The Rise of New America: Life in Rural Upstate New York

The Rise of New America profile of Philip Foreman and Ted Dobson and families and their lives in rural upstate New York.

| March/April 1988


The Odd Couple: In this case, strong vegetables made for good neighbors. How an organic garden produced an unlikely coalition.


Land economist Jack Lessinger predicts that the dominant lifestyle and economy of the 21st Century will spring from certain rural counties. This Rise of New America profile follows fellow farmers Philip Foreman and Ted Dobson and families and their lives in rural upstate New York.

The New America: Life in Rural Upstate New York

Although Philip Foreman and Ted Dobson live just down the road from one another, they didn't speak for years.

"He thought I was an up-scale yuppie snob," recalls Philip, "and I thought he was nothing but an unkempt hippie."

Both live in Columbia County in eastern rural upstate New York, Philip and his family on weekends (the rest of the time in Manhattan, three hours away), Ted and his family full-time. The Foremans, Philip and Paula, are both successful advertising executives, while Dobson and his mate, Anne Banks, are successful organic gardeners, selling their produce to a widening network of green markets and restaurants, including more and more in Manhattan.

The domiciles of the two families are as different as their livelihoods. The Foremans' is a renovated nineteenth-century farmstead on 60 acres. With its pond, orchard and outbuildings, it is as traditional and picturesque as a Currier and Ives print. The Dobson-Banks house, by contrast, is neo-alternative: an octagonal passive-solar tepee of sorts, with attached greenhouse. The house sits at the foot of a steep, wooded ridge, while the four-acre garden stretches out toward the road from the front door. The rest of their 20 acres is untillable, because it is largely vertical.

"Driving by, I came secretly to admire that—to me—curious raised-bed garden of his," says Foreman. "Of course, some of the conventional, chemically oriented farmers around here did the same. None of them could believe he realized such a large yield from so small a plot."

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