This article explores collective memories about lost farms in New York City's watershed. It argues that farms taken by eminent domain for two water supply reservoirs came to symbolize lost rural and agricultural lifeways in the twentieth century. In the 1950s and 1960s, New York City condemned over two hundred farms in Delaware County, New York, flooding two valleys for reservoirs, contributing to a pattern of farm closure, and dramatically changing social and economic life. Nonetheless, farms declined in this region more slowly than across the state and nation, suggesting that it was not the loss of farms but the specific way these agricultural valleys were flooded that became important for collective memories about this local history. Using transcripts from eminent domain proceedings and local newspapers, this article explores the making and mobilization of collective memories that blamed New York City for the loss of the county's “best” farms. Reading historical documents as cultural texts, this article brings together the insights of science and technology studies and memory studies to show how residents in the watershed localized a more general politics of rural-urban division by linking anxieties about changes in the region to New York City's water supply development history.

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