Tag Archive | "Peconic Land Trust"

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.

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

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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.

Plants and Herbs for a Summer Day

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web herbs

By Francesca Normile

Sitting underneath a shady canopy of old, wisteria arbor leaves, Rick Bogusch, garden manager of Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton, looked out across the south side of the gardens, checking in on one of his two assistants, Matt Brown. Brown, in a pink shirt, red shorts, and a large straw hat, was tending to the herb gardens.

Bridge Gardens, founded in 1988 by Harry Neyens and Jim Kilpatric, was donated in 2008 to non-profit Peconic Land Trust. The Trust was established to “ensure the protection of Long Island’s working farms, natural lands, and heritage,” according to their website. Bogusch, who worked alongside Neyens and Kilpatric before they left the Gardens, was formerly an employee of The Trust and took the position of garden manager in 2008. He has held that position for three summers now, working with two assistants and living in the Bridge Gardens house, which he says “brings the outdoors indoors with all of its windows.”

 “I always say, five acres in Bridgehampton ain’t bad,” responded Bogusch when asked about living in the Gardens. “It really is wonderful year round.”

Finding it difficult to say which part of the Gardens was his favorite, Bogusch contemplated the question for a moment, leaning back in his white plastic chair.

“I think I like the herb garden best at this point,” he decided. “The plants in there tell so many different stories. They bring in science and history, almost all aspects of human culture, with them.”

A tour, “The Herb Garden in Spring and early Summer” will be offered at the Gardens on Saturday, June 19.

From the tall Angelica in the medicinal bed (the seeds of which are used for calming stomach disorders and the stems of which used to be candied for a treat) to the California Poppy (a beautiful, yellow flower that was used by California Indians as a toothache remedy), the multi-faceted history of these herbs become very apparent. Particularly interesting, said Bogusch, was the inconspicuous-looking Woad, a textile herb, which was the only source of blue dye for centuries (anteceding the discovery of indigo) and was what the druids had used to dye their bodies blue.

“Many herbs have more than one use,” he said.

An example he gave was St. John’s Wart, an herb used both in textiles as a dye and medicinally, to combat depression. Each plant, from its roots to its petals to its seeds, held a wealth of information. And that information is what the tours at Bridge Gardens are about.

Each tour is about one hour long, filled with stories of history, science, and culture as told through the beautiful wealth of flowers, shrubs (including some topiaries that were installed years back by Neyens, and which Bogusch says  “add a touch of whimsy to, and have become an important part of, the garden”), herbs, bamboo, and other plants that fill Bridge Gardens.

“Our ultimate goal here is to not only have a beautiful garden, but one that is also an educational resource for the public. Showing them the best plants to grow in the garden, how to combine them, how to create gardens that are relatively low maintenance,” said Bogusch.

His advice for local gardeners was that most herbs are very easy to grow.  In terms of working in the herb garden at Bridge Gardens, Bogusch said, “there are parts of maintaining it that are very different from what I was used to doing. You have to let the plants do what they want and sort of grow together like a weed patch. Usually I am very controlling in my designs, but this requires a gentle hand.”

Some specific herbs that Bogusch suggested local gardeners grow included his “favorite basil, Mrs. Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil, which has the best, very sweet, lemon flavor of basil, and African Blue Basil, which is kind of a Thai basil with a clove scent to it.” Each require a bit of space, however, the former expanding to about 2-by-3 feet and the latter to about 3-by-3 feet; so don’t pack them in too close together.

To experience Bridge Gardens for yourself, you can visit on Saturdays and Sundays for a tour or, if it is just the herb garden that has peaked your interest, attend “The Herb Garden in Spring and Early Summer” on June 19 titled at 10 a.m. For $20 per person you can learn a three-dimensional approach to planning and planting your own herb garden and begin cultivating a history, like the one at Bridge Gardens, in your own backyard.

At the Bridgehampton Gardens

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Peconic Land Trust Opens Bridgehampton Gardens

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Though much of the grounds is still in shades of brown and gray, the promise is that Bridgehampton Gardens will soon be full of color. And for the first time this year, the property, which was developed over the last 20 years by Jim Kilpatric and Harry Neyens, will now be managed for the public by the Peconic Land Trust.

The five aces tucked on the southwest side of Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton, a stone’s throw the from the railroad trestle over Butter Lane, are cultivated with several distinct gardens: knot gardens, lavender, and antique roses among them. There are topiaries, a bamboo room and even an holly maze. It’s a place the Land Trust hopes will become popular for local residents who want a quiet and beautiful place to spend some time.

“Bridge Gardens is truly a wonderful sanctuary here on the East End,” said John v.H. Halsey, president of the Peconic Land Trust. “We look forward to welcoming visitors here throughout the summer and into the early fall.”


Neyens and Kilpatric, who had owned a home in Bridgehampton since the 1970s, and found themselves experimenting with various plantings, wanted to expand their interest, and looked for a larger piece of property. They purchased the property on Mitchell Lane, which included an old potato barn which has since been converted into a home, in 1987.

Over the next ten years they planned and developed two separate spaces, the Inner Garden, which features a knot garden surrounded by beds of 180 different culinary, medicinal, ornamental and dyeing herbs, and the Outer Garden, which is highlighted by a collection of 800 antique and modern roses. The gardens are separated by privet, which creates a long alee through which visitors can stroll.

The gardens will officially be open to the public beginning this Saturday, May 2. The gardens will be open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Beginning May 27, they will be open on Wednesdays and Thursdays  from noon to 5 p.m. and beginning May 29, Bridgehampton Gardens will be open on Fridays from noon to dusk.

Admission if $10 for adults and $20 for a family of four.

For information call the Trust at 283-3195.