BACK TO THE LAND: A NEW WAY OF LIFE IN THE COUNTRY

by Pieter Estersohn (Rizzoli)

New York’s Hudson River Valley, my home for decades, has become a destination and a brand as hip as Brooklyn. Just 90 minutes north of New York City, visitors here enjoy excellent hiking, shopping, inns, museums, and historic sites, though much of the beauty and charm of our region is deeply rooted in the earth around us—earth now being worked by a new generation of farmers.

Many of the young people who’ve made an exodus from the city to the country upstate have chosen the farm life to provide “a grounded upbringing for their children, and the joy of immediately seeing their efforts contribute to the close communities where they live.” So says writer and renowned photographer Pieter Estersohn in his new book, Back to the Land: A New Way of Life in the Country (Rizzoli). Through profiles of the valley’s current crop of growers and makers, Estersohn conveys in words and images the magnificence of a region that’s captivated artists, writers, and visitors for centuries.

The book’s pages brim with ideas for farmstead living, documenting how nature’s bounty is being cultivated in the region’s orchards, farm markets, and breweries. Estersohn’s lush images offer glimpses into the lives of the people bringing that bounty forth. Serving as our tour guide, Estersohn shares his subjects’ insights on topics like planting a flower-cutting garden, tending a fruit orchard, canning and pickling, foraging, harvesting biodynamic honey, brewing beer, baking bread from local grains, and more.

Estersohn visits places long associated with the valley, like Philip Orchards in Claverack, farmed by the same family for 16 generations and now managed by the five siblings who inherited the orchards, outbuildings, and magnificent principal residence. He also takes readers to a sugar shack in Rhinebeck, where smoke and vapor spew from the chimney as maple sap becomes syrup—an image conjuring up notions of an earlier America depicted in Currier & Ives lithographs.

Seeing the place I call home through Estersohn’s eyes makes me realize how much of the Hudson Valley I’ve yet to see—and taste.