doses. Small doses of water promote shallow rooting, so you may wonder what the advantage of drip irrigation is. Well, shallow rooting is beneficial because most of the feeder roots of plants live near the surface of the soil. Why? Because that is where nutrients, air, and biological activity are most concentrated.
Drip irrigation also uses water very efficiently. When you flood the soil once a week around a plant using a sprinkler or watering can, you fill up all the soil pores. But plant roots need air to function, so do not begin to drink up any water until gravity drains enough water out of the soil to leave some air spaces. Then, the plant draws on water still clinging to soil particles by capillary attraction. But that first water that drained away was wasted. Drip irrigation supplies water gradually, the way plants drink it up, with roots always working at their best because the soil never need be flooded.
One of the most important components of my drip irrigation system is a water timer, which automatically waters my garden every day through the summer. The timer is inexpensive, operates on a battery, and threads right onto my hose spigot. I set the timer to turn the water on six times a day, but for only a few minutes each time, just long enough to deliver a total of one-seventh of an inch of water each day.
Before the water makes its way out to my garden, it also passes through three other items attached to the timer. These items are: a backflow preventer, which keeps water running in one direction only (to prevent siphoning in case of a pressure drop); a filter; and a pressure regulator. Drip irrigation operates at low pressure, so inexpensive, low pressure fittings can be used and minimal demands are made on household water.
OUT TO THE GARDEN
The water is carried out to, and through, my garden in half-inch, black plastic pipe, which can be buried if desired. Once out in the garden, water is dripped to plants via “emitters” that plug into this tubing. Wherever I have a continuous row of plants—carrots or other vegetable plants, for example—I plug in a special tube that drips out water at closely spaced intervals along its length, then run that emitter tube along the row of plants. For my blueberry shrubs, each spaced seven feet apart, I run the half-inch pipe along the row of plants, then plug in a couple of individual spot emitters next to each plant.
These emitters, whether tube or spot emitters, are more than just leaky pieces of plastic. The best of them are technological marvels that consistently put out a specified amount of water even if water pressure changes. They also have little flaps or channels for swirling water around and preventing the tiny orifices from becoming clogged with any debris that might enter the line. Most emitters can be buried, but mine are on the surface of the ground so I can periodically check up on them.
If you can now picture in your mind your garden watered by drip irrigation, you might also “see,” in that picture, some other advantages of this system. Fewer weeds, for example. Drip irrigation puts water precisely where you want it, so you’re not promoting weeds and wasting water on paths or bare soil, both unavoidable with a sprinkler. And because plant foliage remains dry with drip irrigation, chances for diseases are minimized.
Rain rarely falls as soon as a plant needs water, so even in a wet summer, plants grow better with timely watering. And in a dry summer -- well, the effect of watering is dramatically obvious. My corn, which grows eight-foot-high stalks even in dry years, is testimonial to the benefits of drip irrigation.
Lee Reich, PhD (leereich.com) is a garden and orchard consultant; he hosts workshops at his New Paltz farmden, which is a test site for innovative techniques in soil care, pruning, and growing fruits and vegetables.
By Terence P Ward
Looking for a different way to tap into the wonders of the region with your children this summer? Here’s a selection of attractions for a variety of ages and interests, ranging from live animals and natural history to appreciation of art and science.
Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum
Billed as “Hudson Valley’s best place for (little) kids,” this Poughkeepsie museum is packed with programs and exhibits designed to attract the wee ones and keep them busy as they learn by encouraging exploration, be it with giant foam shapes or a mastodon skeleton. There are parent guides to the exhibits available online. The museum also has weekly drop-in sessions and family learning nights. Admission is $8 per person age one and older; check mhcm.org for hours and additional programs. 75 North Water Street, Poughkeepsie.
Kinderhook has played host to a portion of the Jack Shainman Gallery for the past two years, dubbed “the School” because the 30,000-square-foot space was once a schoolhouse. The School provides a local option for viewing of artists from North America, Africa, and East Asia. Through October 22, on display is A Change of Place: Four Solo Exhibitions, which “converge on themes of transformation, environment, and remembrance.” Two of the artists focus on contemporary wars, a third is showing apisculptures (made collaboratively by artist and a colony of bees), and the last installation is “composed of paintings made from photographs taken of interiors of The School.” The School is open 11am-5pm on Saturdays. 25 Broad Street, Kinderhook.
On the campus of the Millbrook School, Trevor Zoo is the only zoo in the United States that’s at a high school. On six acres are housed 180 animals from 80 species, tended by both professional staff and student volunteers who are learning the ropes. It’s open every day of the year for just $5 admission. Bring your own food, and expect to carry your trash out with you. 282 Millbrook School Road, Millbrook.
