Tag Archive | "Peconic Land Trust"

Carrot Tasting Goes to the Root of the Vegetable

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Ric Kallaher photograhy

Ric Kallaher photograhy

By Kathryn G. Menu

Colin Ambrose

Colin Ambrose

It all started with a bland carrot.

Standing in his restaurant kitchen garden on the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike in September of 2013, restaurateur and chef Colin Ambrose crunched down a newly harvested carrot fresh from the soil. It looked great—bright orange, long and tapered—but the flavor wasn’t there. Mr. Ambrose, who has been at the forefront of the local, fresh food movement on the East End since his days at the helm of the original Estia in Amagansett in the 1990s, hatched a plan then and there to gather together local farmers, gardeners and chefs in a growing experiment aimed at identifying keys to successfully cultivating different carrot varieties.

And the results were delicious.

Earlier this month, on a cool Wednesday before the first frost, a group of chefs, farmers and journalists gathered at Mr. Ambrose’s Estia’s Little Kitchen for a tasting of raw and blanched carrots produced as a part of this experiment, as well as a variety of composed dishes inspired by the multi-hued root vegetable. Mr. Ambrose had the event filmed, and hopes to make this an annual tradition—exploring various root vegetables with the experts that grow them, but also the East End chefs that serve them, specifically those that support local farms or have their own kitchen gardens.

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The concept was simple. Mr. Ambrose ordered a control seed, the Scarlet Nantes Carrot, and distributed it to a select group of farmers. These included growers from poet/farmer Scott Chaskey, the director of the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, Marilee Foster, a farmer and author who runs Foster Farm on Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack to Jeff Negron, a restaurant kitchen gardener who worked with Mr. Ambrose on his own garden, and who currently works the kitchen gardens at Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton and The Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton. Sag Harbor’s own Dale Haubrich, who owns Under the Willow Organics with Bette Lacina just yards away from the Little Kitchen, was also invited to participate. Each farmer also planted their own choice crop of carrots for the tasting and paired up with a local chef who presented a complete dish with carrots as inspiration.

Bay Burger manager and sous chef Andrew Mahoney presented a bright, light carrot panna cotta. Todd Jacobs, of Fresh Hamptons, also located on the Turnpike, offered zesty carrot fritters with a yogurt dipping sauce. Joe Realmuto and Bryan Futterman of Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton offered Harissa carrots, spicy and blanched perfectly, leaving just a slight crunch. Chris Polidoro, a private chef, offered steamed and lightly fried gyoza, and Topping Rose House pastry chef Cassandra Schupp presented mini carrot cake squares, moist and a nice sweet treat at the end of a row of savory dishes.

Mr. Ambrose, having the most fun with the subject, crafted McGregor’s Fall Garden Pie, filled with braised rabbit, leeks, kale, and of course, carrots, topped with luscious mashed potatoes.

And while the room, filled with friends, quieted as the food was served to satisfying groans of approval, it was when discussing the carrots, and the growing process, that it was most alive.

While Mr. Ambrose is a chef, and a restaurateur with a second Estia—Estia’s American—in Darien, Connecticut, it was on his grandmother’s garden in Whitewater, Wisconsin, that he truly developed a passion for food. Serving fresh, seasonal produce is something Mr. Ambrose has made a priority in his kitchens for over two decades. Five years ago he set out to create a kitchen garden like nothing the Little Kitchen had ever had before, working with Mr. Negron for three years before setting out on his own to tend to vegetables and fruits that make their way onto the restaurant’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

Mr. Negron, who noted that Mr. Ambrose was the chef that gave him his first real chance at developing a formal kitchen garden for a commercial business, said for this exercise he grew Purple Haze carrots for Nick & Toni’s and a White Satin variety as well as a mixed bag of carrot varieties for The Topping Rose House.

Both Mr. Negron and Mr. Chaskey (“my guidance counselor in all things,” said Mr. Ambrose) noted that the Purple Haze variety of carrot has a hue that mimics the original carrot in vibrant bright purple with red and orange undertones. Carrots were then bred to the traditional orange hue, said Mr. Chaskey. Interestingly enough, he added, now at markets and on farms, requests for multi-colored, and purple carrots are on the rise, returning to the roots of that vegetable, so to speak. “Orange is not how they started, but we are going back to that,” he said.

Soil nutrients and composition, as well as seed variety and soil temperature, all play a role in the development of each carrot and the characteristics it will have in terms of its flavor profile.

“Today is November 12,” noted Mr. Ambrose at his event. “And it is kind of interesting to note that we have not had a hard frost yet. That was not part of the plan, but that is what happens with growing.”

Carrots, said Mr. Chaskey, become sweeter after the first hard frost—a seasonal moment that sets a natural timeline for when farmers want to harvest their carrot crop. An unseasonably warm fall, and the absence of a hard frost before Mr. Ambrose’s carrot tasting, led to more mild carrot varieties.

