Even the earliest travelers noted the promise in the land at Saratoga. The broad, fertile plain, bound by mountains, promised bountiful fruits to those willing to work the landscape. Saratoga’s rural character is defined in part by the past and present farms and farmers that make up this community.
When the first United States census was taken in 1790, the population of New York State was 340,000. In the 1820 census, the State’s population was 1,370,000—an increase of over one million people in just 30 years! 800,000 of them moved into the virgin forest of New York State, into the unsettled lands west of the Hudson River.
What were these people doing? They were chopping down trees, burning them up and sowing cereal grains in—between the stumps. Our pioneering settlers were as proﬁcient with an axe as they were with a plow. An axe was their most important farm tool as the land had to be cleared before any crops could be sown.
In the first year, a small log cabin would have been built and three to ﬁve acres of land cleared. Within ten years, a timber-framed three—bay “English” barn was constructed, with 20-30 acres cleared. The family would have moved into a framed house, some of which still provide homes for people today.
Farms and farmland remain cornerstones of our community, linking the past to the future through a landscape of fields and pastures, stone walls and weathered barns shaped by generations of hard-working farm families. This landscape, cherished by so many, is often taken for granted. Some of its benefits are obvious-the joy of seeing the foals in the fields in the spring, a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables in the summer and fall months; and milk and dairy products year-round. Other benefits are less obvious-the local revenue and jobs, farms provide, the recreational and tourism opportunities they create, the wildlife habitat and other environmental benefits they offer. Some benefits are easily quantified; many are not. The benefit that may be most valued by Saratoga residents is the ephemeral “quality of life” that farms help to provide.
Photo Credit: A late summer sunrise along Sweet Road in the Town of Saratoga. August, 2015