Yes GS, when the Old Man fell it was a blow to the psyche in much of New England.
New England is fortunate in a way in that the topography didn’t lend itself to large farms with endless fields. Throw in rocky soil in most places and it was just never conducive to corporate farming. Our farms are still family operations. What passes for a huge farm here is measured in hundreds of acres, not thousands. Most farms are less than a hundred acres yet they used to support large families. Traditional farms split the land between pastures for dairy cows, hay fields, corn fields, and woodlands for sugaring and the associated fuel needed for sugaring. Small scale dairying is but a shadow of its former self because they cannot compete with corporate mega farms in the Upper Midwest. The trend towards “Buy Local” and organic foods has helped keep many farms alive. What I am seeing pop up all over the place are what I call hobby farms. They represent supplemental income and lifestyle choices and will most typically have a few beef cattle and some chickens. Some have sheep, goats, ducks, rabbits etc. Larger acreages with excess woodlands will periodically do some logging for extra income. Cheese making was a traditional part of farming here and we’re seeing a lot more of that pop up too, and of course sugaring is everywhere.
The guy that hays my field has what I term a hobby farm. He raises goats, chickens, and ducks plus they make cheese and have a greenhouse. He’s only got 7 acres which he uses very well but there is no room for a hay field, thus he uses mine. He works as a contractor plus he and his wife will work at one of the nearby ski resorts in the winter. The farmer that pastures sheep on my land is a retired school teacher.
And Brulen is right, urban folks may think everyone’s a farmer in the countryside but the reality is that only a small percentage are. Even then most farms have other sources of income.
For me, though I know the area is in a slow decline, I love living in my little bubble that the modern world has not fully infiltrated. Being retired I don’t need to make a living though I do have 3 part time jobs by choice. I also know that I have sunk way more money into my property than I could possibly get out but I don’t really care. I already told my kids their only hope after we’re gone of recovering what we put into it is to package it as a 2nd home for someone from Metro NYC. There is no local market for it.