Monthly Archives: September 2013

Wait…the Hudson flows North and South?!

The seasonal turning of the leaves in deciduous forests around the world completely changes the living experience and vibe of the morphing landscapes. A beautiful, but stagnant green canvas, transforms itself into a plethora of vibrant colors, the living painting evolves. The turning process has just recently begun in the Hudson Valley so the true magnificence of fall is not quite here. To take full advantage of the beauty of fall in the Hudson River Valley I decided to take a day trip to the newly famous – Walkway Over the Hudson.


Parallel to the Mid-Hudson Bridge (cars/trucks), the Walkway is a reconstructed train bridge and was built in 2009. It is the longest, elevated pedestrian bridge in the world (wow) and is 1.28 miles long. Conveniently located next to the train station, Marist, and the CIA (the secret food agency), it is a hot spot for Dutchess County tourism. After a brief drive from Vassar to the Walkway I found myself stepping into a typical tourist trap. The sun was shining, the leaves were turning, and it was parents’ weekend at Marist. This concoction of humanity was prime for the tourist industry. They sell merchandise as a reminder of a beautiful place, a token of a special memory. It was as if New York City had somehow transplanted itself north, and all of Manhattan was walking the bridge that day.


There were so many people walking the bridge it was almost unbelievable, almost Disney-world-esque. Many walkers were proud parents sporting their newly purchased Marist t-shirts, joining the gang. Others were elderly New Yorkers who walked the bridge with a paid tour guide, educating them on the history of the bridge, the river, and the environment. The bridge and parking is free of charge, however the start of the bridge is a gathering of vendors that range from kettle corn (which I bought) ūüôā to Walkway Over the Hudson merchandise. The tourist trap was unescapable, and I was reeled in by the wonderful smell of popcorn.


From there my friend and I began to walk out over the slow moving waters of the Hudson River. First traversing our way over the highway, the train tracks, and a home who had purchased giant tarps to retain the privacy of their living spaces. From there the famous scenic views began to glow before my eyes. The shining sun, the crisp clouds, the living river, all combined to create a space that would bring a smile to the Grinch’s face. Off in the distance, to our north, a ridge of rolling mountains smiled at us across the meandering Hudson. As we made our way over the river we gradually obtained a better view of the city of Poughkeepsie. Off to the north the CIA’s main building looked almost like the famous Grand Hotel on the horse-and-buggy island society of Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan. Even closer, the Marist campus dotted the shoreline with it’s many academic buildings. Right below the walkway on the eastern shore, abandoned industry had left the area scarred, burned, and visibly useless. A sad sight to see, but a memory and potentially a lesson on how industry effects the natural environment.


As we reached the middle of the bridge, the land and river sprawled before us north and south, our vision limited by the mountains (hills to a person from Colorado). It was a gorgeous day for outdoor activities, and residents and tourists alike were taking full advantage of the beautiful weather. The bridge is tied to the local economy in so many different ways. It is an attraction for the local colleges. For Vassar, Marist, and CIA visitors (prospective students) are able to view the beauty that is the Hudson River Valley. Even the locals are given a new perspective of their homeland, possibly gaining a new appreciation for the natural aspect of their living space. The bridge is a great draw into the Poughkeepsie area, increasing time (and thus money) spent in the Poughkeepsie area. It is definitely used for leisure and recreation, providing a nice outlet and escape from the urban spaces that surround many lives in New York. It is a magnet to the Dutchess County, especially from New York City and it’s suburbs.


The Walkway Over the Hudson is an amazing thing in so many different ways. It provides a healthy activity for locals and visitors alike. It provides a scenic view of the land and hopefully changes some attitudes and views concerning the natural environment. Making people understand that without the land and what it holds, we would be dead. They may finally be able to grasp the full power of nature, before returning to the concrete jungle. The Walkway Over the Hudson should be visited by all who come to the Hudson Valley, I highly recommend it.


