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Book details
  • SubGenre:Economic History
  • Language:English
  • Pages:184
  • Paperback ISBN:9781543996289

Pride and Produce

The Origin, Evolution, and Survival of the Drowned Lands, the Hudson Valley

by Cheetah Haysom

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Haysom takes us on a fascinating journey into the mysterious Drowned Lands from the prehistoric era to today, from the Ice Age and early Native Americans to the Age of Global Warming. With uncanny insight we are introduced to its organically-rich black dirt, its hydrology, its flora and fauna, its bountiful crops and the proud but dirt poor immigrants from eastern Europe who within two generations transformed this tangled wetland into one of America's most productive agricultural food sheds, feeding millions of metropolitan consumers while achieving prosperity and a good life for their families.
The human heart of New York State's "Black Dirt" region is Pine Island, population 2,000, a hamlet in the town of Warwick in the South-Central section of Orange County, just 60 miles from New York City. Here, citizens live on outcrops of limestone that rise out of the fertile soil, like islands in a lake – islands in what was indeed once a massive swamp left by melting glaciers 12,000 years ago. Most Pine Islanders are farmers or connected to farming, people enticing out of the crumbly muck lands the onions, lettuce, radishes, cabbages, carrots, corn, pumpkins, squash, and new exotic "specialty" crops that help feed the ethnically diverse and increasingly fresh-food conscious population in the nearby New Jersey-New York-Connecticut tristate region. Part of the riches of the valley is the history of the Polish and German settler communities and their very American stories – people who came to the region poor, worked hard, raised their standard of living and became contributors to both the giant metropolitan food table and the collective immigrant story. Those who drained these Drowned Lands of Orange County and their descendants who still live and farm in the Black Dirt valley are remarkable people. But there is a disconnect between the lives of those farming this fertile region and the growing chorus from the vast urban demographic about the importance of fresh, local food. This is the region producing much of that same fresh, local food yet few of those who are part of the locavore clamor know about the Black Dirt farmlands; few know about the extraordinarily rich dark soil, or the lives, histories and the hardships of the people growing the nutritious vegetables that help feed the biggest mouth in America. Few are aware that the Black Dirt farmers provide more than 7,000 tons of produce annually to the East Coast swath be-tween Boston and Washington DC – one quarter of the U.S. population. Certainly, very few know how vulnerable this region is to dire threats to its survival as an agricultural wonderland.
About the author
Cheetah has been writing all her working life. Born in South Africa, she graduated from the University of Natal, Durban, (BA Law) and started working as a reporter for a newspaper in Cape Town. She was posted to the U.S. in 1975 as a New York-based foreign correspondent for a large group of English-language South African newspapers that opposed the apartheid regime. She covered topics from films to finance, and subsequently wrote for magazines and newspapers around the world. She has lived in Pine Island, in the heart of the Black Dirt farming region of New York State, for 20 years, and written extensively on the region. Cheetah was recently presented with the following awards: • 2019 National Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Editorial Contest • 2018 New York News Publishers Association, Distinguished Business Reporting Award of Excellence