Thursday, January 6, 2011
The Garden State
My little farm is tucked away at the very southernmost end of New Jersey. Our area is still mostly agricultural, a tiny pocket of green in the most densely populated state in the Union. My husband's family lives in northern New Jersey. During the holiday season we always end up making the trek north to see them. We usually take the Turnpike to get there.
The Turnpike is a Jersey icon. It's the major artery through the state, cutting straight through the middle. Travelling the Turnpike will give you a pretty accurate slice of what life in the Garden State is really like. Over the eleven years we've been making this annual journey up the Turnpike there have been a lot of changes. At first it was mainly farmland up until you hit the middle of the state. Slowly, inexorably, some of the farms were sold off and housing developments sprang up. But there were still a lot of farms. This year I noticed that construction is under way to widen the Turnpike. I'm not entirely against that, the Turnpike is always congested with traffic. But, I was sad to see that many of the farms I have enjoyed seeing as we drive up are being swallowed by the construction project.
I saw one barn still standing right on the edge of where the new, widened road will run. At one time it must have housed some twenty horses, but now it stands empty. An empty barn is sad thing to me. I couldn't help but imagine the horses it must have housed at one time. Were they race horses? Jumpers? Maybe even dressage horses. It doesn't really matter what they did. They existed, they served us and they enriched our lives. And now their barn, once filled with the warmth of their bodies, their smell, their sounds.... their barn stands empty and cold along side the Turnpike.
It seems like that's happening all over America. The rural lifestyle is disappearing, swallowed up by townhouses and shopping malls. We Americans live in a culture where agriculture is a luxury, not a necessity. Again, that's not necessarily bad thing. We certainly don't have to deal with the problems that our rural ancestors did. Our food is plentiful and easy to obtain. We aren't slaves to the weather and seasons. But, while our lives improve, are we losing touch with our heritage?
That empty barn made me very sad, but at the same time thankful. I am glad to have horses in my life. I am glad to be a part of preserving horsemanship for the future. Because that's what we are doing, those of us who choose to have horses in our life. We are preserving an important part of our cultural heritage for future generations.
Through us, the knowledge of horses and horsemanship will pass on to future generations.