For more information Рcheck out :

P.S. due to tidal changes in the Atlantic Ocean the Hudson sometimes flows north, and other times, flows south ~ trippy ~




Locusts on Hudson Exploration


When we came rolling up the scenic hills toward Locusts on Hudson, the pleasant aroma of farmland filled the van. The historic estate covers as much as 75 acres of land. In the distance, behind well placed trees, one could catch glimpses of a river rolling by. We met with Zach and Locusts 1Olivia, whose smiles made us feel ever so welcome. They live and farm on this land, owned by a restaurant owner who took to renovating the property three years ago, seeking out farm fresh alternatives in a fixed market. What Zach and Olivia grow mainly winds up on the plate of the New York City restaurant, apart of a hotel with a highline skyline, which is owned by the owner of the farm. Theses farmers have had difficulty working with the chefs, as the restaurant already has a set menu. Thus, the farm is not always able to accommodate the restaurant’s needs.

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Zach grew up on a farm in Salisbury, Connecticut. Olivia grew up in New York City. He then went on to study Biology in Columbia and worked for another farmer. He was accustomed to such a lifestyle, while Olivia made very drastic changes to her life.

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Locusts on Hudson has a beautiful, particularly rustic greenhouse that was renovated recently. They also boast about 10 pigs, 200 laying hens, and 6 bee hives in addition to their extensive collection of crops and other farm animals. Zach even built a rolling chicken coupe. Occasionally, they rent out pieces of land, and for about 4 to 6 months they host apprentices through an apprentice program for aspiring farmers. 

The are currently experimenting with four season growing on a larger scale, and they’ve found their medicinal teas and spinach, highly desirable in the winter months, to be more than well adapted to winter growing. Although the work is hard (the summer harvest keeps them busy hours on end two out of three days of the week), they love their job.

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Olivia said herself: “Hudson Valley is a glorious place. It’s so beautiful!”


Our next stop was Scenic Hudson, a company, set in the middle of a central business district, that protects and preserves the highest scenic, agricultural, and ecological lands throughout Hudson Valley. Their most recent project has been preserving local farms and creating parks and preserves. They have been creating objective plans and analysis to delineate which areas deserve the greatest attention. Such prioritization is based not on politics, but instead on soils composition, size, and intensity of farmland. They hope to build economic resilience by purchasing the rights to certain farms so that they may ensure that the farms cannot be subdivided and changed into anything other than a farm. As of yet, they have protected 73 family owned farms.


Emily and Leela Explore Columbia County!

On Friday, September 13th, ENST 291 ventured north on the Taconic Parkway to explore Columbia County.¬†First, we visited the dairy component of¬†Grazin’ Angus Acres in Ghent NY.¬†Grazin’ Angus Acres is primarily a 300 acre meat farm, while the neighboring dairy operation is only 40 acres. Although the farm is not “organic,” it is a small-scale¬†operation with a high regard for land management.

There, we met Saundra Ball, a worker on the farm. Glad to “tell the story of what a dairy looks like,” she proudly showed us cows in their field and the cleanliness of the farm’s milking barn. The whole operation was incredibly picturesque:



The obvious care for the land and cows in this operation makes us ask a question: how does this operation sustain itself in Columbia County? The main answer is demand in New York City. The dairy’s “grass-fed” milk comes at a price: $7 per half gallon. To some, this may seem like a shockingly high price, but Saundra claims this is a price that the market in New York City is willing to pay, where the milk is marketed as “grass-fed.” In fact, the Hudson Valley’s proximity to the city is partly what attracted her, originally from Texas, to the area. She considers the Hudson Valley to be the best location for beginning farmers, both because of the increasing NYC demand for local farm products, including her non-homogenized milk, and because it is not necessary for one to own land before beginning to farm. Still, she stresses the need for small farms to share resources, asserting that the farm could definitely not afford selling to a commodity system before consumer purchase.

For Saundra, a Columbia University graduate with two Master’s degrees and previous work in international affairs, to pick a career in dairy farming may first surprise you. However, she¬†is only one of many graduates of elite colleges and universities who are getting involved in a growing movement that criticizes the practices of large scale food production and encourages the growth of small, local farms. “It makes a lot more sense [economically] to pack cows into machines, but we value small farms,” says Saundra.¬†¬†Highly educated but living on a wage of fifty dollars a day, she is nonetheless immensely satisfied by the work she does, including the close connection she shares with the cows. In addition, it is the everyday “meditative” routine and communication with nature she is able to have that really makes her enjoy what she does. Learn more about Saundra in her interview with Heritage Radio Network¬†here.