“I know one thing in planting,” said Mr. Ambrose, “If I plan on one thing, another is going to happen.”

“It’s kind of the year before that matters,” said Ms. Foster, talking about prepping soil for planting. “Is your pH where you want it?”

Ms. Foster plants her carrots in a raised bed, tilling the soil with a rototiller to allow for depth, but also greater germination. Keeping the soil damp throughout the growing process, she added, is key.

Once the seeds are set, said Mr. Chaskey, keeping an eye on weed growth is critical.

“Well, we don’t have weeds,” said Mr. Chaskey. “They are not allowed.”

“That is what you have to worry about because carrots take a long time to germinate—sometimes in the spring up to three weeks, so there are going to be some weed seeds that germinate before them, so the most important thing you can do is get ahead of the weeds.”

Thinning out the carrot crop, for size and shape, said Mr. Chaskey, is another choice each farmer must make.

“Then you just stand back, watch them grow, and then harvest.”

Mr. Chaskey said after this experiment he intends to plant the Bolero variety of carrot at Quail Hill next year–a hybrid carrot, although the farm traditionally does try and plant open pollinators as much as possible.

“It grew twice the size and it tastes better and has great storability,” said Mr. Chaskey of the Bolero.

As a chef, Mr. Jacobs, who works with Mr. Haubrich and Ms. Lacina for much of Fresh’s produce, said each season brings different challenges.

“One season, carrots might be great,” he said. “Another they might not be great. No two years are ever alike. We plant and we hope.”

“We all had different approaches, but the same goal, which was to put sustainably raised food on the table,” said Mr. Ambrose in an interview after the carrot tasting.

Next up? Beets, said Mr. Ambrose, who wants to spend the next 18 months working on a series of tastings revolving around root vegetables, ending likely with garlic.

“I would like to put together a series of informational videos for potential farmers and home cooks with enough collective knowledge to be able to set a bed, make choices in terms of seeds, learn about the growing cycle.”

“We need to start thinking more about the food we are producing and putting on the table,” said Mr. Ambrose. “Vegetables need to be given greater priority, and grains as well.”

While examining the big picture of sustainable food production, Mr. Ambrose said it just made sense to start at the root.

 

 

Southampton Town Helps Keep Farmers Farming

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Elected officials and local farmers celebrated the protection of 33 acres of farmland in Water Mill on Tuesday. Photo by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic

In one afternoon on the East End, you can visit rolling estates, beachfront shacks, or thousands of acres of working farms.  Preserving that farmland has been no small feat, but thanks to the work of the Peconic Land Trust, Southampton Town has established a precedent that might make farming easier throughout the state.

The Southampton Town Board voted unanimously in May to impose additional developmental restrictions onto agricultural land that would ensure that it remained productive and affordable, and on Tuesday, local and state elected officials, farmers and conservationists gathered to celebrate this latest success.

“This is farmland preservation 2.0.,” said New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., at a Tuesday morning press conference in Water Mill, where officials gathered to celebrate the purchase of 33 acres from the estate of Charlotte Danilevsky.  “And more than farmland preservation, this is farming preservation,” he said.

For the past few decades, as real estate prices have continued to rise, local farmers and conservationists have struggled to find ways to keep the farms working and in the hands of farmers.

In the 1970s, the town started buying the developmental rights on farmland, which prohibited future owners from building on the land. It did not, however, stop developers from turning the acreage into vast lawns or horse paddocks.

“We were preserving land, but that land was ending up being the front yard or the rear yard of an estate. Or ending up as a horse farm, or for horticulture,” Mr. Thiele continued.

The Peconic Land Trust purchased the Water Mill farmland, on Head of Pond Road, earlier this year for just over $12 million. According to John v.H. Halsey, president of the land trust, if the town had purchased the standard development rights for the parcel of land, it still would have cost a potential buyer approximately $120,000 an acre.

“It is abundantly clear, especially on the South Fork, where we have an overheated real estate market, that this farmland that has been protected can trade for between $100,000 to $200,000 an acre and that really puts it out of reach, particularly of our food production farmers,” Mr. Halsey said.

With the help of the Southampton Town Agricultural Advisory Committee, chaired by Southampton farmer John L. Halsey, the land trust was able to propose some additional restrictions on the land that were unanimously approved by the town board on May 27. The sale went through on July 10.

“This project represents a milestone in the evolution of the purchase of development rights program,” Mr. Halsey said on Tuesday. “And that is that the Town of Southampton has not only purchased standard development rights that have been in place for nearly 40 years, but has enhanced restrictions that will ensure that this farm, this 33 acres, will be available to farmers at its agricultural value—its true agricultural value.”

Mr. Halsey said the land trust would now solicit proposals from qualified farmers who are interested in purchasing the land. According to Mr. Halsey, the land will now be available at approximately $26,000 an acre. Restrictions will ensure that 80 percent of it be used for food production, that it cannot be used for equestrian use, and certain resale restrictions allow the land trust to lease the land out to farmers if it remains fallow for more than two years.

