Black Dirt Region

The Black Dirt Region is located in southern Orange County, New York and northern Sussex County, New Jersey. It is mostly located in the western section of the Town of Warwick, centered on the hamlet of Pine Island. Some sections spill over into adjacent portions of the towns of Chester, Goshen and Wawayanda in New York and parts of Wantage and Vernon, New Jersey. Before the region was drained, around 1880 by the Polish and Volga German immigrants[1] through drainage culverts and the construction of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, it was a densely-vegetated marsh known as the "Drowned Lands of the Wallkill"

The Black Dirt Region takes its name from the dark, extremely fertile soil left over from an ancient glacial lake bottom augmented by decades of past flooding of the Wallkill River. The 26,000 acres (10,400 ha) of muck left over is the largest concentration of such soil in the United States outside the Florida Everglades.[2]

Black Dirt Region
The Black Dirt Region, viewed looking south from a hill in the Town of Goshen.
Black dirt in Black Dirt Region
Black dirt field near the village of Florida


The area mostly consists of flat flood plain. The few areas that rise above the valley floor are known as "islands", since they often were in times of heavy flooding. New Jersey's Pochuck Mountain looms just to the south of the region, and the ridge continues into the region as a small upland area called Pochuck Neck; there are two smaller hills within it known as Mounts Adam and Eve, rising to 900 and 1,060 feet (274 and 323 m) respectively. The area is also very noticeable on satellite imagery by the color differential from its surroundings.[3]


Farmers generally avoided the area in the early years of settlement, because the soil, although rich, was frequently flooded and poorly drained. Instead, the land was used for pasturage, though sudden storms would often drown the stock. Starting in 1804, talks began about the best way to drain the swampland. First, an attempt was made to clear the natural obstacles, but that proved too expensive. Instead, a drainage canal was constructed by General George D. Wickham through his property in 1835. (The former course is now a creek meandering parallel). Immigrants from Eastern Europe, particularly Poles and Volga Germans, had worked similar soils, known as "chernozem", in their native countries and began farming the former swampland. In the mid-19th century they won a series of conflicts with downstream millers later dubbed "the Muskrat and Beaver Wars", giving them the right to prevent a dam from being built on the drainage channel [4]

They eventually began growing the pungent, highly prized black-dirt onion on the land, taking advantage of the relative proximity of New York City as a market. By the late 20th century the region was producing an average of 30,000 pounds of onion per acre. Today, due to changing popular tastes in onions and different economic realities, that staple is not as profitable as it was, and farmers in the region have been diversifying their crops to include lettuce, radish, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and, increasingly, sod. Development of the farmland is considered unlikely since the soil is very poor for building.[2]

See also


  1. ^ "Black Magic, Hudson Valley's Special Soil". Edible Hudson Valley. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  2. ^ a b Gordon, John Steele (December 1990). "Sowing the American Dream". American Heritage. 41 (8). Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-08-26. Orange County, with a total of twenty-six thousand acres, had more of it in one spot than any place else in the United States except the Florida Everglades.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Snell, James (1881). History of Sussex and Warren County, New Jersey. Archived from the original on 2007-06-21. Retrieved 2007-08-26..

Further reading

Pride and Produce. Cheetah Haysom 2015. Drowned Lands Press, New York, NY. 978-0-692-59127-7.

External links

Agriculture in New York

Agriculture is a major component of the New York economy. As of the 2012 census of agriculture, there were over 35,000 farms covering an area of 7 million acres (28,000 km2) which contributed $5.4 billion in gross sales value and $1.2 billion in net farm income to the national economy. Dairy farming alone accounted for $2.5 billion or 45% of sales. The Finger Lakes region is the center of state agriculture, and the state is a top-ten national producer of cow milk, apples, grapes, onions, sweet corn, tomatoes, and maple syrup.


Chernozem (Russian: Чернозём, tr. chernozyom, IPA: [tɕɪrnɐˈzʲom]; "black soil") is a black-colored soil containing a high percentage of humus (4% to 16%) and high percentages of phosphoric acids, phosphorus, and ammonia. Chernozem is very fertile and can produce high agricultural yields with its high moisture storage capacity. Chernozems are also a Reference Soil Group of the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB).

Florida, Orange County, New York

Florida is a village in Orange County, New York, United States. The population was 2,833 at the 2010 census estimates. It is part of the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY Metropolitan Statistical Area as well as the larger New York–Newark–Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA Combined Statistical Area. The village is located in the town of Warwick, with two small northern portions in the town of Goshen. Florida is at the convergence of Routes 17A, 25, and 94.