From the farm, our group then ventured off to a more densely settled landscape: Hudson, NY. The city is well known for its antiques, restaurants, and music scene that cater to weekenders from New York City and give the small city its charm. We studied the planned site of the Marina Abromovich Institute. What was a dilapidated community athletic center will soon be a mecca for performance art enthusiasts:


“Community Tennis” no more

The juxtaposition of worn structures with the relatively recent gentrification of Warren St. does visually display the underlying economic inequalities of the city as well as how essential tourism is to Hudson. When it is considered that more people on average live in poverty in Hudson than elsewhere in New York State, an important question should be asked: can the benefits of the economic growth in Hudson’s amenity economy be distributed to all residents? Hopefully we can continue to ponder this question in different contexts throughout this course.


Warren St. in Hudson

Chest of drawers priced at $32,000 at Noonan Antiques

Chest of drawers priced at $32,000 at Noonan Antiques


Dazed n’ Dairy’d

I whip across the Vassar Bubble as swiftly as my longboard will take me as the time hits 1:15 (our departure time) and I am still about 500 yards from the runway. Flyin’ past cars, humans, and squirrels alike; I was just praying that the van hadn’t taken off yet. Thankfully, I made it on time and our posse piled into the van and off we went on another Hudson Valley Adventure.

Driving north along the Hudson River we passed the neighboring school of Bard. A small liberal arts college very similar to Vassar, with a campus almost just as breathtaking. We continued on our way, allowing the swift breeze to carry us all the way to Columbia County and into the peaceful retreat known as Grazin’ Angus Acres.

Stumbling out the van I saw a small, rustic farm, it immediately reminded me of home. From the top of a small hill to our right a young woman walked down to meet us. She was a highly educated youngster from Texas who moved to the Hudson Valley in hopes of one day owning her own dairy farm. She was extremely knowledgeable of farming, food, the environment, and the politics surrounding her lifestyle. She then took us up onto the hill she had recently descended to meet the cows she worked with every single day. There were about 20 or so dairy cows roaming the hillside. Eating, eating, and more eating. Grass didn’t stand a chance against the ferocious herbivores. What surprised me more than anything was how friendly the cows were. It was a beautiful thing to connect with a being that wasn’t human. Overall, it was an extremely enlightening experience – and here is my homie Carol…


Basilica Soundscape

Photo Sep 13, 3 52 33 PMOn Friday the 13th, I attended the first night of the second annual music festival held at the Basilica Hudson in Hudson, New York.¬† Last year this event had the functional title of “Basilica Music Fest.”¬† This year, they called it Basilica Soundscape.¬† Hudson, New York ‚ÄĒ a city of just over 6,000 people in Columbia County ‚ÄĒ is becoming known a music destination in the Hudson Valley (as mentioned by Mary Kay Vrba from Hudson Valley Tourism).¬† The programming at Basilica Hudson, and especially this annual event, are some of the main reasons for this reputation.


Basilica is a 19th-century factory located on the city’s waterfront, just a two-minute walk from the city’s train station. It was purchased a couple of years ago by independent filmmaker Tony Stone (a Bard College graduate) and musician Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of Hole and Smashing Pumpkins), who thought its unique grounds, vast interiors and industrial grit would make an ideal space for art, performance, production and events. IMG_0072 IMG_0049Perhaps unlike most owners of music venues or art galleries in the Hudson Valley, Stone and Auf der Maur had the creative-industry credentials and personal contacts to put the new Basilica Hudson on the map right away.IMG_0073 IMG_0074With capacity for about 1,000 people, Basilica Soundscape doesn’t try to be an all-purpose music festival.¬† The musicians, artists, and writers who contributed to the event tended toward the extreme, avant-garde and “ethereal doom” (as the New York Times put it). Yet they brought out a remarkable variety of attendees in terms of age and lifestyle, from college students and Brooklyn hipsters to an older art audience.


Evian Christ


A four-way musical collaboration conducted by Jonathan Bepler, featuring (clockwise from left) Julianna Barwick, Evian Christ and Pig Destroyer. Not featured: Pharmakon.


sculpture by Matthew Barney

The event also hosted food trucks, pop-up stores, and other new trends in urbanism not usually associated ‚ÄĒ at least for now ‚ÄĒ with a small, upstate city like Hudson.