Tim Davis of Corcoran real estate agreed to reduce his commission by 50 percent on the sale, which allowed the land trust to compete in the sealed bid process to purchase the land, according to Mr. Halsey. “I am honored to have played a critical role in the process of the Peconic Land Trust acquiring the Danilevsky parcels,” Mr. Davis said in a press release issued on Tuesday.

“Our goal is to make sure each farm is producing food for the people of our state and our country,” said Senator Kenneth P. LaValle on Tuesday morning. Mr. Thiele announced during Tuesday’s press conference that he and the senator had been working on legislation that would provide additional property tax benefits to landowners with similar restrictions on their farms. Mr. Thiele also announced that they have been working to increase the exemption on estate taxes, which can often force farm owners to sell their land.

“One of the things I’ve learned as county executive is that there are so many Halseys around here, I run into them all the time,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone joked on Tuesday morning.

Tom Halsey, John L. Halsey’s brother, was also at the event on Tuesday with his son Adam and grandson, Eben. Tom Halsey was instrumental in the introduction of the purchase of development rights in the 1970s.

“Please, I urge everybody here to stand here and look there,” he said, pointing toward acres of open fields adjacent to the property. “And then imagine what it would be if we had not had 40 years of preservation.”

 

 

 

East End Weekend: Highlights of What to Do August 1 to 3

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"Reclining Blue" by Christine Matthäi is on view at the Monika Olko Gallery In Sag Harbor.

“Reclining Blue” by Christine Matthäi is on view at the Monika Olko Gallery In Sag Harbor.

By Tessa Raebeck

The roads are clogged, the beaches are packed and somehow August has arrived. You know what that means? There’s even more to do this weekend! Have some highlights on us:

 

The Neo-Political Cowgirls latest performance “VOYEUR” opened Thursday, July 31, and will run performances August 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9. An inside/out theatre installation on-site at Parsons Blacksmith Shop in Springs, “VOYEUR” examines friendship, womanhood and the boundaries of theatre. Click here for the full story and here for more information and tickets.

"SPLASH" by Kia Andrea Pedersen.

“SPLASH” by Kia Andrea Pedersen.

 

Saturday at the Monika Olko Gallery in Sag Harbor, friends, Shelter Island residents and fellow artists Christine Matthäi and Kia Andrea Pederson will showcase their latest work. Originally from Germany, Ms. Matthäi specializes in abstract photography. Ms. Pederson uses more earthy mediums. In the exhibition, “The Call of the Sea,” their work is joined together by its shared celebration of the ocean.

An opening reception will be held at the gallery, located at 95 Main Street in Sag Harbor, on Saturday, August 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will be on view through August 22.

 

East Hampton welcomes David Sedaris, widely considered to be one of his generation’s best writers,
who will be hosting an evening at Guild Hall on Sunday, August 3. The humorist authored such bestsellers as “Naked,” “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” and “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.”

For more information, click here.

The evening starts at 8 p.m. and will be followed by a book signing. Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. Click here for tickets.

 

The Peconic Land Trust’s major event, Through Farms and Fields, is Sunday, August 3. The benefit features a country supper at hte property of Peconic Land Trust board member Richard Hogan and Carron Sherry, on historic Ward’s Point on Shelter Island. It will honor the conservation philanthropy of Barbara J. Slifka. There is an online auction, as well as a silent auction that will be held the night of the event.

Peconic Land Trust Still Working Hard to Preserve Farmland

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The Pike farm stand on Main Street in Sagaponack. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Mara Certic

The Peconic Land Trust has been dedicated to preserving the natural lands and working farms on the East End for over 30 years. As real estate prices continue to climb, the land trust has been exploring ways to impose restrictions that would keep local farmers farming.

John v.H. Halsey, president of the Peconic Land Trust, spoke about some of the methods to preserve farmland at this month’s meeting of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday, July 28.

The most common way, the purchase of development rights, was pioneered nationwide by Suffolk County in 1970s. The practice has since been emulated throughout the nation.

“A simple explanation is this: when you own land, it comes with a bundle of rights. Zoning, of course, gives you the parameters of what you can do with it,” Mr. Halsey explained on Monday. “Probably the most valuable right associated with land is the right to build,” he said. The other rights, such as the right to farm or the right to walk on the land have less value in the marketplace.

“So the farmer would sell the most valuable rights associated with the land, but they would retain all the other rights with it,” he said. This became an opportunity for farmers to tap into the equity of their land and afford the estate tax on their land. It was also a way to ensure that farmland remained agricultural land and to prevent the over development of open space.  Beginning in the early 1980s, East End towns began creating funds to purchase development rights and open space.

Another way of protecting agricultural land is through the subdivision process. The  cluster provision, which came into use in the 1980s, typically “clusters” development in the least valuable portion of the property and requires that 50 to 65 percent of the rest of the land be preserved.

