Sunday, February 10, 2013

Otsego County - NY's Rolling Farmland

Look at the map - it's fair to say that Otsego County is truly the heart of New York. Less than two hours from Albany, more like three or four from metro NY, it is another world - a place where you can escape today's stress and step back in time, if you're so inclined. Yet there are many folks who move there to have it all - green, rolling hills and quiet towns with an Internet connection that hooks you into the global marketplace.

I spent every summer of my young life in Otsego County. My parents had over a hundred acres in Cherry Valley, land that they bought for some ridiculously small price and sold for an equally ridiculous small price forty years later. My kids spent their summers there, too, and they've got memories of those times that none of us would trade for anything.

You know Cooperstown for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fair enough. But there's so much more.

We went to Cooperstown one year to see the fireworks over Otsego Lake.

That picture doesn't lie: it is just that unspoiled and beautiful.

Another year we stayed in our own front field and caught fireflies for the four of July.

We sat in the darkness and marveled, then let them go.
They groaned when we took them to the Farmer's Museum, then laughed as they tried to roll hoops across the green lawn and watched, wide-eyed, as a docent printed out a newsletter on an antique press.

Richfield Springs, Cooperstown, Oneonta - these are the "big" towns. But big is a relative term and they still have a small town charm that I love.

I don't want to say too much about Cherry Valley because the truth is I don't want it to change. I love that it is so sleepy that my kids could walk down the center of the main street safely. I love the limestone buildings on the main street.  I love the farms and the quaint old houses, the little villages nearby and the vistas that go on forever.

Winter comes early and stays late in Otsego County, but summer is a thing of rare beauty.

The area has its challenges - that sleepiness I love means there aren't many jobs. It's been an agricultural area for generations and farmers are hurting. There have been wild disputes over proposals for wind farms, for hydraulic fracturing, for gas pipelines.

The future for New York's farm counties is uncertain - particularly the ones that sit atop massive shale that holds deep natural gas deposits.

I love that land - I want the people there to have good jobs and a secure life. I want them to have that while preserving what makes their land so incredibly rare. It's a modern conundrum - but there are memories to be preserved and memories to be made. I hope the land is always there, soft and green, for future generations.

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