Hudson Valley Parent

HVP November 2015

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Page 12 of 39 ■ Hudson Valley Parent 13 "Farm life is all-consuming," she said. "During harvest season, it's 18-20 hours a day, seven days a week. That goes on for six to eight weeks. Then it's 15 hours a day maybe six months a year. Winter hours are decent!" Amy and Gail may have taken over the family business, but many children who grow up on farms in the Hudson Valley do not. The current average age of a farmer is 55 years old: The exact age that Amy and Gail are now. So how are family farms in the Hudson Valley dealing with the economic pressure and brutal schedule that comes with farming in addition to the diffi culties of child-rearing? Will they be able to justify a future in farming to their children? And if not, when our own children are grown, will they still be able to enjoy farm fresh local food? Will there be any family farms left for them to support? An uncertain future On paper, farms in New York appear to be fl ourishing. Agriculture poured $37.6 billion into New York State's economy in 2012, up 22% from 2007, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a report released earlier this year. But dig a little deeper and the picture becomes less rosy. More than half of the state's farms had sales below $10,000. Between the eco- nomics of farming and the unfor- giving schedule, it's no wonder the profession can seem unappealing to teenagers who are intimately famil- iar with its hardships. While all of the Hepworth chil- dren were expected and encouraged to join in the farm activity, none were groomed to take over, Gail explains. Yet Amy chose to attend Cornell to study agriculture like her father, grandfathers and uncles. Gail left the farm to become a biomedical engineer, but came back six years ago to help Amy grow the business. The next generation of Hepworths show no interest in joining the family business. "My mom's philosophy, and my own philosophy with my daughter, was that you encourage your children to pursue their interests and passions, whatever that may be," Gail said. "My daughter is the only member of the eighth gener- ation who was raised on the farm. She's currently pursuing her PhD and has not expressed an interest in taking over the farm. And we're ok with that." While their direct nuclear family isn't poised to pick up the hoe, the Hepworths maintain that their entire philosophy and paradigm has been shaped with families in mind. "When Amy took over, she made it her life mission to do everything she could to return the mid-Hudson Valley back to the agricultural mecca it was a century ago," Gail says. "We lost our footing as a culture and started using too many chemicals, which is bad for children and the earth. We are building our farm back up to its full potential, increasing acreage every year." Gail says that she and Amy plan to be farming for "the next 20 years at least," but she admits that not having a Hepworth in line to inherit it has required some careful thinking and planning to ensure a sustainable future for the farm and the employees who depend on it. "We want to do the right thing for the farm, the earth and our workers," Gail says. "We haven't fi gured out all of the details yet, but the people we've been working alongside for years, and who have become exten- sions of our family, will continue to be able to do what they do." An unbroken legacy Few farms anywhere in the world are as connected to their past and that of their country's as KeziaLain Organic Bicentennial Farm in Westtown. The farm was founded in the 1760's by Keziah Mather Lain, who went on to fi ght in the Revolu- tionary War. He and his wife built a distinctive, beautiful stone house that their 7th and 8th generations of descendants still live in today. But perhaps more essentially, they built a legacy. The oldest farm in the state to be continuously farmed by one family, KeziaLain has evolved with the times says M.A. Lain, the current family patriarch and head farmer. "Once I had children, my entire approach to farming changed," Lain "When Amy took over, she made it her life's mission to return the mid-Hudson Valley to the agricultural mecca it was a century ago." – Gail Hepworth, Hepworth Farm (Continued on Page 14)

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