Tag Archive | "EECO Farm"

EECO To Educate About Farming

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Driving past the Long Lane home of East End Community Organic Farm (EECO Farm) it is not uncommon to see families tending crops, children playing amongst the rows of fresh vegetables and herbs. Further in, professional farmers can be seen harvesting crops for their farm stands and the growing number of farmers’ markets on the East End, while cars dip in and out of the lot in front of EECO Farm’s own stand to buy fresh lettuce and zucchini just plucked from the vine.

For Ian Calder-Piedmonte, of Balsam Farms, the experience of farming is not one that should be limited to those with access to land, but something celebrated by everyone on the East End. To that end, the board of EECO Farm announced a new initiative last week led by Calder-Piedmonte aimed at bringing the knowledge of successful farming into schools, restaurants, houses of worship and home gardens throughout the South Fork.

The EECO Farm Outreach program was conceptualized as the perfect way for the farm to honor its 10-year anniversary. The not-for-profit was founded by Annie Bliss and Lauren Jarrett and manages close to 50 acres of East Hampton land leased from the town. In turn, it offers leases for gardens to families as well as commercial farmers, chefs and even beekeepers who are committed to organic growing.

In its most basic philosophy, the Outreach program is aimed at bringing the experience and expertise of farmers like Calder-Piedmonte to individuals and institutions on the East End interested in starting their own organic garden or improving their existing one.

Calder-Piedmonte is leading the effort. A local farmer with Alex Balsam at Balsam Farms, Calder-Piedmonte was educated at Cornell University.

“EECO Farm itself is a unique community of gardeners, small farmers, the farm stand — there are a lot of different things going on there,” said Calder-Piedmonte, seated at a table at Bruce Buschel’s Southfork Kitchen in Bridgehampton, a mecca to local food. “It was Bruce and some other members who thought it would be a good idea to reach out to the community and become a resource for those with questions about growing.”

Already, the Outreach Program is working with East Hampton High School environmental science teacher Rob Schack to develop a school garden there and has worked with the district’s middle school Nature Program garden. The Outreach program has also begun working with restaurants interested in building kitchen gardens, much like the one at Southfork Kitchen, to help bring local produce onto as many menus as possible.

“The idea is to make EECO Farm a bigger part of this community,” said Calder-Piedmonte.

For Schack, the experience his students have simply visiting EECO Farm, let alone growing their own school garden, is something it’s hard to place value on.

“It is tremendous for so many reasons,” he said. “I start talking about food production and sustainability, what is going on with their food to engage the students,” he said. “They are honestly used to looking at things scientifically in small segments, not in terms of the big picture. So when we go to the farm and start looking at the soil, talking about de-nitrification, they recognize it is a concept tied into a larger aspect of being a part of a working farm.”

“It means a lot,” he added. “It gives credence to the fact that science is not just something thrown at them to learn, but there is an actual application.”

Schack sees the school garden as something that can be incorporated in an experiential way into a number of subjects, including math and local history.

“It is also creating this sense of place at the school, which I think is important,” he said.

That garden’s deer fence is currently being built as well as cold frames. Calder-Piedmonte said he hopes to have vegetables planted for harvest this fall.

According to Bliss, the goal at East Hampton like many school gardens is that eventually food from the garden will make its way into the cafeteria, expanding the role of the garden into not just an educational resource, but a nutritional resource as well.

Calder-Piedmonte was careful in noting that this is not an Outreach program designed to offer free agriculture labor, but is conceived as a resource for knowledge.

“We can help people make the right decisions about whether a hoop house or greenhouse is right for them, what kinds of seeds to plant and when, what to look out for,” he said.

Calder-Piedmonte added the agricultural community, which is growing by leaps and bounds each year, is interested in more people becoming a part of its burgeoning community. It’s a community generally populated by farmers’ interested in improving the quality of soil through organic or all-natural farming, rather than destroying it through the use of pesticides,

“If people want to grow here and are interested in growing on this land, we want to facilitate that,” he said.

