Fifteen local farmers gathered at the Carey Institute on December 7th to talk about the challenges and opportunities of farming in the Helderberg Hilltowns. Market access was identified as a top issue, along with lack of infrastructure.
Despite its marginal soil quality when compared to other regional resources like the Schoharie Valley or Hudson Valley, the Helderbergs possess some valuable qualities. “This area has never seen modern agriculture—no spraying or commodity crops. The landscape is pristine,” said Richard Ronconi of Partridge Run Apiary.
The area is also highly forested and many fields are reverting to forest. The loss of open fields concerned some farmers. But, Audrey Kropp, a local resident and an educator at the Agro-Forestry Resource Center in Acra, NY highlighted that a well-managed forest can provide high-value crops.
The Hill & Mountain Farming Project is part of the Carey Institute’s Sustainable Communities Program. The project was inspired by the treatment of mountain agriculture in other countries around the world as a distinct agricultural system possessing high natural, cultural and social value, despite physically and economically challenging characteristics. The project will work with area farmers to share knowledge of sustainable hill and mountain farming practices and to explore new marketing opportunities. A second meeting will be held in January 2017.