Author Archives: marmorris

Woodstock Peace Festival

Woodstock, New York is a small town with a rich history. In 1903, Byrdcliffe Art Colony came to Woodstock, and from that point on art and music became an integral part of the community’s culture. Famous artists and musicians were created from Woodstock, and countless others moved to the town in pursuit of a place that shared their values and people with whom they could create. What has place the town in an international dialogue is the the 1969 Woodstock festival, with artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and many more performing and joining the crowd in celebrating the music. However, the festival did not actually take place in Woodstock, though that was the initial desired location.

Jimi Hendrix performing at Woodstock Festival

Jimi Hendrix was the last act to perform at the iconic Woodstock Festival in 1969, courtesy of

Since the counter-culture revolution that was Woodstock Festival, the town has continued to nurture the values of creativity, community and peace. On September 21, the International Day of Peace, the town began its first ever Woodstock Peace Festival. The opening ceremony took place on that Monday, at Bearsville Theater, followed by a project, making flags for peace, on Saturday. Sunday was the main festival, where the Bearsville Theater displayed the flags and hosted, yoga, meditation, peace talks and community discussions, as well as a picnic and musical acts, including the local Simi Stone.

Woodstock Peace Festival Poster

Woodstock Peace Festival Poster

The stated mission of the festival on its event page was to create “a joyful, holistic, community gathering to celebrate and amplify the message of peace.” No entry fee was required to enjoy the activities and performances, but a donation was suggested for the benefit of the Woodstock Peace Center, the launch of which the festival was celebrating. The Peace Center will blossom into “an international peace education program for the community’s next generation.”

Mural at Bearsville

Mural at Bearsville, courtesy of the Woodstock Peace Festival website




Only a 7-10 minute drive from the center of town, the Bearsville Complex feels like its own small village. The buildings on site emanate the warmth of a home with their rustic architecture. On the day of the festival, the theater welcomed people of all ages to watch the performances. The fire pit between the restaurants and theater had gathered people looking to sit and talk, and though the fire was not lit that afternoon, there was a different kind of light they shared between them. The complex itself sits alongside a shallow, bubbling creek, which hums along with the insects. We stepped inside the theater to catch the last two musicians of the day, Amy McTear and Simi Stone. Though there were not over 50 chairs, each was filled, and people were standing along the sides of the auditorium, softly singing along with the men and women on stage, who were dressed in white, aglow in the orange backlight.  And though the performances ended only an hour later, concluding the actual festival, the celebration was not over.

Weekends in Woodstock are normally busy, tourists visit the town’s center for shopping and dining and weekend residents from New York City walk about running errands or  just to enjoy the small town life. But amidst the movement of crowds, the Woodstock drum circle has just sat down in the center of the square. Men and women of many ages, who have grown up in the community, sit together, and play their different instruments, in a coordinated effort. Visitors are welcome to watch, and dance along, but it is clear that this performance is for the players, something they have been raised with or taught and now are passing along to the next generation. It is a rite unique to the Woodstock community, and its strength is that it has persisted through so many generations, decades and realities.


For more information on the past Woodstock Peace Festival, and the Woodstock Peace Center, visit the project’s website here.


Adventures at Madava Farms


Entrance gate with pumpkin and cabbage decoration

Madava Farms Entrance

Located in the quaint town of Dover, New York, is the new and prospering Madava Farms, home to the maple syrup company, Crown Maple. The Madava Property is covered in 800 acres of maple trees, but the Crown Maple company now operates 2,000 acres with the addition of its satellite properties. For the next season, they hope to expand from 50,000 taps to 100-120,000 tree taps.

The Madava property was bought by Robb and Lydia Turner in 2007. The story goes that Robb and Lydia bought the land so that their daughters, Ava and Maddie, who were growing up in New York City, could enjoy the beauty of nature in the Hudson Valley. The name Madava was created as a combination of the two girls’ names. However, when the property’s neighbor informed Mr. Turner that he was now owner of one of the most highly concentrated forests of high-quality maple trees in the area, known as the Taconic Hardwood Forest. He decided then to begin Crown Maple at Madava. Ten years later, Madava farms has become one of the world’s highest quality producers of organic maple syrup and a renowned tourist destination in the Hudson Valley.


Maple syrup season, oddly enough, lasts only for 30 days, from the end of February through March. This is the time of year when sap in the trees is liquid, so that a temperature difference between the sap and air allows it to flow from the taps into the collection pipes. Crown Maple has a unique pipe system between the trees that collects syrup from the 50,000 taps they have, and delivers it to holding tanks inside their facility.

Tour guide in front of Machinary

Tour guide Jamie describing the reverse osmosis and Dissolved Air Flotation Devices.

In a single day, the farm crew of 8-10 people will tap anywhere between 200-500 trees in order to collect around 60,000 gallons a day of sap. The sap is processed and purified through a unique reverse osmosis and a dissolved air flotation unit, then moved to an evaporator. These processes remove over 90% of the water from the sap, to create a syrup that is between 66-68% sugar. A syrup that contains below 66% sugar will grow bacteria because of the water content, and a syrup that contains over 68% sugar will crystallize. These standards are set by the USDA. In order to create 1 gallon of maple syrup, it takes around 40-50 gallons of sap.

Osmosis Tank.

Osmosis Tank.

Madava as a destination

Holding small cup with Syrup.

Madava’s Light Maple Syrup.

To drive into the Madava estate is to enter one of the Hudson Valleys hidden gems of preserved natural beauty and agricultural production. The 800 acres of maple trees, farm operation, and scenic space is the perfect place for anything between relaxing weekend get-aways to weddings and anniversaries. Madava Farms offers a comprehensive tour of their facilities where you can enter and witness everything from the four 10,000 gallon holding containers to the sophisticated RO system. The tour ends with a intimate tasting of their four, now prize winning, world renown syrups. You can also enjoy their maple inspired provisions like a Crown Maple Latte at their cafe. Once you have indulged your sweet tooth, take a nature walk through their well groomed public trails and enjoy breathtaking scenescapes and vibrant ponds.

Whether you come for the syrup, the views, or the maple trees, Madava Farms offers a unique Hudson Valley experience, which sets it apart from any other maple syrup farm in the nation and the world. For information on directions and visiting, visit the Madava Farms Website.

Guy looking at Bottles of Syrup

Looking for the Perfect Syrup.

Women drinking syrup.

Enjoying syrup samples at the end of the Madava tour.


Hi, I’m Maria!

Hey all!

My name’s Maria Morris. I’m a senior Environmental Studies major at Vassar. Looking forward to all the explorations we’ll embark on together in the beautiful Hudson Valley!


Here’s me contemplating life on a tractor ride at Fishkill Farms:

Maria on a Tractor at Fishkill Farms