“I think that EECO Farm is answering a call we have heard on the East End,” added Buschel, noting more people each year are interested in eating local food.

“It all comes from a desire in the community and in the consumer to know where their food is coming from, which sparks this kind of programming, which is a good thing,” said Calder-Piedmonte. 
“I have had some kids in my class who have never enjoyed fresh food like this,” added Schack. “To see a kid and realize they are eating a tomato, fresh from the ground for the first time is amazing. You may not like the store bought tomato that has been bumping around a truck and has been bred to have thick skin as a result, but you might like this. It really changes your whole perspective.”

“I think there is also this whole other level of satisfaction when you have planted a seed and watched it grow,” said Calder-Piedmonte. “And then there is a whole other level of satisfaction when you eat something freshly picked from your own garden.”

For more information on the EECO Farm Outreach program contact ian@eecofarm.org.

Bees Gassed

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bee hives
By Claire Walla

On Tuesday, December 14, Sag Harbor beekeeper Mary Woltz noticed something strange. At the four hives she maintains at East End Community Organic (EECO) Farm in East Hampton there was a distinct odor of gasoline. In fact, Woltz soon discovered that her hives had been doused in gasoline and the lids placed back on the hives in a way that prevented the bees from escaping.

The toxic liquid effectively killed the entire colony and, in one fatal drenching, stripped away all potential profits Woltz could have collected from future honey sales — not to mention the cost of the bees (both emotionally and monetarily) and the hives, themselves.

According to East Hampton Town police reports, there are numerous employees who work on the farm and there’s no surveillance in the area. The hives were kept in the middle of the farm, which is fenced off, but not locked.

There are no reported suspects at this time.

Kate Plumb

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web Kate Plum

The Sag Harbor resident, former owner of the health food store Provisions, member of Slow Food Long Island and organizer of the East Hampton Farmers’ Market talks about why she thinks the East End is poised to return to its sustainable roots. 

Where was your interest in local farming and food culture born?

I was thinking about that and I actually think my first experience with health food was in 1968. I was living in Vermont in an unheated log cabin near Goddard and one of the fellows would buy buckwheat groats, cashews, almonds and such for the commune we were living in. It was the first time in my life I distinctly remember eating that way. I came from baloney sandwiches and fish sticks. My parents both worked with five kids in the city and would have our monthly delivery of frozen meats, so that was what we ate –that and fish sticks. But in Vermont we ate this other way, eating rice, buckwheat, nuts, dates and things like that. One day someone brought a chocolate cake in and I had not had sugar in my system for so long I got violently ill. I think that awakened my interest in eating and how important food is. Since then, I have always been interested in food, which I think is healing. It really landed full square in 1982 when I lived in Sag Harbor in a rented room with Linda Sherry and Linley Pennebaker (Whelan) asked me to join her in buying Provisions, which was where D.J. Hart is now … In those days, health food was nothing. Don Katz said to me years later that he bet his wife $100 we would not make it. The oatmeal craze, to lower cholesterol was the first big hit we had and it just sort of took off. People came in looking to buy one item and bought more. It was effective, and that was that.

Farmers’ markets on the East End have grown in popularity in the last five years. When did you see this trend take hold and why is it so popular to eat locally?

In 2004, Brian Halweil got onto the village Harbor Committee after he and his wife Sara bought their home in Sag Harbor after summering here for a number of years. As trends move from west to east, he suggested we have a Farmer’s Market in Sag Harbor as a part of HarborFest and the girls at Dockside allowed us to use their lawn. It was suppose to be a one-day event, but we finished out the month of September and went through October. I was involved with that market as a founding member of the EECO [East End Community Organic] Farm, which I was on the board of and whose farm stand I helped run for a number of years. There were about six of us that Brian got together to compose the first Sag Harbor’s Farmer’s Market. 

Elise Collins had already started a market in Westhampton Beach, but there were not many before 2004. Certainly since then it has grown. Montauk just started its market on Thursdays and Southampton Village has opened theirs. We have another at Hayground in Bridgehampton on Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. that is just wrapping up and Friday mornings we have the East Hampton market at Nick and Toni’s, and of course, there is Sag Harbor on Saturdays.