IMG_3351 IMG_3350For more on Basilica Soundscape, click here.

For more photos from the first night, click here.

For an urban analysis of the Basilica Hudson and last year’s music festival, click here.


Amenia at a Glance

Hello and welcome. My name is Elena Ruggieri-Smithies and I’m a freshman at Vassar College. I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio, but I’m glad to be in Poughkeepsie for the next four years of my education. Though Ohio is known for its soybeans, cows, and corn, Columbus is a metropolis that dwarfs Poughkeepsie in size and population. Living here has opened my eyes to the beauty and simplicity of living away from a big city. I can now truly appreciate a night sky full of stars and the fresh air and even the quaint town of Arlington.DSC_0063
For our first field trip in this class, we traveled to Amenia, a small and inconspicuous town just forty five minutes away from Vassar. The trip there was a colorful blur of greens and yellows and browns of the country side. When we reached the one, lonely light we took a left to reach the farmer’s market. Here we parked and disembarked and surveyed the few white tents that housed the vendors and their goods. I saw fresh produce, olive oil, baked goods, homemade soaps, spices, dairy products, clothing, and more.

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I tried some of the tomatoes, even though my instincts told me they weren’t ripe, and yet to my surprise they tasted of summer and warmth. The spices in the gold lipped jars smelled delicious and brought back memories of my mom’s Italian cooking. The vendors at every stand were kind and inviting. I spoke with the vendor for Ronnybrook¬†Dairy Farms and purchased a drinkable yogurt only to instantly fall in love with the wonderful mango flavor. Later I tried peach and then strawberry. Another stand I stopped by sold fresh baked goods such as brownies, scones, cookies, pies, and so much more.


A cute diner sat on the corner of the main street intersection. The theater portion is said to open up later in the fall.


Across from the diner was the town bank, a shimmering fountain (above) and a memorial to those who lost their life in battle (below).





Hello everyone! My name is Grace Riley. I am from the Big Island of Hawai’i in a town called Hilo. Im a Junior Urban Studies Major with concentrations in Political Science and Women’s Studies. Having grown up in Hawai’i, I am accustomed to the idea of locally grown fruits and vegetables and cool Farmers Markets. However, the Farmers Market in Hilo would be described as a little more hectic and diverse than the quaint little Market in Amenia.


What first struck me about the Farmers Market in Amenia was that it had very little fresh fruits and vegetables and more baked goods, homemade products, and dairy! This is very different from the Farmers Markets I am used to seeing back home. However, the food looked amazing and I was temped to buy it all!


These handmade soaps immediately caught my attention. They were so pretty!


Walking out of the Farmers Market and into the town center of Amenia was an interesting experience. The center of Amenia is home to the only stop light in the town as well as a quirky antique store. This is telling of where the population of Amenia resides and how the town wan’t to appear to outsiders; a unique, little town with much character.



Adoring Amazing, Albeit Antiquated, Amenia (Ah, Alliteration!)


As a relative newcomer to the Hudson Valley, I’ve found myself unmistakably enthralled by the particularly quaint town of Amenia. My joy for Amenia and its wonderful ice cream is quite palpable in the above picture. Raised in southern Connecticut, my experiences with farmer’s market’s had always been quite an unremarkable experience. The foodstuffs would be displayed lovingly while those selling their produce would remark with the regulars¬†about such trivialities as weather as cars drove by meters away.

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What I discovered in Amenia during my trip with Vassar College’s Field Experiences of Hudson Valley course were very warm individuals offering, what were sometimes, their primary source of income with an incredible attention to detail. A few stands covered a lot right beside the town center.

What an outsider may not¬†realize right away is that the intentionally dilapidated ¬†antique storefront facing the multi-purpose store is the very center of Amenia. When one notices ¬†that the main attraction for the town is quite beyond the, largely residential, center, it becomes ever more clear that Amenia exists very much thanks to it’s amenity-based economy. Visitors come for the cute store front lined with rusted wares and for the part drive-in-movie-theatre-part-ice-cream-shoppe.

