Author Archives: emdenn

Two Weekends in the Hudson Valley: Mountains and Apples


On Saturday September 21st I headed out to hike Stissing Mountain in Pine Plains, NY. The preserve is a Nature Conservancy property about 40 minutes away from Vassar College in north-eastern Dutchess County.

Setting out in the morning, the air was crisp, foreshadowing the autumn days to come. The directions I obtained from the internet were not extremely descriptive, but I eventually found the trailhead:


About 100m up the trail, I found this little Orange Spotted Newt sitting on a rock. It was a lovely start to the day, but also really exemplified the nature that tourists often come to the Hudson Valley to admire:


The hike up to the top was fairly steep, but certainly worth the effort. After missing a trail turn and getting lost in the woods for 30 minutes, I eventually discovered the fire tower. Although I harbor a small fear of heights, I slowly reached the top of this rickety metal and wood structure. The views from the top were spectacular.


The view up at the tower was also beautiful (the top of the left peak):



After all this activity, I planned to stop by the relatively new Red Devon Market, Bar, and Restaurant in Bangall, NY. However I found out that that I arrived in the awkward time between lunch and dinner (4p.m.?) where only the bakery case and market items were available. However, I do intend on returning to enjoy some local eats, as I have heard this place has excellent farm-to-table creations.

On a whim, I then ventured to Millbrook,NY to share a meal with my boyfriend/driver. It was a fairly average diner in a cute little town:


Overall, It was a great day in the Hudson Valley!



On Saturday September 28th I decided to go pick some apples. I went to Fishkill Farms in East Fishkill, NY. I won’t tell too much about this day because some of my classmates will share about their apple picking adventures in more depth, but a few hours spent in an orchard did make me ponder one question of note: Is this model of agri-tourism sustainable? Several attributes of my experience caused me to pose this question.

  1. The line of cars waiting to enter and exit the orchard. Besides being immediately counterintuitive to the “fresh air” experience I thought I was having, they really show the problematic structure of a society where suburban/urban tourists pollute their own homes, yet also expect an unpolluted day in the country.
  2. The small variety of apples that are available, showing the growing homogenization of agriculture, and lack of historic biodiversity.
  3. The solar panels on the roof. In contrast with the previous points, I was excited to see this step in the right (meaning more ecologically sustainable) direction.
  4. The lack of pesticides used in the orchards. On the back of the map of the orchard, the management bragged about their clay-based insect repellent. This may also exemplify a case of how an operation like this can be more eco-friendly.

I certainly don’t have a conclusive stance on if this business model can be ecologically sustainable. This may be because the sustainability of this business is not one-sided because the orchard is not a closed system: the needs and practices of the consumers certainly play a part in the adoption of sustainability initiatives. However, the ecological focus of this business is a good thing, and makes me hopeful for the future. The adoption of more sustainable business practices can help create an economically thriving, ecologically healthy Hudson Valley.



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


Hello from Emily!


My name is Emily Denn and I am a senior Environmental Studies major/Chinese minor. I am from Newtonville, Massachusetts. In my free time I enjoy running, cooking, and reading (not usually at the same time).

I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you – and everyone else on the internet! Below is a selfie that perfectly displays my enthusiasm towards this class.


Grace and Colin seem fairly excited as well.

Now, a few things about the lovely town of Amenia, NY.

Below is the farmer’s market ENST 291 visited in Amenia. Although it was small it had some great variety! Vegetables, eggs, dairy, and other products like pickled garlic were found underneath the tents.


In the background of the photo above is an extremely photogenic church. Here is a close-up of it:


The minuscule town center of Amenia is sleepy but well-manicured. I am a fan of the Black-Eyed Susan, so I very much enjoyed the planters in the main intersection of town:


Overall, our class expedition to Amenia was a good introduction to the Amenity Economy of the Hudson Valley.