According to Mr. Halsey, both methods have been successful components of conservation through the years, but more needs to be done.

“As land value goes up, the federal estate tax becomes more of an issue. The value of real estate has continued to go up and today it’s higher than it’s ever been and it’s higher than anyone could have thought,” Mr. Halsey said.

“Non-farmers are not bound by the same economic reality,” he continued. Over the past 40 years, 12,000 acres of farmland has been protected in Suffolk County; several thousand of those acres are in the Town of Southampton.

However much of this land has been taken out of production,  with much of it going top equestrian uses, which is defined as an agricultural use by New York State, he added.

Mr. Halsey was keen to say that he has no problem with horses, but stressed, “It is disturbing to me that that could end up being the only agricultural use that anyone has in the long run. I’m seeing the intent of these programs unraveling.”

“We need to do something and do it in a way that’s fair,” he added.

In 2010, the Peconic Land Trust purchased 7.6 acres of farmland from the Hopping family in Sagaponack for $6 million. It then sold the development rights to the county for $4.3 million. “We wanted to get this land into the hands of the Pikes,” Mr. Halsey said, noting that Jim Pike had farmed on the land when it was owned by the Hopping family but did not have the means to purchase it from them directly.

As a public charity, however, the Peconic Land Trust cannot sell something to someone at less than market value, and even without the developmental rights, the farmland was expensive for the Pikes.

So the trust borrowed restrictions that Massachusetts and Vermont have been using to protect farmland. It was then able to put in these additional restrictions, which “reduced the value of that farmland so non-famers weren’t interested,” he said.

Under the deal, the parties agreed to eliminate equestrian use and drastically limited the right of Mr. Pike to use the property for nursery stock. The trust has retained the right to lease the land to a farmer if it is taken out of production for two years. The trust also put on a restriction to ensure that it has the right to review the future sales of the farmland and that it must be sold to a qualified farmer. It sold the property to the Pikes for $167,200.

“Our goal has been to model these restrictions and try to get the town to consider incorporating them into the town purchasing policy,” Mr. Halsey told the CAC.

Three months ago, these additional restrictions were used by the trust to purchase 33 acres on Head of Pond Road in Water Mill. “We’re very pleased that the town board agreed unanimously to purchase the additional restrictions,” he said.

“We’re the first municipality in the State of New York to include these new restrictions and [the members of the board] deserve a lot of credit for that,” he said.”

The Peconic Land Trust will celebrate the latest acquisition on Tuesday, August 5, at 10 a.m. at the newly acquired land.

 

From Farm to Bottle, “Hops and Brews” to Explore Long Island Alcohol

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Hops growing at Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

Hops growing at Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

By Tessa Raebeck

Long Islanders have been enjoying homegrown potatoes for generations, but rarely has the local harvest been in their vodka.

At “Hops and Brews” this Sunday, a farmer, a brewer and a spirit maker will discuss the various manifestations of the rapidly growing alcohol industry on Long Island. Panelists John Condzella of Condzella Farms in Wading River, Duffy Griffiths of Crooked Ladder Brewing Company in Riverhead and Rich Stabile of Long Island Spirits in Baiting Hollow will reflect on the collaboration between local producers and the strength of Long Island’s wide variety of goods.

Duffy Griffiths, head brewer at the Crooked Ladder Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of Crooked Ladder.

Duffy Griffiths, head brewer at the Crooked Ladder Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of Crooked Ladder.

The second installment of the “Conversations With…” lecture series presented by the Peconic Land Trust, “Long Island Grown: Food and Beverage Artisans at Work” will be moderated by Laura Donnelly, a resident of East Hampton, pastry chef, author and the food editor for The East Hampton Star.

“Some Long Island farmers are making really unique or non-traditional products as they strive to meet a growing demand for locally grown and produced items,” said Kathy Kennedy of the Peconic Land Trust, “We’re excited to be able to showcase some of them.”

“I am very excited to have a chance to moderate this panel,” said Ms. Donnelly. “I am a huge fan of craft brewers and love trying local beers and ales.”

With the recent—and fast—growth of craft beer on Long Island, small hops farming has become economically feasible, creating a symbiotic relationship between farmers and brewers. The hops farmer needs the craft breweries to survive and the craft breweries need the supply from their local farms.

Brewers working with wet hops must do so within 24 hours of the harvest, so finding a local source is crucial to a successful wet hop brew. John Condzella, a fourth generation farmer at Condzella Farms, recognized this demand, adding Condzella Hops to his family farm six years ago.

Rich Stabile of Long Island Spirits. Photo courtesy of Rich Stabile.

Rich Stabile of Long Island Spirits. Photo courtesy of Rich Stabile.

“I wanted to grow a unique crop, something that no other farm was doing,” explained Mr. Condzella. “During college I developed a love for craft beer; I know that was an important catalyst for my hops growing endeavors.”

