Two and a half hours outside the city, you will find a growing enclave of young farmers. With backgrounds of all sorts, they have convened in the town of Amagansett and the surrounding area to turn their ideas into reality. Take a tour of their burgeoning projects as well as the many other cultural and outdoor attractions this unique part of Long Island has to offer.
Just past the Hamptons, before Montauk, this small community has a history of land preservation that began over 30 years ago with the establishment of the Peconic Land Trust.
Quail Hill, the longest running community-supported agriculture (CSA) organic farm on Long Island, is one of the Trust’s landmarks. It has over 200 members, all of whom are invited to harvest their own crops twice a week and help with fieldwork and maintenance if desired. Quail Hill is not the only farm in the area but with an active apprenticeship program, many Quail Hill “graduates” have gone on to start their own farms.
Amber Waves is one example. Amanda Merrow of Vermont and Katie Baldwin of California met during a six-month apprenticeship at Quail Hill in 2008. Seeing the abundance of fresh produce being grown on Long Island but not many hard grains, the two set out with the mission to re-introduce the harvest of “Amber Waves” wheat. In March 2009, with the help of a land lease from the Peconic Land Trust, the two began working seven days a week to make it possible. They have made an indelible mark on a movement largely fueled by young farmers. Amber Waves is now a 60-member CSA farm and a weekly presence at the Montauk Farmers Market. To further their cause, Merrow and Baldwin also collaborate with local schools, sponsor educational visits to their 7.7-acre farm and organize regular potlucks and barbecues that bring the community together.
Balsam Farms, another local presence, also has many workers who were originally drawn to the area by the Quail Hill apprenticeship program. The 50-acre organic vegetable farm has a stand at the foot of its driveway stocked with fresh produce daily. At Fireplace Farm, the young Steve Eaton, has Quail Hill roots as well; he served as the Field Manager for five years before establishing his own farm. Eaton can be found with a small stand at the Springs Farmers Market on Saturdays. As he said, “I’d rather remain small-scale and offer quality produce than try to expand and be present at all the farmers markets.”
Several local eateries collaborate with the local farmers. South Edison and Crow’s Nest, both in Montauk, get much of their fresh produce from the ladies at Amber Waves Farm. South Fork Kitchen in Bridgehampton is also a regular client of Amber Waves.
While a small community, Amagansett has become a mecca for those wishing to work the land. Regular dinners, events organized by the Peconic Land Trust and the various markets in the area bring people together and create a social environment. The wealth of natural beauty surrounding the town is also to be enjoyed during any spare moment of rest and visitors are invited to participate in the many local events.
Although chilly weather is around the corner, the farms remain active. Butternut and other winter squash varieties fill the fields. Bok choy, Mizuna (mustard greens) and arugula are staples on local menus this time of year. And kale, as always, thrives, as well as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. In the fall, the Peconic Land Trust offers a canning class, wreath making workshops, an annual Autumn, farm-fundraiser dinner at Quail Hill, woodland walks and a visit to the walking dunes of Napeague. Check their events page for activities taking place throughout the year.
Photos: Amanda Coen