Nearly 15 years ago, Richard Giles and his wife founded Lucky Dog, a 160-acre organic farm on the banks of the Delaware River in New York.
“I plowed and planted and named the patches of the farm. Holley tended wild flowers, and eagles cruised the river,” Giles wrote for a book project he is working on. “I quit my job. After lunch we floated down the river on tractor tubes.”
Photographer Dana Matthews met Giles more than 20 years ago, and they are working on the book project together. In it, Giles details a pastoral backdrop and everyday farming challenges, such as coping with hailstorms while harvesting the season’s greens.
His farm reminded Matthews of paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Jean-Francois Millet, she said.
“The subjects are elevated and dignified in their work while remaining deeply rooted to the earth,” said Matthews, who worked on her grandmother’s farm growing up. “They are not idealized or romanticized, but rather present the truth and beauty of reality in that moment.”
Matthews has taken photographs of the farm and the families working there for 11 years. She also spent a lot of time walking around the farm and not shooting, “visually absorbing the rhythms of the day.”
Lucky Dog grows a variety of crops to ensure security from season to season.
Maintaining Lucky Dog as a certified organic farm has its unique challenges — such as weeding with machines or by hand rather than using chemicals — but most are the timeless battles of small, diverse farms everywhere, Giles said. Primarily, that is simply making a profit on the crops.
“The ‘local food’ movement and the increasing demand for very high quality, very fresh food have worked in our favor,” Giles said. “But the huge industrial food system is still the source of almost all the ‘fresh’ food in this country.”
Because industrialized farms take up so much of the best land in the United States, many smaller farms are in less than ideal climates and on marginalized land, he said. However, small farms can still provide a good life in certain communities.
“Small, labor-intensive businesses are good for poor rural counties, and Delaware County, New York, is one of these,” he said.
“Making the financial ends meet can be difficult here, the work can be hard, and the weather can be ugly, but we eat the best food in the world.”
- Lauren Russell, CNN