Initially, Mr. Condzella was picking his hops by hand, enlisting the help of family, friends and local volunteers, until a Kickstarter campaign last spring enabled him to purchase a Wolf WHE 170 Hopfen Pflückmaschine, a German machine that picks them for him. In 2013 alone, Mr. Condzella harvested 800 pounds of hops.

“I think demand on Long Island is growing, the industry is very young. Most local brewers aren’t accustomed to using local whole cone hops. Mainstream hops pellets from around the world are their hops of choice,” Mr. Condzella said.

Hops grower John Condzella of Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

Hops grower John Condzella of Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

The demand is indeed growing: Some of that farm-to-growler beer will be available next year at the Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, which opened in July 2013.

Head Brewer Duffy Griffiths said the brewery will start using local hops in September, “when the fresh hops round comes out.” Condzella’s Hops is an option, although Crooked Ladder hasn’t yet chosen its supplier.

“It’s a matter of just using whole hops and supporting your local industry, rather than buying them from the Pacific Northwest or having them imported, so we try to keep everything local,” Mr. Griffiths said. “It helps out the area.”

Keeping everything local is at the core of Long Island Spirits. Founded in 2007, it is Long Island’s first craft distillery since the 1800s. The flagship product, LiV Vodka is made from Long Island potatoes, many of which are grown on the 5,000 acres of farmland surrounding the North Fork distillery.

Supplied by a variety of local farmers, the marcy russet potatoes arrive at Long Island Spirits in one-ton sacks. Three days a week, the distillery goes through roughly eight tons of potatoes. Every 25 pounds of potatoes makes about one liter of LiV Vodka.

The distillery also makes Rough Riders and Pine Barrens whisky and a collection of Sorbettas, liqueurs infused with fresh fruit.

“We’ll use local raspberries or local strawberries,” explained spirits maker Rich Stabile. “We’re using real fruit infused with the vodka that we grow on Long Island, made from Long Island potatoes.”

“We all know Long Island potatoes are the best,” said Ms. Donnelly. “Rich believes it is the sweet, buttery flavor of the potato that makes his LiV vodka so good. I have tried this vodka and it is excellent.”

“Long Island farmland is some of the best agricultural land in the world,” said Mr. Condzella, whose family farm started with dairy in the 1800s and evolved to a potato operation in the 1920s. “Our maritime climate, fertile soils and abundant sunshine are great for growing most crops, and hops are no exception.”

“Hops and Brews” is Sunday, April 6, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Bridge Gardens, 26 Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton. To reserve a seat, call Robin Harris at 283-3195, ext. 19, or email events@peconiclandtrust.org.

Myron Levine

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DSC_0012 By Stephen J. Kotz

How did the idea of holding a memorial dinner for your son first take shape?

After the accident, we were contacted by the East End chapter of Slow Food. They wanted to know if we would agree to do a benefit with the money going to his children. We said if they wanted to have a dinner in his honor, we’d be willing o do that as long as it would fund something related to organic farming.

Ted Conklin of The American Hotel agreed to donate The American Hotel for the dinner. Everything was donated. The first year, it was sold out.

We raised $12,000 to $15,000 and we used the money fund two interns for Sylvester Manor.

This year the fourth annual Joshua Levine Memorial Dinner will take place on Sunday, April 6. What have you got planned differently this year?

The dinner itself will again be at The American Hotel, but this year Dodds and Eder said they would like to host the pre-dinner party. Their space is gigantic, so we can get 250 people in that space and it wouldn’t seem crowded.

We were never able to have a silent auction before because we never had the space, so we have been going out in the community to get items for that. The generosity is unbelievable. We’ve gotten donations for foursomes from The Atlantic, The Bridge, East Hampton, Noyac, Hampton Hills, South Fork, and Sebonac [golf clubs] a two-night stay at The Huntting Inn and a gift certificate to The Palm; Topping Rose, Sen, the Cuddy, the Living Room, Marders, you name it.

Who will be the beneficiary of this year’s event?

The second year, they told us about the edible schoolyard project. That really appealed to me. If anything, that would really memorialize Josh and what he was all about. It was really about helping kids to understand. It has evolved now so what they learn in the garden is integrated into the classroom. These kids are passionate about it.

They felt they needed to bring some stability to the program by having master farmers who would work with the schools. We decided that first year we needed three master farmers. Slow Food East End actually had an application that went out to the farming community with a stipend of $4,000 each.

We did the same thing last year, but with 18 to 20 schools now involved, we needed an extra master farmer.

This year we are hoping to raise $40,000. Now there are 25 or more schools, so we’ll need one or two more master farmers. We are also trying to raise money for projects some of the schools need.

How did your son find his way from the city to farming?

Josh was doing real estate in the city. He was successful. He just didn’t like it.

We had been out here since 1979. I do a lot of gardening, so l guess it was in his blood. His wife, Anne, was born on a farm in Virginia and he just wanted to learn about it. He applied for an internship at Quail Hill with Scott Chaskey. Scott hired him and the next year promoted him to be the market manager.

