If this is your first visit to the Catskills, this might not be top of mind for you. But I urge you to think broadly about your experience here. What will make or break the region’s renaissance? Your visit here is key. You coming back is better. Many of you are going to get the bug and want to stay. As a matter of fact, this book is inspired by those of you who have already figured out that you can be creative here and make a go of it too.
There’s nothing like working on a farm, in a garden or with livestock to show you how much you don’t know. Even if you’re starting small, you’ll have a lot of questions. Who will you turn to? Maybe a neighbor. Maybe you’ll need to take a class.
There’s a bigger picture to consider too. What’s an area high school student who’s not college bound to do? What about a college grad without the proper experience? What about someone new to the area who’s traded in a suit for a pair of overalls? Who is going to bring information support and knowledge to the communities when and where they need it? Well, luckily in the Catskills this infrastructure is there and it’s strong.
Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Four different CCE units serve the Catskills with programs that focus on education, opportunity, economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being. Cornell resources are applied around the state to help solve real-life problems relating to agriculture, the environment, community health and more. A great resource for budding farmers.
BOCES (Bow-Sees) The Boards of Cooperative Educational Services. Sounds bureaucratic. But it’s actually the opposite. It’s a way for rural schools — some with graduating classes of nine students — to band together to get the resources they need that they could not afford or populate alone. Think after-school programming, special education, summer school and even programming for adults like employment training, literacy support, technology. BOCES was established in 1948 and has 37 New York locations, four of them in the Catskills serving all seven counties. It’s a thing here. Be in the know.
SUNYs (Soo-Knees) The State University of New York has 64 institutions of learning serving over 1.2 million students with robust programming including 700,000 in continuing education. Seven universities and community colleges dot the Catskills region and are committed to its success, not only by engaging students of all ages, but by digging in to the local communities and addressing their needs for a more prosperous future.
Beyond all of this, don’t be afraid to ask a neighbor or someone who runs a shop in town for advice. I have always been pleasantly surprised by how helpful and knowledgeable folks are here.
XOXO Farm Girl