Amenia Sep 6 Miranda Kay

The town’s inhabitants exhibit both pride and a subtle level¬†of coy acceptance of their locations. I found one man working at the drive-in theatre quite pleased with the layout of modern furniture pieces placed beside an antiquated ice cream cone structure large enough to tower above the craned necks of children.

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Such wonderful experiences prevail in Amenia, where small flower arrangements adorn the the town center and small shoppes fill their shelves with local produce.Amenia Sep 6 Miranda Kay 2


Amenia Trip !

Hi everyone !

My name is Cansu. I am a junior Media and Communication major. I am here as an exchange student. – I know that the selfie is very bad. Still I had to upload it.-This is my first time in the States and I am having a tough time adjusting to a new culture. I was born and raised in Istanbul, the biggest city in Turkey. Since my birth I am surrounded by huge apartments, traffic jam, pollution etc. By the way Istanbul’s population in 17 million. Almost twice as much as New York City’s. So in Istanbul it’s impossible to see a farmer’s market. -At least I haven’t seen one yet-¬†¬† When I decided to live in Poughkeepsie -although I’m here for a short time- and attend Vassar College, I knew that it’s going to be very different.

And I made a commitment to myself :

I’m gonna visit a lot of places !

Thanks to my advisor who recommended this course. Our first stop was the little town of Amenia which has just 1 (one) traffic light – not kidding- and the farmer’s market. The wooden houses with flags and empty roads, all of them was quite unusual to me. But anyway, I have been enjoying the silence for almost 3 weeks now and I feel very relaxed.


There were farmers selling their organic or at least natural stuff. I enjoyed a lot ! The farmer’s market was not big actually it was vey small. There were approximately – I don’t remember exactly- 10 farmers I guess.


This is a nice lady’s stand who bakes home-made desserts! They look very delicious! I wish I wasn’t on diet and could have tasted them.



And this is a yoghurt/milk/ice cream -dairy products- stand. Stand’s owner told me that they are not “organic” but natural.


And this makes me really pissed off!IMG_3590

Dudes ! Baklava is not Greek. It’s Turkish. I mean it.

Check it out.


Stepping Into Amenia

selfieHello bloggers and readers of the world. My name is Jessica but you call me Jess. What can I say? I was born and raised in Los Angeles and boy is it nothing like the Hudson Valley let alone the small town of Amenia. When I made the decision to move to Poughkeepsie, I didn’t put much thought to how different it would be to live here. I just saw Vassar College. Ever since I first stepped out of the Metro North Poughkeepsie Train Station I’ve noticed differences between the City of Angels and Poughkeepsie. One major difference that seems a bit irrelevant but affects me a lot is that in the past two weeks I haven’t seen or heard a single airplane or helicopter, knowing that in Los Angeles I was repeatedly woken up in the middle of the night by patrolling helicopters(not a soothing sound to wake up to). In the past two weeks I’ve felt peaceful, even after receiving hundreds of pages of reading.


This peace that the Hudson Valley holds can not only be seen at Vassar but also in the¬†surrounding¬†towns like Amenia. When I first heard I was going to visit the Amenia Farmers Markets along with my classmates from Field Experiences in the Hudson Valley, I pictured a huge farmers market like¬†the ones I occasionally¬†visited in Los Angeles. ¬†To my surprise, it wasn’t big at all. ¬†I was a bit hesitant to walk in and explore because I thought to myself “what can this farmers market possibly hold?”. I was definitely surprised when I saw the range of products the different vendors had to offer.


 I personally enjoyed the view of the desserts sold by one of the vendors the most. As I inquired about her absolutely scrumptious looking desserts, the vendor explained how she bases her creations on locally grown fruits and vegetables that are currently in season.  To show for her statement she had multiple creations made out of pumpkin. Apart from desserts, the Amenia Farmers market offered vendors with products like dairy, greek oils, mushrooms, vegetables(that I had never even seen), jewelry and variety of other things.

drive in

Along with visiting the farmers market in Amenia, I also visited a drive-in movie theater/ice cream shop there. It had a very relaxed and peaceful essence, it is definitely a place to visit when you’re driving past Amenia although it still hasn’t screened its first movie. ¬†Overall my trip to the Amenia Farmers Market and parts of the town of Amenia was really enjoyable, it is a place that will bring peace and will slow down your busy and stressful lifestyle if you’re from the city like me.