He was looking to get an education and then looking to use it to do something else. He wanted to start a business helping families make organic gardens and then he’d come and help them care for them.

What does the future hold for the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation?

The principal purpose of the foundation will be to continue to support the edible schoolyard program and other things Josh might have been passionate about.

It’s gotten a life of its own now. These gardens are really important. It’s not just about growing food, it’s about learning about life…. There are just so many lessons you learn in this program.

It’s also important for my grandchildren. There’s a selfish part to this. I want my grandchildren to know who their father was.

The Fourth Annual Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation Dinner will be held on April 6 at The American Hotel with a pre-dinner party and auction at Dodds & Eder in Sag Harbor. For more information or to buy tickets, visit joshualevinefoundation.org.

 

 

Local Farmers Discuss Trials, Innovation of East End Agriculture at “Small Bites”

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Pete Ludlow of the Mecox Bay Dairy Farm with "Cinnamon," one of his milking cows, on February 24. Photo by Michael Heller.

Pete Ludlow of the Mecox Bay Dairy Farm with “Cinnamon,” one of his milking cows, on February 24. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

For over 225 years, the farm on the northeast shore of Mecox Bay grew potatoes. Today, Pete Ludlow, the fifth generation of his family to farm the land, is creating an experimental cheddar/blue cheese hybrid and selling raw milk.

The evolution of East End farms from crops like potatoes, corn and melons to new and innovative products will be discussed by Mr. Ludlow and others this Sunday at “Small Bites,” the first panel discussion in a lecture series presented by the Peconic Land Trust. The series, “Long Island Grown: Food and Beverage Artisans at Work,” is bringing food, wine and beer experts to Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton throughout March and April. Local author, pastry chef, and food editor for The East Hampton Star Laura Donnelly will moderate the discussions.

“All of the people who are on the panels,” said Ms. Donnelly, “they’re really the most important people in our community when it comes to food and wine and fishing and everything. They’re all idols of mine, so I’m very excited that I get to do it.”

On Sunday, panelists David Falkowski of Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton and Fred Lee of Sang Lee Farms in Peconic will join Mr. Ludlow in a discussion focused on the expansion of Long Island agriculture from potatoes and cauliflower to exotic greens, mushrooms, artisanal cheese and other products.

From the time Mr. Ludlow’s family started the farm in 1875, the focus at Mecox Bay was always potatoes. “I was born out here on the potato farm,” Mr. Ludlow said. In 2001, the Ludlows decided to diversify—and remain in business—by switching to dairy and, specifically, to making cheese.

Cheese, Mr. Ludlow said, “is a way for a small farm to stay profitable.” In transforming the farm into Mecox Bay Dairy, the Ludlow family made every effort to use the equipment and facilities they already had, converting an old potato barn into a space for cheese making and cow milking.

By focusing on cheese first, which has more value than other dairy products, the Ludlows were able to buy time to develop other products. The farm recently received a permit to sell raw milk and hopes to experiment with ice cream and yogurt production. The Ludlows are also looking to develop a retail business to sell their products, which include pork and beef, on the farm.

On the North Fork, Sang Lee Farms cultivates Asian greens, vegetables, herbs and flowers, dressings and condiments. The family owned and operated certified-organic farm grows over 100 varieties of specialty vegetables and herbs. They produce two kinds of bok choy, edamame, kale and 16 varieties of tomatoes, to name a few.

“He’s a second generation farmer,” Ms. Donnelly said of Mr. Lee, “and he has all kinds of degrees—he’s studied clinical psychology and business. He’s probably doing the hardest thing he could possibly do, but with people’s interest in good food and exotic greens, I’d like to think Sang Lee Farms Is doing well. But they rely on climate and the economy and the weather and, you know, disease outbreak could come along and destroy crops—so it’s not easy.”

In addition to the standard struggles experienced on any farm, East End farmers have another obstacle to contend with when they try to expand their business—the ever-shrinking availability of farmland.

Open Minded Organics started as a small business in David Falkowski’s backyard. Now in his 11th year, Mr. Falkowski is growing over 200 varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs, as well as raising chickens, on his 5-acre farm in Bridgehampton. After finding success in mushrooms, Mr. Falkowski diversified the farm about five years ago and continues adding more products every year—but his expansion is limited by the lack of available farmland.

“I’m at that crux right now and land is very difficult to find. Forget the expense part, which is part of it, but even finding it is very difficult,” said Mr. Falkowski. “What’s happening is these lands that are preserved for low crops or agricultural reserve very often—and I would say more often than not—are no longer producing food.”

Although local governments can’t correct past mistakes that turned historic farmland into scenic vistas on private estates and horse farms, Mr. Falkowski is hopeful they will make better decisions moving forward.