Fishing Center & Museum
There is a something about fly fishing that transcends using bait; the artistry and mimicry needed to tie an effective lure takes the relationship between angler and fish to a whole new level. Local fly fishing is on display in Livingston Manor, where exhibits about legends of the art intersect with classes to put visitors on the road to mastery themselves. “We invite you to interact with the fly tyers, rod makers, environmentalists, and naturalists who present programs at the center.” Admission is $12, and the museum is open 10am-4pm seven days a week until November, then Tuesday-Saturday. 1031 Old Route 17, Livingston Manor.
New York State Museum
The Albany-based New York State Museum is “dedicated to exploring the human and natural history of the state.” It includes an ever-changing series of exhibits that explore the art, history, geography, and ecology of the Empire State. With 100,000 square feet in which to work, museum staffers can maintain several permanent exhibits even while switching others out seasonally. Visitors are sure to see the Cohoes mastodon and learn about Adirondack wilderness and Albany archeology, among others. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday by donation, but the parking fee is mandatory, not suggested. 222 Madison Avenue, Albany.
By Jodi La Marco
Headquartered in New Paltz and produced in Saratoga, Smart Beer is New York’s first and only organic beer company. Since its launch last November, the fledgling brand has seen its distribution rapidly expand. Smart Beer’s IPA and Golden Ale are offered in Westchester, New York City, and Long Island, and this July, the company hit another milestone when its organic products hopped the border into New Jersey.
“When I had the idea for Smart Beer five years ago, I was transitioning out of the music industry,” says Smart Beer founder, Gabriel Heymann. “What I loved about the craft beer industry, was that it really reminded me culturally of what the music industry had just gone through: this renaissance where independent, local music became the mainstream thing that people were really into. When I talked to people about my idea, they believed I could create it; that home brewers could become beer companies. That’s really the ethos of the craft beer scene; that it does start local and it does start small.”
All of the organic grains and hops used in Smart Beers’ products are grown in the United States, and over time, Heymann hopes to source even more local ingredients.
“The goal is to work with local farmers to increase ingredient production as close to home as possible,” he says.
The brand was also created based on the idea that drinking beer is a social activity that brings people together.
“People get together for a beer to share ideas, or to meet people for the first time,” Heymann says. When people spend time chatting over a pint, he says, they are also inadvertently advertising their values through the products they choose.
“Standing at a bar, you’re drinking with friends, and it’s kind of a billboard representing who you are,” Heymann says. “Now more than ever, the products that we purchase, the things we’re involved in, say so much about us. I think all of the products we spend our money on have that potential to make a statement about who we are and what our values are. I realized that drinking beer had the opportunity to do that as well.”
After ending his music career, Heymann became a yoga instructor, and counted among his friends Pilates teachers, surfers, snowboarders, and others looking for a beer that fit their healthy lifestyle. In short, the company’s dedication to using local, organic ingredients sprang from a desire to create the type of beer that Heymann and his friends wanted to drink themselves.
“I really wanted to create a great-tasting, refreshing, organic beer that fit my lifestyle and my friends’ lifestyles,” he says.
This “For Us, By Us” mentality has quite literally shaped Smart Beer’s products.
“We feel we are our target audience. I created these beers for me and my friends. It felt like if we created the taste profile we were looking for in collaboration with brew masters and experts, we could really have a great product. And, we do.
Learn More about Smart Beer
By Jodi La Marco
Last year, Dia in Beacon was host to approximately 85,000 visitors, and the museum’s growing popularity has put its host city on the map as an upstate getaway for those seeking a dose of culture in the Hudson Valley. Beacon’s increasingly hip reputation has also been bolstered by BeaconArts, a non-profit organization created with the intention of promoting the city as a place for creative-types to visit, work, and move to.
The organization was started ten years ago by a group of artists and arts-related business owners.
“We knew that there was an artist community in Beacon then, but it didn’t have a way of really showing itself,” says BeaconArts President Dan Rigney. “We knew that there were individual artists, makers, and people who would be interested in having creative businesses in Beacon, possibly opening galleries, or maybe even setting up their graphic design businesses here. One of the great things about Beacon is that it’s a place where artists can actually afford to own a home, make work, and raise a family without worrying about their loft going condo because they actually own their home.”
So, how exactly does BeaconArts promote the city as an arts and culture destination? Individuals and businesses pay a yearly (or quarterly) fee to become a BeaconArts member. The organization then uses that money to promote the town through print and radio ads, and through the distribution of a map which lists all of BeaconArts’ members.
