PERRY — A shared land ethic unites farmers in the fertile Genesee River Valley of New York — conservation-minded farmers who aim to leave the land better off than they found it.
Through the “Our Farmers, Our Water, Our Future” exhibit, American Farmland Trust and award-winning portrait photographer Rebecca Drobis tells the story of these farmers, many of them women, in a series of images that capture the essence of agriculture in the Genesee Watershed. Many farmers, like the families depicted in the photo essay, are leaders in conservation practices that rebuild the soil and protect the environment.
The Arts Council for Wyoming County, 31 South Main St., will host the exhibition from Aug. 6 to Sept. 24. The public is invited to the opening reception, which will be at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 6. There will be a brief artist’s talk at 7 p.m.
For this project, Drobis traveled to Wyoming and Livingston counties throughout various agricultural seasons during 2018 to capture selected farmers who are committed to conservation and water preservation.
Among the featured farmers is Katherine Humphrey of All Western Evergreen Nursery & Christmas Tree Farm in Springwater.
Humphrey and her late husband William Humphrey started the tree farm in 1968 on land inherited from Mr. Humphrey’s family. Mr. Humphrey died in 2010.
The tree farm was a dream of Mr. Humphrey’s who more than two decades earlier had planted trees with his father.
Today, Katherine and her daughter Jerrianne Scheiderich contrinue to operate the farm, a popular destination for those seeking Christmas trees each holiday season.
The farm has been recognized for its state-of-the-art culturing, conservation land management strategies, and 30 years of work in integrated pest management, which works to solve pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment. The farm also follows an erosion control program and promotes best practices in forestry and crop management.
Also included is Leslie Hamilton, president of the Livingston County Farm Bureau, who works alongside her father and uncle at Triple H Farms in Geneseo and has a side business, River Valley Angus.
Leslie, a graduate of Cornell University, initially envisioned herself as a veterinarian, and took the college courses to match her career choice. But after a few semesters of school, she came to the realization that instead of taking care of other people’s farms and animals, she wanted to take care of her own.
Drobis said she was deeply inspired by the individual farmers’ passion for agriculture and dedication to maintaining their land for future generations, the ACWC said.
“Through her work Rebecca has documented a range of issues affecting individuals and communities including environmental conservation, education, health, youth and family,” the ACWC said. “Her curiosity and ability to connect with her subjects enrich her photographs with authenticity and candor.”
Due to COVID-19, all ACWC’s receptions will be offered in a hybrid format combining in-person attendance with digital streaming. Those who are fully vaccinated may choose to wear or not wear a mask. Masks will be required for individuals who are not vaccinated. The event is free and open to the public, but individuals are required to RSVP by calling (585) 237-3517.
The exhibit is part of Farmers Working Together for Clean Water in the Great Lakes, a project supported by the Great Lakes Protection Fund to keep streams and rivers in the Great Lakes Basin clean. The project is also part of a national American Farmland Trust initiative to work with women landowners to develop new voices for conservation.
“The intention of the exhibition’s design is to create an approachable, interactive and dynamic viewer experience through the use of alternative printed materials and oversized displays,” the ACWC said.
ACWC Director Jacqueline Swaby said the council feels deeply honored to be part of this project because it brings attention to the important work of female farmers in the Genesee Valley.
“Indeed, their leadership in the practice of water and land conservation in the Genesee Valley is commendable and should be celebrated. We should all be proud of the good work being done in our region by our farmers and other entities to conserve water and land, and also proud of the influence their work will have nationally,” she said. “I, too, echo the sentiments expressed by John Piotti, president and CEO of American Farmland Trust - ‘The farms portrayed in this exhibit are leaders in their communities and pioneers in conservation.’”
A Quick Look
WHAT: “Our Farmers, Our Water, Our Future,” a photography exhibition.
WHERE: Arts Council for Wyoming County, 31 South Main St., Perry.
WHEN: Aug. 6 through Sept. 24. An opening reception is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 6.
HOURS: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
INFORMATION: Call (585) 237-3517, or go to artswyco,org.