Reality Check, Please

Editor's Letter

Reality Check, Please

This issue of The Valley Table presents some rather odd stories. While Congress argues with itself back and forth across the aisle for this or that wasteful, budget-bloating expenditure, and while our state government tries to preserve itself and balance a budget by firing every state worker and teacher who doesn't live in Albany, some things are quietly happening in the Hudson Valley that might cause some head scratching among economic analysts.

— Two guys rounded up most of their own personal capital and (yeah, OK, with the help of a government grant) started a business processing and packing foodstuffs, much of it locally grown, in an abandoned industrial park in Kingston. Though everyone who starts a business obviously plans to make a profit, their business has taken off like a rocket. Apparently, no one told them that we're in a serious recession.

— From northern Greene County to southern Rockland County, all kinds of people are coming back to farming, not just as a hobby or a retirement pastime, but as goal-oriented, economically responsible, get-up-at-dawn and go-to-work farmers. Two recent reports—one by the Glynwood Center and one by the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation—take a close look at agriculture in the region, albeit from different perspectives. One interesting, if paradoxical, fact emerges: While the amount of farmland in the region was down by at least 10 percent between 2002 and 2007 (and still is going down), the number of farmers actually increased over the same period (and still is going up). From here, tons of related data could support many late-night discussions, but an underlying current seems evident—more people are becoming more conscious of what they're eating, how it was grown and who grew it. And, given the current state of our industrialized food economy, more people are choosing to grow their own. Not everyone is planting spinach instead of Kentucky Bluegrass, but just give it time. This renewed (revived?) interest in agriculture could very well mean that agricultural pursuits are reaching a new level of legitimacy, and that there is a future for agriculture in the Hudson Valley.

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— It's a pretty safe bet that the amount of "discretionary spending" among the working middle class is less than it used to be. For a lot of people that means fewer movies, fewer vacations, and fewer meals eaten out. Then, along comes Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, our annual two-week culinary parade that's about the closest you'll ever get to a fire sale for foodies. This year, 150 restaurants are participating in the event—more than double the number of participants in the inaugural event just five years ago, 10 percent more than participated last year. (Surprisingly, the number of new restaurants on the list is off the chart—if you've been following our Openings page you've seen it get fatter each issue.) We expect at least a quarter of a million people to partake of lunch or dinner out in the valley between March 14 and 27. Save your pennies and don't miss this party.

So, here are the reality checks: There's a recession, but the co-packing business is booming. We're losing tillable land on a daily basis, but more people are farming every year. Money is tight but the Hudson Valley is throwing a party.

All of this really begs the question, though. What's a paradox? It's what you need to have baby dox.

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