Ms. Donnelly, in turn, is hopeful Mr. Falkowski’s political take on the state of local agriculture—and his proposed solution—will come up during Sunday’s discussion.

“By all means say what you want, it makes it more interesting,” Ms. Donnelly said she told Mr. Falkowski in a pre-interview, adding, “You don’t want people sitting around for an hour and a half saying, ‘I agree, I agree, I agree,’ so I’m hoping there will be some sparks.”

“Small Bites” is Sunday, March 2, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Bridge Gardens, 36 Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton. Reservations are required and refreshments will follow. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members. Tickets for the entire lecture series are $70 for members and $90 for non-members. For reservations, call 283-3195, ext. 19 or email events@peconiclandtrust.org.

Cooking from the Outdoors

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Rick Bogusch, Garden Manager at Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton, chops up fresh Rosemary along with Peppercorns, Cloves, Tumeric, Cinnamon, Coriander, Mustard, Fennel, Cardemom, Nutmeg and Ginger to make biscuits at Bridge Gardens on Monday, 2/25/13

Rick Bogusch, Garden Manager at Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton, chops up fresh Rosemary along with Peppercorns, Cloves, Tumeric, Cinnamon, Coriander, Mustard, Fennel, Cardemom, Nutmeg and Ginger to make biscuits at Bridge Gardens on Monday, 2/25/13

By Emily J. Weitz

Few places inspire a chef quite like an herb garden, with its pungent aromas promising to bring freshness to any dish. At Bridge Gardens, a Peconic Land Trust property in Bridgehampton, the kitchen is always in use, and the gardens brim with seasonal flavors. Rick Bogusch, the garden manager, has embraced that garden-to-table connection, and you can taste it.

This week, Bogusch will kick off a series of conversations with experts on a range of topics relating to the gardens. The first conversation will take place this Sunday, March 3 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Community House, with subsequent lectures given at Bridge Gardens. This Sunday’s discussion will focus on cooking with herbs, and Bogusch will share wisdom from both the gardens and the kitchen, as well as recipes and tips.

“One of our main areas of concentration in our programs is growing things in the garden and harvesting them and using them,” says Bogusch. “We want to be an outdoor classroom, a model of sustainability for the community.”

Garden-to-table cooking is a simple way that people can harness their own power and become more sustainable, Bogusch believes.

“By growing your own food, you’re reducing the distance that food travels from miles to yards,” he says. “That reduces your carbon footprint. And the more individuals that do that, the better.”

In his talk, Bogusch will focus on the two basic families of herbs that are grown at Bridge Gardens, which encompass a surprising diversity of species.

“We’ll talk about the mint family and the parsley family,” says Bogusch.

Examples of the mint family include mint, basil, thyme, lavender, and marjoram. In the parsley family are parsley, dill, cumin, caraway, and cilantro.

“Some of these herbs we grow in pots, and many are planted in the earth in our herb and vegetable gardens,” he says. “Many, like basil, are annuals, so in early spring we’ll put out two dozen basil plants of different varieties. We create a pleasing array.”

The herb garden at Bridge Gardens is mostly just for display and enjoyment, and the herbs they use for cooking are grown in the vegetable garden in rows.

“Walking into the herb garden,” says Bogusch, “you are overwhelmed by the sense of smell, the colors, and the textures. The herb garden is full of bees and other insects, so the sound is also powerful.”

Bogusch struggles to choose a favorite herb that he uses in his cooking.

“This time of year, I’m eating a lot of dried herbs, like sage and rosemary,” he says. “But in the summertime, in a Caprese salad, fresh basil is a key ingredient.”

He cooks lots of pesto with the wide variety of basil, and also uses herbs and spices that come from Asia for sauces, powders and dips. Some of these herbs are also touted for their medicinal value.

“Fennel tea is a digestive aid,” he says, “and parsley is a diarrhetic. These plants have been used since Egyptian times. Coriander seeds were found in King Tut’s tomb, and cultivated caraway seeds have been found from Neolithic times. They were the basis of modern medicine, and the search for herbs and spices is the reason we’re here. It’s how the New World was discovered.”

All of the conversations in the series will relate to reducing the carbon footprint, covering issues from storm water management to sustainable turf management to green living in and around the home. But this is arguably one of the most enjoyable ways to protect the planet, because it tastes so good.

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seed Dip from the Garden

2 cups green, hulled pumpkin seeds

1 cup finely chopped red onion

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tsp. chopped oregano

2 tsp. chopped cilantro

1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped

3-4 tbs. lemon juice

½ cup chicken stock

Sea salt to taste

 

In a heavy skillet, heat the pumpkin seeds over medium heat until they begin to pop and brown, about 10 minutes. Stir so they don’t burn.

Cool and place in food processor, process to a fine meal. Pour the meal into a large bowl and add onion, garlic, oregano, cilantro, and peppers, stirring well.

Add lemon juice gradually, to taste, then add chicken stock, thinning dip to desired consistency. Add salt to taste. Serve with jicama chips.

