Tag Archive | "farm"

Bridgehampton Neighbors Worry About Eco-Friendly Farm

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By Marianna Levine

October’s enthusiastic curiosity about a planned eco-farm on Ocean Road in Bridgehampton turned into November’s passionate plea for further information during a Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee meeting last week. The meeting’s packed agenda was meant to focus on a Butter Lane commercial and residential development designed by architect Fred Stelle, and a presentation by the new director of the Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE). However, many new faces in the standing-room-only audience waited patiently to express their concern over the development of this agricultural reserve land.

Georgia Rose, who lives adjacent to the proposed eco-farm arrived early with architectural renderings of the development. She pointed out that plans for the farm already included a 100-foot greenhouse for a commercial flower business, numerous solar panels, and a windmill that Ms. Rose considered to be more “Dutch or Disney” than one fitting into the East End of Long Island. Another concerned citizen, Whitney Fairchild, mentioned that she had attended the Southampton Town Board meeting earlier in the month and had learned that the developers plan to put lights up every ten feet around the storage buildings on the farm. Work on this property, owned by the Chairman of Polar Investments, Mr. Ziel Feldman, has already begun and several citizens present at the meeting were alarmed by the building they had already seen. Both Fairchild and Rose speculated that the developer might be creating a bigger, more commercial enterprise on the agricultural land because he cannot sell the land near it, which had been developed into luxury homes by the same firm.

CAC member Dick Bruce said that, although the idea of a self-contained green farm had been received with interest, the plans as they exist now have stretched the idea of agricultural reserve beyond the notion of anyone present.

Rose concluded that if they are intending to sell flowers regionally “there’ll be trucks going in and out of the newly planned road off Ocean Road day and night.” It was suggested by CAC Chair Fred Camman, and unanimously agreed upon, that the CAC should file an official letter of complaint prior to December 12, when a public hearing on the development, which is in front of Southampton Town’s planning board, is closed. Camman also suggested they extend an invitation to Feldman to speak at a CAC meeting in order to understand his intentions. Bruce said there was clearly a need to define what is meant by agricultural use for any future projects of this sort.

According to the site’s designer, Rocco Lettieri, the farm and surrounding development of high-end homes was conceived as a cutting edge, self-sufficient green community. The farm structures will include a greenhouse, a barn, a windmill, and a mechanical building.  The farm will grow wildflowers, peaches, and organic herbs to be sold wholesale to local shops and restaurants. One of the developer’s primary goals was to design new ways of harvesting energy attractively so as not to detract from the beauty surrounding it – the farm’s purpose being to combine energy efficiency with a beautiful aesthetic to enhance and fuel the project’s surrounding estates. Therefore they have decided to lay the solar panels flat into the ground so they look more like reflecting pools. Lettieri said they have compensated for the loss of efficiency incurred by not angling the panels toward the sun by using a geothermal process to run the farm as well. The proposed windmill may look traditional on the outside, but its sails are also solar collectors so that when the air is still, it may still gather energy. The sawgrass planted is not only ornamental but will be used to make biofuel for the farm’s vehicles as well, he added.

 “We want to look to the future and leave no carbon foot print at all,” said Lettieri.

                                                         Hamlet Study

This question of agricultural development related to Jeffery Vogel’s earlier report on plans for a revised Bridgehampton hamlet study. Last month Vogel noted Bridgehampton’s hamlet study is out of date and yet still used as a basis for planning in Southampton Town. He pointed out that some of the hamlet’s priorities in the study have already been taken care of and others have changed since its commission. After meeting with town board member Nancy Graboski, who agrees the study needs an update, Vogel suggested the CAC could edit the study and pass along their suggestions to the town planning board. Suggestions include defining the hamlet’s northern and western boundaries, looking at historic designation for the commercial center of Bridgehampton, and a strategy to keep local merchants on Main Street instead of at the Bridgehampton Commons.

