ANNIVERSARIES ARE A SORT OF pit stop, ideal for taking a deep breath and a long look at history and progress, success and failure, trials and tributes. As we approach our official twentieth anniversary later this year (yes, 20 years), we’ll be doing exactly that—looking back at where we were, where we’ve come and where we’re going.
It seems remarkable that, 20 years ago, despite being home to a better-than average number of successful and influential restaurants and a relatively healthy agricultural economy, the Hudson Valley supported no regionally focused food-distribution network that could quickly and consistently bring local products to local wholesale or retail customers. Just a handful of local markets served the entire region; the only realistic and economically viable market available to farmers was in New York City. Compare that scenario to the one Jeff Storey presents in this issue—entrepreneurs utilizing computers to track daily ordering and delivery of thousands of local food products to hundreds of local restaurants, wholesalers and consumers.
Twenty years ago there was no consistent, region-wide marketing strategy or vehicle that identified the Hudson Valley as a self-contained entity. Refocused through a wider lens, however, the valley becomes a 100-mile-long destination where visitors can tour farms, wineries, distilleries, breweries, traditional gardens and estates, paddle the river or climb the escarpments—then sit down and enjoy a bona fide gourmet meal at a nearby restaurant or book a room at an upscale bed‑and-breakfast.
And maybe you remember a time when farmers’ markets were unwelcome. We do: Once upon a time, some local farmers, local craftspeople and bakers wanted to set up a weekend farmers’ market in one of the Mid-Hudson Valley’s haute villages. We ran an article in support of it and farmers’ markets in general. Shortly after the magazine was distributed, we received a message from a village shop owner (an advertiser and distribution point) who, in increasingly agitated tones, first canceled his advertising contract, announced he was depositing his allotted copies in the trash, then ended on a somewhat uncordial note, calling us #@*#! communists and #@*#! socialists (and worse). Seems he believed the farmers’ market exploited the village’s economy, hurt the town’s established businesses and was downright un-American because the farmers didn’t collect sales tax, didn’t pay fair wages and didn’t pay enough rent for use of the parking lot. (We were used to receiving bomb threats in our previous incarnation as land-preservation advocates during the right-wing carnival of the mid-1990s, so we found the message mildly entertaining.) It was a stroke of cosmic symmetry, however, that at about the same time, our old friend Jay Ungar called the magazine deliciously subversive. Well, we thought, if the shoe fits…
As the man said, what a long, strange trip it’s gonna be. We hope you’ll come along for the ride.