 

Promoting “Slow” Food

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By Amy Patton

Students from the Bridgehampton School's Edible School Garden.

Students from the Bridgehampton School’s Edible School Garden.

An upcoming celebration of locally cultivated food, sustainable farming and micro-agriculture will mingle next month with the memory of a North Haven man who held a passion for all these things.

The American Hotel, in partnership with the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation, will host a dinner and pre-dinner cocktail party Sunday, March 24 to raise funds in part for the Edible School Garden Group and the three “master” gardeners chosen to help local school districts cultivate and expand their school gardens.

The foundation is guided by Myron and Susan Levine, of Sag Harbor, who lost their son Josh in 2010 when he was fatally injured in an accident while working at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett.

Josh, who was 35 years old when he died, left behind two small children and his wife, Ann.

Myron Levine said the overwhelming support for his family from the community after the tragic accident spurred him to find a way to raise funds to better the community. Since Josh was so passionate about organic farming and its benefits, said Myron, the family chose to promote what would most significantly preserve his son’s memory.

Although Josh began his career as a real estate developer in Manhattan, his father said after spending many summers on the East End, his son found a calling in farming and in 2008 he became a volunteer at the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm where he served as a summer apprentice on the Amagansett acreage.

“He was such a gentle man,” said Myron. “He was so drawn by what he saw out here, the simplicity, the purity. He saw the value of keeping local agriculture alive.”

Also to benefit from March’s event is Slow Food East End (SFEE), an organization that, as one of its charitable projects, works with local schools to teach children about the value of homegrown produce. Last year, the group helped several school districts like Greenport and the Hayground School install greenhouses and small gardens so that kids could learn hands-on the benefits of small-scale organic farming.

“Slow food is obviously the opposite of fast food,” said Mary Morgan, the former director of SFEE, who recently stepped down from the organization to head another related charity. “Our goal is for local children to understand that not all they eat must come out of packages at the supermarket.”

The schools that currently benefit from the Edible School Garden program, said Morgan, which this year number 20 throughout the North and South Forks, “are in various stages of working with the students on building and maintaining food gardens.” Morgan noted some of the kids’ homegrown efforts have even led to some of the produce being sold at area farmer’s markets or used in cafeterias. The master gardeners, who are hired with funds garnered from the now-yearly Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation event, work in conjunction with teachers, administrators and students towards the SFEE’s goal.

“For children to understand where their food comes from is so important,” said Peconic Land Trust president John v H. Halsey, whose organization works, in part, to promote the use of local land for farming and allocates funding to make that land more affordable for farmers. “The Slow Food East End movement and the Edible Garden School program both help to instill a conservation ethic in these kids. We’re very supportive of fundraisers like this that help to promote the use of food production farmland and assure that such a valuable legacy stays with us out here.”

The American Hotel’s Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation dinner/fundraiser is currently sold out; However, there are still tickets available for the pre-dinner cocktail party which will be held at Bay Street Theater from 5 to 7 p.m. on March 24, featuring wine, hors d’oeuvres and music. A donation of $75 will secure a place at the event and reservations can be made at www.joshualevinefoundation.org.

 

Shelter Island Farmland Preserved

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More than 57 acres of farmland was donated to the not-for-profit Sylvester Manor Educational Farm last week, a gift from Sylvester Manor owner Eben Fiske Ostby. As soon as the land was transferred to the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, both Suffolk County and the Town of Shelter Island protected it as farmland through conservation support.

The gift brings total farmland owned by the locally governed nonprofit to over 83 acres and the total land preserved at Sylvester Manor to over 105 acres.

“Protecting a second parcel of the historic Sylvester Manor property is a remarkable achievement, both for the local and county governments and for the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm,” said Fiske-Ostby, the tenth generation proprietor of Sylvester Manor. “We now have a significant landholding preserved for future generations, and with it a crucial foundation for the Educational Farm and its mission. So many people contributed to making this effort a success, and I am both indebted to them and proud of the community that supported it.”

“We are truly thankful for the generosity of Eben Ostby and the commitment of the town and county in supporting a sustainable future for Sylvester Manor,” said the organization’s executive director, Cara Loriz. “With the help of Peconic Land Trust and our many supporters, we can now celebrate the realization of our initial preservation goals for this remarkable property.”

Sylvester Manor Educational Farm now operates on the 243 acre property, and as part of its mission is working to cultivate, preserve and explore the manor’s lands, buildings and stories, inviting new thought about the history and culture of food, both on Shelter Island and across the country.

The newly designated preserved farmland extends south along Manhanset Road from the historic farm field along the northern boundary of Sylvester Manor which was preserved in August. The new acreage is gradually being cleared of succession old field vegetation and supported cover crop and livestock this past season. The farm’s plans for the protected acreage include expanding livestock and row crop production, establishing orchards and making acreage available to lease farmers and community gardeners.