Florida has its own school district consisting of Golden Hill Elementary School and S. S. Seward Institute. The mascot for S.S. Seward Institute is a Spartan.

The current mayor is Daniel Harter, Jr., who was elected in March 2018.

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene was a large and destructive tropical cyclone which affected much of the Caribbean and East Coast of the United States during late August 2011. The ninth named storm, first hurricane, and first major hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, Irene originated from a well-defined Atlantic tropical wave that began showing signs of organization east of the Lesser Antilles. Due to development of atmospheric convection and a closed center of circulation, the system was designated as Tropical Storm Irene on August 20, 2011. After intensifying, Irene made landfall in St. Croix as a strong tropical storm later that day. Early on August 21, the storm made a second landfall in Puerto Rico. While crossing the island, Irene strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane. The storm paralleled offshore of Hispaniola, continuing to slowly intensify in the process. Shortly before making four landfalls in the Bahamas, Irene peaked as a 120 mph (190 km/h) Category 3 hurricane.

Thereafter, the storm slowly leveled off in intensity as it struck the Bahamas and then curved northward after passing east of Grand Bahama. Continuing to weaken, Irene was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on August 27, becoming the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Ike in 2008. Early on the following day, the storm re-emerged into the Atlantic from southeastern Virginia. Although Irene remained a hurricane over water, it weakened to a tropical storm while making yet another landfall in the Little Egg Inlet in southeastern New Jersey on August 27. A few hours later, Irene made its ninth and final landfall in Brooklyn, New York City. Early on August 29, Irene transitioned into an extratropical cyclone while striking Vermont, after remaining inland as a tropical cyclone for less than 12 hours.

Throughout its path, Irene caused widespread destruction and at least 49 deaths. Damage estimates throughout the United States are estimated near $13.5 billion, making Irene one of the costliest hurricanes on record in the country. In addition, monetary losses in the Caribbean and Canada were $830 million and $130 million respectively for a total of nearly $14.2 billion in damage.

List of regions of the United States

This is a list of some of the regions in the United States. Many regions are defined in law or regulations by the federal government; others by shared culture and history; and others by economic factors.

New Hampton, New York

New Hampton is a small hamlet in the Town of Wawayanda in Orange County, New York, United States. It is just outside the city of Middletown, across Interstate 84 along US 6 and NY 17M. It has the ZIP Code 10958.

New Hampton spans from the northern part of Orange County's famous "Black Dirt Region" near Pine Island to route 17M adjoining Middletown, New York.

New York State Route 17A

New York State Route 17A (NY 17A) is a state highway in southern New York in the United States, entirely within Orange County. Its western terminus is located in the village of Goshen at a junction with NY 17 (Future I-86), and its eastern terminus is at another intersection with NY 17 located in Southfields. It runs concurrently with NY 94 from Warwick to Florida. It serves mainly to connect Warwick with the rest of the county. While it is an east–west route, many sections run in a more north–south orientation. Its circuitous route allows it to offer much scenery to drivers.

The Greenwood Lake–Goshen portion of NY 17A was originally designated as part of New York State Route 55 in the 1920s. South of Greenwood Lake, NY 55 used modern NY 210. NY 55 was split into NY 17A and NY 210 as part of the 1930 renumbering of state highways in New York. Initially, only NY 210 continued east from Greenwood Lake to Southfields; however, NY 17A was extended to Southfields by 1933, overlapping NY 210. The overlap was eliminated in 1982 when NY 210 was truncated to Greenwood Lake.

New York State Route 17M

New York State Route 17M (NY 17M) is an east–west state highway in Orange County, New York, in the United States. It extends for 26.63 miles (42.86 km) from west of the city of Middletown to what is currently the north–south section of NY 17 just southeast of the village of Harriman. It is a busy main street in Middletown and the village of Monroe; in the former, it divides into a parkway for several blocks and forms the city's major commercial strip, located between the downtown district and an interchange with Interstate 84 (I-84). The rest of the road is a two-lane rural route. Between New Hampton and Goshen, the highway overlaps with U.S. Route 6 (US 6). The easternmost section of that overlap near Goshen is routed on the Quickway, making a three-route concurrency with NY 17.