Earlier the meeting kicked off with a presentation about a piece of property in Bridgehampton at the intersection of Butter Lane and the Montauk Highway.  North Haven resident and architect Fred Stelle has been hired to design a low-lying commercial structure, as well as create two small residential houses toward the back of the property. CAC members were concerned how the modern design would blend within the historic nature of this end of Bridgehampton’s Main Street, as well as the speculative nature of the development. Stelle showed digital reproductions of modern wood and glass structures that referenced the area’s former potato barns.

Vogel wondered, “Did the developer do an economic study to see if there was a need for more office space in the area. The last thing we need is another empty office space especially with a lot of vacant offices and retail spaces now due to people going out of business.” 

In the end Bruce commented that he’d rather have a developer with a good, locally concerned architect involved in this property than see something else happen to the vacant lot. The CAC gave its consent to the plan with only one member, Steve Steinberg, opposed.

The CAC also invited Steve Young, the new director of CMEE, to speak about the changes and the current mission of the museum. Several members said they didn’t really know much about the museum or what it did and that perhaps he needed to promote the museum better, perhaps through meeting with local church groups and schools. Bruce suggested promoting summer programs to grandparents who are hosting their grandchildren over the summer. Another suggestion was for the museum to build a playground at its site as Bridgehampton has yet to have a public playground to call its own. 

 

Art Ludlow

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The proprietor of Mecox Bay Dairy on “slow food,” farmer’s markets and leaving potatoes behind

It’s a beautiful property here, how big is it?

The whole farm is roughly just under 100 acres

How many cows are there here on the property?

 I’m milking 10 right now, we’ve got about a dozen or so that are of lactating age. Then in total from babies to full grown there is about 27. I am the only cow dairy left on the island. There are some goats and there are some cows, but I am the only operating cow dairy.

How long has your family had the farm?

It’s a family farm –I grew up on the farm – I grew up in this house actually. This house was built by my great grandfather in the 1870’s and we used to grow potatoes. Back when I was growing up my dad had cows and potatoes and around the 1960’s is when he got rid of the cows and went with potatoes, which is where we stayed until 2001. And that was my brother and me, in 2001 we decided to separate our businesses. So he does the corn maze, the farm stand and the vegetables, and I do the cow farm, the cheese and the dairy.

So you have two sons, Peter and John, do they help out around the farm as well?

Yes they are both in college now but they have been helpful, they help me a lot during the summertime. My oldest one is going to graduate this year, but he actually wants to come back and farm. That’s Peter, my oldest. And John my youngest is a sophomore in college.

Could you tell me about the different kinds of cheese?

I’m actually making five different types of cheese. There are a couple different reasons why I’m doing that – it’s kind of a lot for 10 cows, but it enables me to sell more cheese locally, it saves on transportation. I am selling 80 percent or more or better of my production within a 15 mile radius from here. The five different cheeses are really five different styles of cheeses. It goes from the camembert, that’s the Atlantic Mist, which is similar to a brie and a camembert. And then I have a washed rind cheese which is a type of tomme. And the washed rind means that instead of having the opportunistic molds grow on the surface and create the rind of the cheese, I wash it with salt and water and that allows a bacteria to grow on the surface. That bacteria is what gives it its flavor, it makes it a strong pungent flavored cheese so when you think of stinky cheese, you are thinking of a style of cheese that is a washed rind. And that one is called Mecox Sunrise. I have another tomme, which is a natural rind tomme, it is really almost the same as the washed rind, but it’s a natural rind, where I let the opportunistic molds grow on the surface. And they create the rind. So that’s the third type. I make a cheddar which is the fourth type and I make a gruyere, which is another type, that is what may be called an alpine style of cheese so its typically aged. I had some this year that were aged a year and a half. It just really adds character to cheese, and it was really popular. So it’s a very firm cheese and it will age for a very long time and it improves over time.

What was your inspiration to switch from potatoes to dairy?

