Just Say ‘Gnome’ to Factory Farms

Photo by James Petrich

Hidden away on Kelder’s Farm in the small town of Kerhonkson stands Chomsky, a 13-foot-6-inch garden gnome.

Chomsky was originally built by artist Maria Reidelbach and kept at a miniature golf course in lower Manhattan but was moved to Kelder’s Farm after the course was closed, where a new 10 hole course was built.

Chomsky was certified by the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the world’s largest garden gnome in 2007. While this is certainly impressive, it’s not all Kelder’s Farm has to offer.

The mini-golf course is home to chickens, ducks, various edible plants and also a set of sculptures called “the grain gang” which includes characters like Wild Rick Rice, Bready Eddy Wheat, Kendra Quinoa, Oatis and Benjamin Barley.

The farm also has a petting zoo with sheep, pigs, a donkey and a few chickens roaming around. For kids, there is a small playground and seasonally, a corn maze and hay rides.

During the month of October, a number of items are avaialble for purchase. They include raspberries, sweet corn, grapes, eggplant, brussels sprouts, kale, green beans and potatoes, among other souvenirs. Visitors can opt to pick their own fruits and vegetables or purchase pre-picked food. Chris Kelder, a third generation farmer, can sometimes be found behind the register himself, chatting with the customers and seemingly always smiling.

Kelder’s Farm is undoubtedly an enjoyable place to visit, but it is also representative of something very important- the local farm. Ulster County is fortunate to be home to many small local farms, but this is, unfortunately, a rarity.

The majority of food we eat today comes from factory farms, expansive operations run mainly by machines. On these farms, animals are kept inside at all times in overcrowded filth.

Beyond any ethical complaints, factory farms receive criticism because of their environmental impact. In 2005, Marks Farms in Martinsburg, N.Y. leaked three million gallons of manure into the Black River, killing hundreds of thousands of fish and polluting local drinking water. This is not entirely unusual. According to a 2002 E.P.A. report, millions of U.S. homes have water with levels of nitrate that are dangerously high.

New York is the country’s third largest milk producer, and yet is only home to 17 factory farms. This may sound strange considering some states are home to hundreds or even thousands of factory farms. However, it is because of small local farms run by people like the Kelders that allow New York to produce as much milk as it does. While some people may say that industrialized farming is necessary to feed our ever growing population, examples like Ulster County show that localized agriculture is not only possible, but it is also more fun than a factory farm. By supporting farms like this, patrons can help local economies thrive, prevent pollution, eat some delicious fresh food and even play a friendly round of mini golf.

While Chomsky may seem like he is merely a tool for drawing in tourists, he actually represents much more than that. This gnome is a representation of all that is positive about quality local agriculture, a resistance to corporate influence and the American dream.

***

“Our coverage is with the times.”

Read the New York Times article here.

James Leggate

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