Most of NY 17M follows the course used by NY 17 prior to the construction of the Quickway through the Catskill Mountains. The first section of the Quickway opened in 1951 and extended from Fair Oaks to Goshen. NY 17M was initially assigned in September 1950 to NY 17's old surface routing between Fair Oaks and Middletown; however, it was extended east to Harriman and, for a brief time, northwest to Wurtsboro as more sections of the freeway were completed.

Orange County, New York

Orange County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2010 census, the population was 372,813. The county seat is Goshen. This county was first created in 1683 and reorganized with its present boundaries in 1798.Orange County is included in the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is in the state's Mid-Hudson Region of the Hudson Valley.

The County Executive is Steve Neuhaus.

As of the 2010 census the centre of population of New York state was located in Orange County, approximately three miles west of the hamlet of Westbrookville.

Papakating Creek

Papakating Creek is a 20.1-mile-long (32.3 km) tributary of the Wallkill River located in Frankford and Wantage townships in Sussex County, New Jersey in the United States. The creek rises in a small swamp located beneath the eastern face of Kittatinny Mountain in Frankford and its waters join the Wallkill to the east of Sussex borough.

Papakating Creek and its three major tributaries drain the northern portion of New Jersey's Kittatinny Valley a fertile valley underlain by shale and limestone of the Ordovician Martinsburg Formation and soils deposited by retreating glaciers in the last ice age. The region which the Papakating Creek and its tributaries drain is largely rural farmland and forests with a few low-density residential communities. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reports that phosphorus and fecal coliform from agricultural or residential runoff as well as arsenic from agricultural pesticide applications or regional mineralogy impair the creek. Within the watershed are lands belonging to two state parks, one federal wildlife refuge, and preserves managed by the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust which set aside tracts for wildlife habitats that protect unique ecosystems and some threatened species.

Pine Island, New York

Pine Island is a hamlet in the town of Warwick in Orange County, New York, United States. It is the largest community in the Black Dirt Region, which is famous for its "black dirt onions." It gets its name from its slight elevation over the surrounding land. In the days before the nearby Wallkill River was rerouted to control flooding, it would often be an actual island for a period in the spring.

Pochuck Mountain

Pochuck Mountain is a ridge in the New York-New Jersey Highlands region of the Appalachian Mountains. Pochuck Mountain's summit and most of its peaks lie within Vernon Township, Sussex County, New Jersey, although the south-western portion of the ridge lies within Hardyston Township, and the north-eastern tip of the ridge extends over the New York state line into Orange County. The ridge marks the eastern edge of the Great Appalachian Valley, and it divides the watersheds of the Wallkill River and its tributary Pochuck Creek. The two rivers meet at Pochuck Neck, marking the terminus of the ridge.

Sawyer Farmhouse

The Sawyer Farmhouse is the residence of the family of the same name, on Maple Avenue in the Town of Goshen, New York, United States, at the edge of the Black Dirt Region. It was built about 1780, and is a two-story, five bay, Federal style frame dwelling updated about 1860 in a picturesque Italianate style. An initial addition was built about 1810, and a one-story rear addition was added about 1890.It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Sussex County, New Jersey

Sussex County is the northernmost county in the State of New Jersey. Its county seat is Newton. It is part of the New York Metropolitan Area and is part of the state's Skylands Region, a term promoted by the New Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth, & Tourism Commission to encourage tourism. As of the 2017 Census estimate, the county's population was 141,682, making it the 17th-most populous of the state's 21 counties, a 5.1% decrease from the 149,265 enumerated in the 2010 United States Census, in turn an increase of 5,099 (3.5%) over the 144,166 persons enumerated in the 2000 Census. Based on 2010 Census data, Vernon Township was the county's largest in both population and area, with a population of 23,943 and covering an area of 70.59 square miles (182.8 km2).In 2015, the county had a per capita personal income of $55,497, the ninth-highest in New Jersey and ranked 220th of 3,113 counties in the United States. As of 2010 The Bureau of Economic Analysis ranked the county as having the 131st-highest per capita income ($49,207) of the 3,113 counties in the United States (and the ninth-highest in the state).The county was established in 1753 and named after historic County Sussex, England.Until the mid-20th century, most of Sussex County's economy was based on agriculture (chiefly dairy farming) and the mining industry. With the decline of these industries in the 1960s, Sussex County was transformed into a bedroom community that absorbed population shifts from New Jersey's more heavily populated areas. Recent studies estimate that 60% of Sussex County residents work outside of the county, many seeking or maintaining employment in New York City or New Jersey's more suburban and urban areas.

