What do you think about when you hear “Hudson Valley?”
A resident might reference the Catskill mountains or the long list of wineries and county fairs. But for the writers at “Saturday Night Live” (SNL), the Hudson Valley takes on a different, grittier form.
A buzz went through the local community after an SNL sketch, which aired on Sept. 28, allegedly poked fun at Hudson Valley farmers.
Part of the 45th season’s premiere episode, the sketch was in a television commercial format, depicting two sisters (Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon) who advertise their pick-your-own apple farm in Upstate New York.
Bryant and McKinnon are owners of “Chickham’s Apple Farm” that is “located in the part of New York State that has confederate flags.” It’s here, the sisters claim, that “for just $45, you can bring home $10 worth of apples.”
Bryant moves on to say “what our apples lack in flavor, they make up for in on the ground,” which is followed by a shot of bruised apples rotting in the grass.
Host Woody Harrelson plays the farmhand, a redneck-type character using a southern accent and a “troubled man who came with the land.” He delivered one good line: “Our apples are best in a very specific window of time, and whenever you come, you just missed it.”
While the skit did not mention the Hudson Valley by name, many say that the context clues referenced the area.
By the end of the weekend, local radio stations, news outlets and newspapers, including 101.5 WPDH, the Hudson Valley Post and Hudson Valley One, were picking up the controversial sketch.
Some found the sketch funny and even agreed to its portrayal of life in the Hudson Valley. Elisabeth Romano commented on the New Paltz Community Facebook page, “I have lived here for over 20 years and they picked up on details of the apple orchard owners I am familiar with. It’s humor guys! Lighten up.”
Others turned their noses up at the pretentious city folk who attempted to captivate the essence of the Hudson Valley. On the New Paltz Community Facebook page, Bill McAllister joked, “It’s a smug place, the bubble. Some of us recognized that and moved here [the Hudson Valley] from there [New York City]. Let them have their self-superior fun. After all, they have to ride the subway.”
Local farmers, on the other hand, felt differently about the sketch.
It wasn’t the pairing of confederate flags with the Hudson Valley that angered the community, but rather the depiction of their farmers as unintelligent, lazy and mockable.
“It’s an old, frankly tired trope to portray farmers as dumb redneck types. What’s funny is that a lot of farmers I know went to Cornell, Dartmouth and Princeton,” said Tim Dressel of Dressel Farms.
A major complaint from local farmers is that the skit overlooks the amount of work, effort and patience that goes into serving the public.
“I’m not upset with the SNL writers or cast. It’s their job to exploit and exaggerate perceptions in order to create humor. I’m more discouraged and disappointed at the observations they conveyed. We work really hard, long hours this time of year, and the days we’re open to the public are by far the most stressful as we strive to give people an authentic, enjoyable experience,” Dressel said. “If the characterization portrayed in the skit is how people perceive my profession, home and hospitality, it’s difficult to convince myself to continue to operate a U-Pick business.”
Kira Kinney of Conuco Farm & Evolutionary Organics even suggested on the New Paltz Community Facebook page that “we farmers ought to come up with a rebuttal skit that makes fun of all of the insane transactions we go through with our customers. I will start with a man in Brooklyn holding a sweet potato asking me, ‘Is this a sweet potato or a coconut?’”
The true reality of farmers offering pick-your-own apples is this: they must bolster their staff during the weekends of the fall season, which can be difficult to hire for and usually results in them relying on high schoolers and family to help. The staff is required to help with parking, manning the pick-your-own booth (taking money, distributing bags, giving directions), driving the hayride tractors, making and serving an abundance of donuts, stocking shelves, working the registers in the roadstand and much more. Also, the pick-your-own orchard is specially planted with smaller sections of varieties to accommodate customers and make it convenient for them to pick all different types of apples.
“So, basically, almost everything you see when you come for pick-your-own apples is a special undertaking by us,” Dressel said. “If we didn’t have pick-your-own, we wouldn’t even have hay wagons, picnic tables, eight rented port-o-potties or donut robots.”
Whether the SNL sketch mocking the Hudson Valley is funny or not relies on the perception of the viewer. But what is an objective truth is that, behind the curtain, there is a great amount of hard work and effort by the farmers that make pick-your-own apples happen.