By Arthur H. Gunther III
POMONA, N.Y. -- Family farms in what just 60 years ago was still a rural area were long the staple of living pre-suburbs, their cyclical planting, nurturing and harvesting a metaphor for life: hardscrabble at times, then bountiful, with heartaches, sorrows, joys and the constantly re-earned belief that sustenance can come from fierce independence and stubborness. That is the American ethic as well.
In my parts, the original Nicholas Concklin family, now descended into such principal farmers as Linda, Richard and Scott, has been farming acreage in Pomona since about 1712, making for a 300th anniversary. In a New York county -- Rockland -- where mid-last century some 500 farms existed, this is a record. The lure of housing and strip shopping money, the drain of ever higher taxes and operating costs plus the hope of an easier life saw almost all these farms plowed under. Concklin’s now operates under a land-purchase (open space) agreement with the county, and there remains the Davies farm a few miles away in Congers and some wonderful community farms and cooperatives, but by and large, suburbia -- or “progress,” a double-edged sword -- has done the deed.
The goddess of fruit is Pomona, and was the name chosen by a Concklin descendant for the Ramapo hamlet where the family so long dominated that you could not think of Pomona without conjuring up a Concklin apple or peach.
And there there is “the road” -- beautiuful, mysterious, twisting South Mountain Road, where artists, actors, musicians and writers have long planted their own crops and culled harvests, too. Maxwell Anderson wrote his plays here, including “High Tor,” the 1936 Broadway production about saving a traprock mountain down the road, Hudson River way, itself a metaphor for “progress.” He had a small hut in his woods to do his craft, taking a break then and now to run to Nyack for groceries or to get a jug of hand-pressed cider from Gordon or Raymond Concklin. Who can tell what nurtured creativity -- the apples, the woods, the same land that hosted both Concklins, creative in soil, and artists, creative from life itself?
As a younger fellow with a driver’s license and the abandon of that age, I took to South Mountain in the night, and in the fog, and in rising and setting sun as a refuge from the quickening pace of life. If soul were to be held a bit longer before the rush of growing up and all its responsibilities, then “the road” would be companion.
I know not a farmer’s life or how Linda, Richard and Scott feel toiling soil held in Concklin hands for 300 years, touching rocks turned before the Revolution, but I understand how soul is cradled in that Heaven-sent spot of the universe.