Well let’s see, I always liked cows, ever since I was a kid and I used to work on the farm here when we had cows. I never expected to get into having cows. But when my brother and I were into raising potatoes, we were just thinking that, here we are, growing a commercial crop, that we are really selling off the island and we are competing with the whole Northeast in potato production. When you are producing a crop, the main goal is to have a low cost production, so you produce as much as you can for as little as you can and try to sell it for as much as you can. Which is difficult. We are then selling to a broker, who then sells it to a wholesaler, who then sells to a retailer, who then sells to a consumer. We are so far removed from the consumer that the product actually loses its identity before it gets to the consumer. We thought in this area, what’s the point? Is there something better we could or should be doing? And mainly because we have such a long growing season and we have such excellent soils to produce these things, and we really have a market at our back door because of the people here and the proximity to New York City, we just thought that potatoes were not the best we could do. The other thing was that growing the potatoes – we didn’t have enough land of our own so we had to rent land from other people and that was becoming a scarce resource. We’d lose a little bit each year, and we thought if our kids really wanted to farm – the next generation, would potatoes be a viable thing in the future? So we said let’s make a change. And we both had these ideas of our own that we wanted to pursue and remember thinking that at that time we might be a lot better off doing it than ten years later. To put it in a nut shell – I like to say that when somebody is visiting the farm and the question they ask is why are you growing potatoes? And the answer is – because we always have – that is not sufficient, that’s not a good answer so I decided to change it.

So now what’s your answer for visitors to your dairy farm?

Aside from the initial answer of having lost all of my senses and totally gone off the deep end, I find it challenging, rewarding – not necessarily financially but it is rewarding to produce something and be able to sell it directly to the person who is going to eat it, and have them comment on it. Most of the comments are very favorable, and that is about as rewarding an instance a farmer could ever get. That is the short answer. The other thing is that it is the part of the challenge to create something that is sustainable, so we are experimenting with a system where I can utilize the waste products. I’ve got the manure from the cows; I can stock pile and make fertilizer to use on the land. I have pigs I am feeding the whey that I would normally throw out.  It’s all a matter of producing the best quality food that is possible; this is something that people are interested in now. So I want to be a part of the desired element.

There does seem to be a greater interest in buying locally, and using organic products and because of that the farmer’s markets are doing very well. I know you are a part of the Sag Harbor Farmer’s Market, can you tell me how you got involved in that?

Brian Halweil initially started that, he had the vision of a farmers market, he came out and visited. He was testing the waters, and I think that first year he asked me and I said sure. It went on again the next year and I would say in the last two years it has really taken off. That’s a very positive development.  Since then, there is now a farmer’s market in East Hampton, which I just started this year, and I like doing that, but I can’t be in two places at one time. And my time is needed here. So I figure one market is all I can do in a week. This summer, since I have two sons that came home, I said John you are going to East Hampton and Peter you are going to Westhampton Beach. 

What kind of sales do you get from the Sag Harbor Farmer’s Market if you could put a percentage on it?

I would say 15 percent. I’m guessing that it’s not as much as 20 but its more than 10. It’s really a good thing. It satisfies many purposes. One is, well, I enjoy doing it. I enjoy the interaction. The people that are buying at the farmers market like that because they are getting that same interaction from the people who are producing the food and the vendor can sell for a retail price rather than a wholesale price. And you can spend a little more time, and you are getting more for your time so that really makes it a positive.

So how is your production split up? Where does the bulk of your cheese go?

Year-round I’ve got some shops; Schiavoni’s IGA, Cavaniolas Gourmet Cheese Shop, and then in Bridgehampton I have Bobs Village Market, Lucy’s Way, in East Hampton, she just opened. Then Citarella in East Hampton is taking some cheese.  And then in Southampton I have The Village Cheese Shop and they also have a shop in Mattituck. So that’s what I do year-round. In the summertime I have the farm stands, Sang Lee on the North Fork, the Green Thumb, Country Market on Millstone Road and my brother has a farm stand here, and he sells an awful lot of my cheese here. He probably sells another 15 percent right there. And then I have a few shops in New York, so really restaurants are not a big item. But the Maidstone Arms gets it, the American Hotel gets its, and Atlantica, but they all buy it from time to time, they are not regular. And a lot of restaurants might get my cheese from the cheese shops but I wouldn’t even know it.

Can you elaborate on what the slow food movement means to you?

Slow food is part of the whole movement of getting people interested in where their food is coming from and the nutritional value of what they are eating. Slow food is an organization that is getting people familiar with this sort of this thing.