Terra preta

Terra preta (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈtɛʁɐ ˈpɾetɐ], locally [ˈtɛha ˈpɾeta], literally "black soil" in Portuguese) is a type of very dark, fertile artificial (anthropogenic) soil found in the Amazon Basin. It is also known as "Amazonian dark earth" or "Indian black earth". In Portuguese its full name is terra preta do índio or terra preta de índio ("black soil of the Indian", "Indians' black earth"). Terra mulata ("mulatto earth") is lighter or brownish in color.

Terra preta owes its characteristic black color to its weathered charcoal content, and was made by adding a mixture of charcoal, bone, broken pottery, compost and manure to the otherwise relatively infertile Amazonian soil. A product of indigenous soil management and slash-and-char agriculture, the charcoal is stable and remains in the soil for thousands of years, binding and retaining minerals and nutrients.Terra preta is characterized by the presence of low-temperature charcoal residues in high concentrations; of high quantities of tiny pottery shards; of organic matter such as plant residues, animal feces, fish and animal bones, and other material; and of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, zinc and manganese. Fertile soils such as terra preta show high levels of microorganic activities and other specific characteristics within particular ecosystems.

Terra preta zones are generally surrounded by terra comum ([ˈtɛhɐ koˈmũ] or [ˈtɛhɐ kuˈmũ]), or "common soil"; these are infertile soils, mainly acrisols, but also ferralsols and arenosols. Deforested arable soils in the Amazon are productive for a short period of time before their nutrients are consumed or leached away by rain or flooding. This forces farmers to migrate to an unburned area and clear it (by fire). Terra preta is less prone to nutrient leaching because of its high concentration of charcoal, microbial life and organic matter. The combination accumulates nutrients, minerals and microorganisms and withstands leaching.

Terra preta soils were created by farming communities between 450 BCE and 950 CE. Soil depths can reach 2 meters (6.6 ft). It is reported to regenerate itself at the rate of 1 centimeter (0.4 in) per year in Brazil's Amazonian basin.

Wallkill River

The Wallkill River, a tributary of the Hudson, drains Lake Mohawk in Sparta, New Jersey, flowing from there generally northeasterly 88.3 miles (142.1 km) to Rondout Creek in New York, just downstream of Sturgeon Pool, near Rosendale, with the combined flows reaching the Hudson at Kingston.

The river is unusual because it flows north between two major south-flowing rivers, the Hudson and the Delaware River. It also has the unusual distinction of being a river that drains into a creek, due to being impounded shortly before the Rondout confluence into a small body of water called Sturgeon Pool near Rifton, and what reaches the Rondout from there is the lesser flow.

Wallkill Valley

The Wallkill Valley is a broad valley extending through southeastern New York and northwestern New Jersey. It is composed of rolling hills, plains, and swamps (including the Black Dirt Region) surrounding the Wallkill River. The valley is a subdivision of the larger Hudson Valley, bound to the west by the Shawangunk Ridge/Kittatinny Mountains and to the east by the Marlboro Mountains and New York–New Jersey Highlands. The northern Wallkill Valley is sometimes associated with the greater Catskills region, although it is geographically separated from the Catskill Mountains by the Shawangunk Ridge and Rondout Valley. In a broader sense, the Wallkill Valley is part of the Ridge-and-Valley physiographic province of the Appalachian Mountains, while the Catskills further to the north and west are part of the Appalachian Plateau.

Warwick, New York

Warwick is a town in the southwest part of Orange County, New York, United States. Its population was 32,065 at the 2010 census. The town contains three villages (Village of Florida NY, Village of Greenwood Lake, and Village of Warwick) and eight hamlets (Amity, Bellvale, Edenville, Greenwood Forest Farms, Little York, New Milford, Pine Island, and Sterling Forest). Warwick is the home of the annual Applefest, the Summer Arts Festival, The Black Dirt Feast, the Hudson Valley Jazz Festival, and other events and festivals.

Warwick Village Historic District

The Warwick Village Historic District is located in the center of the village of Warwick in the U.S. state of New York. It takes up an irregularly-shaped 130 acres (42 ha) of residential and commercial neighborhoods centered on NY 94 and 17A).

Buildings within the district reflect Warwick's growth over almost two centuries, from its origins as a rural settlement in colonial times through its mid-19th century industrialization as a rail hub to its development as a weekend summer resort town in the early 20th century. It was designated as a historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Historic buildings
and sites

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