Page 27 - Vallet Table - Spring 2020
P. 27

                                 KAREN WASHINGTON has her hands in the dirt. At Rise & Root Farm, the three-acre property she runs with three other women in Chester, she keeps her pulse on the soil. She knows what it needs to grow her herbs and tomatoes, just as she knows that, if she’s not careful, it will invite a whole host of weeds to thrive within it.
A retired, African American woman from the Bronx, Washington manages an enviable for-profit farm with friends in the heart of the Hudson Valley’s Black Dirt region. More striking, perhaps, is that she didn’t hit her stride as a farmer until she ended her 30-year career as a physical therapist and pursued a passion that had long pulled on her heartstrings. With planning, perseverance, and
a whole lot of guts, she made her dream into a tactile, visceral thing.
Unconventional as Washington’s path is, the arc of her narrative is far from an unusual one for women in the Hudson Valley’s food industry. With paths riddled by unforeseen challenges, hard-won successes, and more than a few “Why am I doing this?” moments, the local ladies who mold and shape the region’s food scene have forged incredible paths to get where they are today.
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