Marita Noon

“To me, the smoke coming out of those stacks is the most beautiful sight in the world. It means there is progress being made somewhere. Somewhere, some place, someone is making progress. If there is no smoke coming out, we look at it as trouble.”

Joe Bulich, third generation farmer in New York’s Hudson Valley, recounted the words his father Frank Bulich said in response to a question from a National Geographic reporter regarding the cement plants that could be seen on the river. She viewed them as an eyesore, Joe’s father had a different perspective. Reflecting on that conversation from the mid 90s, Joe says, “That’s why we are where we’re at.”

Today, the people, who think of themselves as progressives, are actually against progress.

Joe knows what he is talking about. His grandfather came to America from Croatia. He worked in the cement plants that used to line the Hudson River. From that hard work, Joe’s grandfather was able to give his family a start; they were able to purchase and own land and develop that land in agriculture. The family farmed mushrooms; one of forty farms once in the area. Now, three generations later, the Bulich farm is the last commercial mushroom farm. Their mushrooms are sold throughout the state of New York—served in fine restaurants in the city.

The farm had a rough start as crop after crop failed. Joe’s father Frank heard about a piece of equipment—a new innovation—that might save their farm. He was a young man when he went to Pennsylvania, bought a steam-generating vessel called a steam boiler, and ultimately grew the first successful crop. The Bulich family understands the value of new technology. It saved their farm.

Last year, Hank Ferris shut down his farm in the southern tier of New York. He reports that for the past few years, he’s lost money left and right. He thought: “Someday things will get better.” He is now hauling water for a gas company across the state line in Pennsylvania.

Julie Lewis and her husband raise free-range chickens. She also works as a photographer and a substitute teacher—and she serves as a local legislator. Her husband drives a gas truck in Pennsylvania. Even then, they are struggling to get by. Because of the presence of natural gas believed to be on their property, their taxes have gone up and their annual tax payments are now more than their mortgage. While speculation drove the price up, New York’s drilling moratorium makes cashing in impossible. Her neighbors are in the same place. Julie says: “People feel hopeless.”

Marita Noon

Marita Noon is Executive Director of Energy Makes America Great.