I grew up on a two hundred acre dairy farm in Delaware County, upstate New York. My county is the home of nothing noteworthy other than good land for hunting, logging and farming. It is one of the largest counties in the state but only consists of over-taxed small towns.
Living on a farm I started helping out at a young age. From the time I became strong enough to push hay bales off the hay wagon with my feet and legs until the day I moved off to college, I worked on my family's farm. Most of the time it didn't seem like work, except when I had to pick rock in the fields on a hot day. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was eight years old the first time I drove the big farm truck, my legs barely reaching the gas peddle as I slowly and nervously inched the truck forward. We were getting the field ready to plant corn. Truthfully, I enjoyed it and I miss it immensely.
From the age of ten, I raised 4-H livestock, pigs and Hereford cows with their calves. I worked very hard to take care of my animals, feeding, washing and training them to show. At the end of the summer I sold the steers and pigs in the 4-H auction at the county fair. The animals I raised were not pets. They were raised with the intent to be butchered and consumed. I was sixteen the year I sold my favorite steer. He was such a gentle animal that I could literally ride on his back. He was so well tempered that I could walk him in high heels. I only figured that out because that year I was the Delaware County Dairy Princess and I had to walk him for water in between handing out ribbons in the dairy show ring. The day I auctioned him off was heart breaking, but I knew from day one he was meant for butchering. I cried my heart out not only because he was so precious to me, but because the auction only brought enough money to cover the cost of purchasing him and his feed for the year. Usually that money would buy me another group of livestock for the next year’s fair. It also paid for my school clothes and gas for my old ’88 Plymouth Grand Fury. The rest of the money went into a savings account to get me through college.
In addition to being a farmer, my father was also a logger, so the lessons I was taught about species of trees and how to protect the apple trees to feed the deer were never ending. I truly appreciate those lessons because they have made me the person that I am today. I was taught that timberland clearing was a huge no-no, and it should only be done if needed for development. The lessons about selective timbering of mature trees were fun, mostly because dad and I would walk through the woods and I marked the trees with spray paint. What kid doesn't love to play with spray paint?
I was taught to be a hard worker and to never give up. I learned the value of land, animals, and nature, not to mention good morals, ethics and an honest way of life. But most importantly I learned to protect what I valued and to fight for what is right and for what I believe in.
I loved growing up in the country. The lessons I learned as a child made me who I am today, an advocate for the ground beneath my feet. I was taught that it is up to us to protect the land, but that we also need to responsibly harvest what Mother Nature has given us. To me harvesting is not just for food. Harvesting our natural resources is essential to sustain our way of life. Logging, bluestone, and natural gas are very important to all of us. From the small communities to our big cities, these resources are vital.
Another valuable resource is our people, and I believe fewer people would be moving out of New York State if the upstate New York landowners were allowed to develop more of what is beneath their feet. Growing up in Delaware County, New York was not like it is today. We thrived. The roads were well maintained and the communities were larger. My graduating class was not exceptionally large, but class sizes now are half of what they used to be. Residents are leaving, more like running away from this miserable state with no opportunities for the younger generation to thrive. My family and I don’t want to move, but if things don’t change soon, we will be forced to sell our home and uproot our kids from the only home they have ever known. The thought of that breaks my heart! It upsets me to think about our state government and the DRBC having basically forgotten about the small communities of upstate New York. And to think I used to be proud to be a New Yorker!