Lower Hudson C.R.A.F.T.
Thursday, 29 Julio, 2010
Mahopac Farm, a children’s petting zoo where anyone who grew up around these parts has spent time as a child or brought their own children to enjoy a birthday party with pony rides, to poke fun at the resident clown, or to walk the antique shop with an assortment of classic candies - even those bubble gum cigarettes my brothers and I would love to buy to pretend we were Gramma and Grampa. The barn was regularly converted into a playhouse seating 300 at its peak. The first act hosted in the 1970s being UK’s Bow Belles String Quartet. “We Grow Smiles” greets those entering the parking lot and on the occasion a popcorn stand is still placed out front.
How could a place that is so full of color and enticing of laughter, a Wonka Wonderland in the midst of the highly congested shopping complex the Somers Commons, be such a sad place too?
The truth is the museum is boarded up. The tools in the barns are crusty and rusted over. The clown no longer makes his appearance. The purple and green painted rabbit dens and pig pens are chipped and crumbling. But Mahopac Farm is no ghost town either.
Still bustling about are overly ostentatious pea cocks and a modest white pea hen, two of the last ponies, ragged and uncombed that only a few times a year offer rides to children, a mama pig and her baby, a duck named DogDuck and another that patiently sits on her egg that never seems to hatch, a wise old goat, and a rooster that keeps watch on them all.
Here one finds the most beautiful collection of feral cats in Westchester and just as many bunnies too, although, the oldest and worn of them all is Bernie. I inquired about there being any cows. He acknowledged that I asked a question, but was certainly lost in reminiscences replying, “Bashful. She was a doll. But she grew old too,” ostensibly referencing himself. Bernie is where Mahopac Farm begins back in 1967.
After a lifetime of traveling the country in his youth from the west coast to the east, to settling in NYC and starting a successful humorous greeting card business with an illustrator friend, and eventually putting aside his nomadic ways to raise a family, Bernie Zipkin opened Mahopac Farm, a petting zoo right from his start. Old and often bitter now as he pushes 90 years-old, he openly blames the ales of society on cell phones and computers.
My farmer friend, Dan Moon, a resident in Mahopac currently farming at Common Ground Farm located in Beacon, NY organized this CRAFT. Over this past winter Dan gave the Old Man a hand feeding his animals. Before there was Food Not Bombs there were just plain ole’ kind people like Bernie. For years beyond count Bernie has been taking in expired produce and bread from local grocers (today mostly a Trader Joe’s in CT) to use as feed for his petty zoo menagerie and to pass along to any human mouth to feed.
|(Halloween was always a fun time at the petting zoo)|
In the mean time as the world waits for Bernie to die, the petty zoo continues and the back fields are rented by Meadows Farm with acres of sweet corn under cultivation. The front field is left fallow because mowing is a favorite past-time for Bernie. Dan was interested in getting a patch of diversified vegetables started, but was quickly turned down. The children and developer have no interested in a CSA forming that would potential host opposition to development plans. Bernie still welcomes the occasional visitor. I encourage anyone who upholds true American values to explore Mahopac Farm with the potential chance to speak with wise ole’ Bernie himself.