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Looking backward: Back when beef came from the butcher

It was also in 1970 that the Arthur Ranger farm on Crego Road (northwest of Harley's) became River Mall, and the Albert Johnson farm east of Harley's became what was once Tri-County Mall. Due north from Harley's house sits the Little League baseball park that Cecil Reeves donated to the town, and the farm market operated by Cecil's sons, Mark and Brian. So, it seems that Harley is surrounded by development of some kind on all sides. All sides, that is, except one. His property includes 22 acres of vacant land to the south much wilder than one would expect, given its surroundings. Follow a path from the old house and you'll discover an abandoned building that looks as if it's becoming one with the land. Perhaps, it was originally intended as a tobacco shed or a hog barn. After talking to Harley, the latter seems more likely. It was an abattoir for more than 50 years. In other words, it was a slaughterhouse.

Local butchers remind us of a time when we grew our own food, including our meat. In 1900 about 6,300 of 14,000 Onondaga County households outside Syracuse were farm families. Nearly one of every two people lived on a farm in 1900. Only 725 of 126,000 households in the county ran farms in 2000. So, in 100 years this ratio plummeted to only one of every 175 people. Today, the idea of a slaughterhouse is mysterious, if not downright disgusting, to some folks. Earl Crego remembers culling cows from his dairy herd as an economic necessity. Cows that could no longer produce or reproduce went to the slaughterhouse. My mother, who grew up on a Lysander dairy farm in the 1930s and 1940s, vividly recalls the sights, sounds and smells of hog butchering in winter. They were no more pleasant then than they are today. But, they were a fact of farm life, and therefore, a common experience. Regardless, even back in 1900 there were still people whose opinion of slaughterhouses was simply "not in my backyard."

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