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.
In the early 19th century, 80 percent of the population lived on farms and oxen furnished most of the farm power. It took 150 minutes of labor to produce a bushel of wheat. Families produced much of their own food. In the latter 19th Century, 50 percent of the population lived on farms and horses furnished most of the farm power. It took 55 minutes of labor to produce a bushel of wheat. Non—farmers spent 50 percent of their income for food. In the middle part of the 20th Century, 12 percent of the population lived on farms and 20 to 35 horsepower tractors furnished most of the farm power. It took 10 minutes of labor to produce a bushel of wheat. Non—farmers spent 22 percent of their income for food Today, 2 percent of the population live on farms and 60 to 300 horsepower tractors furnish most of the farm power. It takes 1 minute of labor to produce a bushel of wheat. People spend 10 percent of their income for food.
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, 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 Hanehan Road in the Town of Saratoga. August, 2015