I am so thankful that you are part of our 50th anniversary commemoration. Fifty years straddles three generations of human life span. It is a great privilege to have known and been part of Hawthorne Valley for over 30 of those years, and to witness this generational element deepen and enrich our endeavors. Something of the quality and sense of time beyond a lineal measuring stick arises. More than marking the passing of time, this 50th anniversary is an invitation to reflect on accumulated treasures minted in relationship, intention, and care, and to ponder how this wealth can be put into serving the future. Our efforts going forward can benefit from considering the past and present, and this commemorative edition of our Annual Report will share some highlights in timeline and in narrative.
In context, 50 years barely registers in geological time. The Taconic Mountains, where we are situated, are reportedly 440 million years old. Twenty million years ago, what we now know as the Hudson Valley was covered in ice nearly a mile thick. For 12,000 years, during the Holocene, earth has enjoyed a stable climate, supporting agriculture and the growth of civilization. There is evidence of human activity in Columbia County dating back 9,000 years. As we observe our anniversary, we feel called to honor those who belonged to this landscape, in particular the Mohican People. They were here for millennia before the arrival of Henry Hudson in 1609, and long before Fentress Gardiner reported to Hawthorne Valley’s founders that he had located the right farm to carry the impulse that we are now commemorating.
It is time considered in human scale that this report focuses on. Fifty years can feel like a long time, especially when multiplied by the countless individuals who have each added to our story. When I think about all of the people who have been integral to the biography of Hawthorne Valley over the years, I do find it impressive. Contemplating what occurs on any given day at Hawthorne Valley— farmers milking cows and growing food, colleagues arriving long before sunrise to make yogurt and bake bread, parents dropping off their children and teachers greeting hundreds of students, campers and visiting students experiencing the farm, store staff serving scores of customers, scientists observing the flora and fauna of the valley, dedicated colleagues maintaining buildings and tending the grounds, people performing administrative tasks, artists enhancing the landscape—I marvel to think that we are marking over 18,000 such days, from humble beginnings to the rich and vibrant bustle we experience today.
Of course, Hawthorne Valley has experienced its share of trials along the way. There have been fires, floods, and fiscal crises. We have born tragic accidents and illness. In the face of such adversity, Hawthorne Valley has shown its true colors. A phoenix rising from the ashes, Hawthorne Valley has grown in the alluvial soil deposited by hardship. It is at such threshold moments that the blessings of our relationships, and of this place, illuminate what it means to be human.
Hawthorne Valley came into being out of a desire to address the evident needs of the time, circa 1971. It is humbling to consider that the population of the planet has more than doubled in the 50 years since Hawthorne Valley was born. We live in an age of exponential growth that has produced a variety of outcomes, some of which threaten our shared future. We seem to be at an inflection point in the arc of time, as human activity disrupts Earth’s rhythms, introducing a new epoch that some have termed the Anthropocene. More than ever, it is human being and human doing that will determine our destiny. While that may seem daunting in some aspects, in others it provides encouragement that collective actions can bring about positive change. As Frances Moore Lappé recently said in our Roots to Renewal podcast, “Hope is not what we seek in evidence…but what we become in action together.”
Our true work lies ahead.
Please enjoy reading this commemorative report as we acknowledge and appreciate the good work and good people that make Hawthorne Valley a truly special place. Ours is a rich history. There remains much to be done towards realizing our mission to renew soil, society, and self and, in the process, invoke creative emergence and a future that upholds all life. It is my hope and prayer that, in reflecting on the first 50 years of Hawthorne Valley, we will continue to be inspired to meet the evident needs of our time with imagination, humility, and love.
Hawthorne Valley Association