I think they are popular for a number of reasons, perhaps the most overarching one being what happens to you when you shop at a local farmer’s market – the emotional quotient of seeing your neighbors, talking to the person who is producing your food – it becomes a fun place to shop. There is that side, and of course, the taste of the food because it was just harvested that morning, not shipped over the last week from California or Florida. But most importantly, the farmers’ market has become a community center, which is how it traditionally has been in Europe and Central America. They are the center of a village. They also enable young farmers to sell to their customers and get the most return. This will in the long run help local farmers like the Wesnofske Brothers in East Hampton, a third generation Polish farming family, that will be able to continue farming because of opportunities like this. It is a way of making a living as a farmer once more.


What is your hope for the future for local farmer’s markets?

I think there should be one in every village and hamlet. I hope they get bigger. I encourage more people to produce, catch and make their own products. It would be great to find a building year round for the markets. It would help farmers’ grow year round, which is possible. We need a building – that would be the wave of the future.

Amagansett does not have a traditional farmers’ market, although the Peconic Land Trust did purchase the Main Street farmers’ market and has leased it to Eli Zabar of Manhattan. Would that kind of space suit a year round farmers’ market?

I think that would be fine, although the space is not heated so whether it could be used year round would require some investigation. Someone has suggested the Polish Hall in Southampton and I do not know what Southampton Town has planned for the old Marders Building once the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton has completed construction [and moves out of the Marders Building]. It would be great to have a year round farmers’ market with a commercial kitchen in it, opening the space up to allowing people to make prepared foods and teach classes.

As a member of the local chapter of Slow Foods, what are some of the initiatives you would like that organization to tackle locally?

I am so happy that Josh Viertel is now the president of Slow Food USA. They have taken on this whole real food in schools initiative because Congress is getting ready to re-authorize the Child Nutrition Act in the fall and the money government reimburses to our schools mostly is for transportation, hard costs, not for food. Slow Foods strongly wants to ask Congress, and Labor Day is a national day of action, to up the ante and add one dollar in reimbursements per child so schools can have local foods in their cafeterias. We will locally host an Eat In at the Bridgehampton School from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Labor Day. There will be 250 of these events nationwide.

What are some of your favorite local farm stands?

I go to the farmers’ markets a lot, but when I go to farm stands it is usually what is on the way. I go to Marilee Foster and Pike Farms because that is on my way to Sagg Main Beach. When the apples come into season, I will go to the Milk Pail.

What chefs on the East End do you think embrace sustainable food culture?

Ted Conklin of The American Hotel was a pioneer because he was a farmer before he was a restaurateur. Also, Nick and Toni’s in East Hampton has been on the forefront. Like Ted, they have a garden at their restaurant. When [former owner] Jeff Salaway was alive he and Joe Realmuto and Mark Smith showed a deep commitment to local food, which Joe and Mark continue today. It’s a very special place. Talking to Balsam Farms is a good way to see what chefs are using local products because they know who is buying it. I know James Carpenter at The Living Room at The Maidstone Arms is focused on it and I hear Rugosa is as well, although I have yet to eat there. When I worked with the EECO Farm I delivered to Della Femina, and I know Yama-Q is very conscientious. Our farmers’ markets have a lot of chefs placing orders with the vendors. 

Given the wealth of local food products at the end of the summer, what is your ideal Labor Day menu at home?

Eric Braun of East Hampton Farmers’ Market, one of the last of the dying breed of bay men, his fish and his scallops are divine. He also smokes his own bluefish. I would get corn from Balsam Farm and tomatoes from Marilee. I would get peaches from Wesnofske Brothers and blueberries from Pikes. Melons are just delicious right now. Balsam also has some wonderful fingerling potatoes and Sang Lee Farms has wonderful greens for a salad. And then there are pickles … I could just go on and on. I can’t think of anything better than all these different foods. The fruit pies are heaven right now. We are really so blessed with everything that is available to us right now. I feel very grateful.