Sag Harbor Man Perishes in Tractor Accident, Had Hopes of a Farming Career

Posted on 03 December 2010

web Josh Levine

By Bryan Boyhan

Cutting short a dream of a career in farming, a Sag Harbor man working in the fields of the farm at the Quail Hill Preserve in Amagansett, was crushed to death on Tuesday morning, November 30, beneath the wheel of a tractor he was operating.

Joshua M. Levine, 35, had been operating a Case International tractor at about 11:30 Tuesday morning, working to clean one of the structures at the farm, when the accident occurred, according to police.

It is unclear how Levine, market manager for the farm, came to be trapped under the tractor’s rear wheel.

“That is currently under investigation,” said East Hampton Town Police Det. Lt. Christopher Anderson. Det. Anderson declined to say if Levine had actually been driving the tractor prior to the accident.

“We’re investigating all possibilities,” Det. Anderson said. “Including whether it was mechanical error or human error or a combination of both.”

Other workers at the farm came to Levine’s aid, but despite their efforts were unable to pull him from beneath the wheel. Levine was pronounced dead at the scene.

Nobody else was working on the tractor at the time, said Det. Anderson.

In addition to the East Hampton Town Police Department, the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office is also investigating the accident. The tractor has been impounded by the East Hampton Town Police Department.

The farm, which is located at 660 Old Stone Highway in Amagansett, is operated by the Peconic Land Trust.

Levine, originally from Tenafly, N.J., had been working with Quail Hill for three years, initially joining the farm as a volunteer in 2008, then becoming a member of the summer apprentice program in 2009, said Peconic Land Trust’s president, John vH. Halsey in a statement Tuesday evening.

“Josh’s enthusiasm for farming and the Quail Hill community prompted his decision to stay on at the farm and to ultimately join the organization as a full-time staff member in the spring of 2010,” said Halsey.

Levine came to farming after having other careers.

“I’ve always kind of craved the rural lifestyle,” he told the New York Times in an August 28, 2008 story on community farming. The article, which featured a photo of Levine boxing cherry tomatoes at Quail Hill, identifies Levine as a former real estate broker from New York City. The story goes on to observe that “Mr. Levine has learned to adapt to what the land gives up. When the spinach and asparagus came in at Quail Hill, he made spinach and asparagus frittatas using eggs from the farm’s henhouse. Its produce was the genesis of a successful strawberry rhubarb sorbet, he said.”

The article said he one day hoped to rent land and eventually develop it into a community farm and notes that he and his wife had been thinking about a healthier lifestyle, especially since the birth of their daughter a year-and-a-half prior. They since have a son, who is less than a year old.

“My wife and I are thrilled to have them in the community. They quickly made many friends and became a part of the community,” wrote Brian Halweil, editor of Edible East End, who knew Levine from the local farming community, in an email Tuesday.

“I know that Josh was thrilled to embark on his second career as a farmer. As such, he was part of a movement across America of people who weren’t raised on farms, but who are choosing to make farming their livelihood.”

“I know that Josh, along with his wife, had many innovative and beautiful ideas about farming ventures to explore at Quail Hill and beyond — from small-scale food processing to new food delivery schemes to year-round veggie production.,” Halweil continued.

“All of us at the Peconic Land Trust are deeply saddened by today’s tragic loss,” Halsey said in his statement, “and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Josh’s family and friends.”

A funeral service will be held this Friday, December 3, at noon at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor.

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6 Responses to “Sag Harbor Man Perishes in Tractor Accident, Had Hopes of a Farming Career”

  1. Meghan says:

    I had the pleasure of working with Josh back in the late 90s in NYC. He was a lovely, kind and funny person and it’s extremely sad to hear this news. Condolences to his family.

  2. steve says:

    Josh was my cousin, friend and a truly wonderful guy. He lit up any room he entered and we will deeply miss having him in our lives. At the services today. So many people spoke to his kind nature and how he touched so many lives. I am glad so many people experienced what we were able to for 35 short years. We miss you josh.
    Love, steve

  3. Elementary School Parent #1 says:

    Tragic – not to suggest this is what happened but my great grandfather always told me to shut down the tractor if you need to get in front or under to pull out a branch or move a rock, etc – never trust neutral or hand brake. Same rule applies to lawn mowers, just turn it off. Of course my great grandfather’s was some 1930 something model but same rules apply today – just sayin’
    Anyway, so sad to hear of the loss of a young person who had found their calling in life. Equally tragic to lose someone who’s calling had been so important, albeit humble. In this day and age most kids go for the flash and the cash. Sounds like another case of the good dying young.
    Thoughts and prayers

  4. This is such a sad story. So young, eager and bound for success. I read to see if we might be related. He looks like family. Such a sad event, my sympathy to his young family and his good friends.

  5. Ellen Hanson says:

    I just saw this as we have been away for most of the winter. Josh often selected my produce from the Quail Hill table at the Sag Harbor FM and frequently suggested new vegetables or combinations to try. I sampled my first duck eggs at his urging. He was a lovely soul who, along with many other endearing folks, make my shopping trips on Saturday morning a highlight of the week. This coming spring I will miss seeing Josh and chatting with him about his recipes and what is coming up in the fields. My deepest sympathies to his wife and entire family.

  6. I would like to know if the memorial for Josh was constructed and where it is located. I had a dream about Josh 2 weeks before he died. I would like to know if there is a memorial I could visit. I had never met Josh, but the dream gave me the impression of a wonderful person.

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