“We do things like the Dutchess County tourism guide, we’ve done advertising on WAMC,” says Rigney. “Advertising gets expensive for an individual artist. Small artists in Beacon likely can’t spend that money, but we can spend that money, and they can receive the benefit of the increased attention and foot traffic. When we began, there weren’t really that many businesses, but I’m happy to report that at this stage, we actually have over 80 Main Street businesses as members, along with about 180 individual members of the community.”
In its role as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, BeaconArts also helps artists bring their ideas to life.
“Artists don’t need to go out and form their own non-profit, because we already have one,” says Rigney. “They can come to us, and we can basically take care of the back end of things. We’re doing all of the things that need to be done to make a project good with the IRS by monitoring the administrative side of things.”
With BeaconArts handling the paperwork, artists are then free to concentrate on raising funds, promoting their ideas, and most importantly, making art.
“We’re not a chamber of commerce, and we don’t want to be, Rigney says. “We were created specifically to promote and build a creative community. It’s not just a tourism economy here. I believe that we have helped bring creative people’s attention to Beacon.”
Learn More about BeaconArts
by Kristen Warfield
With a history dating back to before the land’s original purchase by French Huguenot settlers from the Lenape Indians in the 17th century, the Phillies Bridge Farm in New Paltz has seen its fair share of human interaction. But despite its bustling nature from now being a working Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, this 65-acre property is not slated to change anytime soon.
This farmland, and thousands of more miles throughout Ulster and Dutchess counties, are flowering with rural character, charm and beautiful viewsheds – and select locals have been working for decades to keep them that way.
These parcels of land, due to a unique legal agreement, will remain generally untouched and away from the hands of overdevelopment forever. Conservation easement is the technical term for the practice, which has a main goal of protecting the biological integrity of the land. Depending on the property, easements can limit dimensions of any future building construction, how the land is used and which types of activity can be permitted on it. Throughout the state, over 30 organizations exist to protect these open spaces, natural resources, scenic views and treasured wildlife habitats.
“Once you change the land, it is really hard to change it back,” says Christie DeBoer, executive director of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT), which has worked to preserve over 2,500 acres of land in Ulster County. “One day, our great-grandchildren will come here and it will look similarly to the way it did to previous generations…easements protect what we have now, and preserve the rich history that came before it.”
Easements are not just for community-recognized areas of land or those with historical significance–private landowners with eligible property can get their land protected as well, which can be tax deductible. Owners can ensure that their open land will not become a housing development once they are no longer around to look after it, for example.
Prior to the 1980s, however, land trusts in the area ceased to exist. With the economic boom that development can bring, the rapid development from open space to buildings and roadways loomed on until people noticed that some land would be better off untouched.
“Our organization was formed in 1985 based on the fact there were some development proposals in areas that were very rural and people understood that these projects would totally change the character of this area and zoning would not protect what was most important,” says Becky Thornton, president of the Dutchess Land Conservancy (DLC), which has saved more than 39,000 acres since its inception.
In Dutchess County, one notable property protected by the DLC is the historic Dover Stone Church, a popular hiking destination where Pequot Indian Chief Sassacus once hid in refuge to avoid capture. Later in history, tourists would ride there from New York City via stagecoach to explore this culturally significant cavern, which is given its name due to its high, church-like stone peaks.
Across the river, the picturesque Rosendale Trestle and the Wallkill-Valley Rail Trail are Ulster landmarks owned by the WVLT. The trail and trestle were once railways from 1866 to 1977, serving as a connector between Kingston, Rosendale, New Paltz, Gardiner, Walden and surrounding towns.
Phillies Bridge Farm’s easement, enacted in 2003 by the WVLT, allows it to still be active farmland, but restricts the amount of construction that can be done on the property and disallows invasive activities like riding ATVs or other motorized vehicles through its 45 acres of forests and wetlands.
These limitations and more, DeBoer says, are necessary to preserve not only natural resources and viewshed, but also the habitat of those that can’t do so for themselves: the wildlife.
“Animals are using this land whether you see them or not,” DeBoer says, noting of one conserved property in Gardiner with a flock of over 90 box turtles. “They’re everywhere, and this is their home – so we do what we can to make sure it is there for them.”
For more information or to inquire about a conservation easement for your own land, contact the Dutchess Land Conservancy at 845-677-3002 for land in Dutchess County or the Wallkill Valley Land Trust at 845-255-2761 for Ulster County properties.