Tag Archive | "The Peconic Land Trust"

Plein Air Peconic Celebrates Land, Sea, Sky

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Hendrickson Farm by Kathryn Szoka.

Hendrickson Farm by Kathryn Szoka.

“Land, Sea, Sky,” Plein Air Peconic’s Ninth Annual Show, will debut with an artists reception this Saturday, October 11 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Ashawagh Hall, 780 Springs Fireplace Road in East Hampton. The show will be on view throughout Columbus Day weekend.

“Land, Sea, Sky” celebrates art inspired by direct observation of the East End’s cherished local farmlands, wildflower fields, salt marshes, and beaches in an exhibition and sale by the artists of Plein Air Peconic.  Many landscapes that have been conserved by Peconic Land Trust will be included.  Plein Air Peconic includes painters Casey Chalem Anderson, Susan D’Alessio, Aubrey Grainger, Anita Kusick, Keith Mantell, Michele Margit, Joanne Rosko, and photographers Tom Steele, Kathryn Szoka.  Plein Air Peconic has announced that two guest painters, Ty Stroudsburg and Gail Kern, will be exhibiting as well.

The show will partially benefit the Peconic Land Trust. To learn more about the artists of Plein Air Peconic visit PleinAirPeconic.com.


In Levine’s Memory: Slow Food, Education & Organic Farming Celebrated

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By Amy Patton

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.


Quail Hill’s Scott Chaskey Named Farmer of the Year

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By Tessa Raebeck

As a student in England struggling to support himself, Scott Chaskey found a job as a gardener. Several farms and many successful seasons later, Chaskey will be honored as Farmer of the Year at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York’s Winter Conference. Chaskey will also give one of the keynote addresses at the conference, which will be held in Saratoga Springs January 24 through January 27.

“I fell in love with using the spade and turning the soil over,” recalls Chaskey, now the farm director at the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett. Chaskey returned to the United States in 1989. His homecoming coincided with the national emergence of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a locally based socioeconomic structure of food distribution that intends to narrow the gap between families and farmers.

In 1990, Quail Hill became the first CSA farm in New York state. At the time, there was only one other organic farm on the East End, the Green Thumb in Water Mill.

“They were wonderful to us,” says Chaskey, recalling how the farmers there helped Quail Hill get its start. The Green Thumb supplied the young farm with transplants for its inaugural season, which Quail Hill then grew and harvested.

In addition to supplying locally grown, organic food, CSA hopes to build community through education and support long-term sustainability efforts by connecting consumers to their food source. CSA farms sell shares of produce for an annual fee, offering consumers both awareness of where their food is coming from and involvement in its cultivation.

“I just loved the idea of not only growing food organically, but also building community,” says Chaskey, “My actual farming career has been entirely involved with building this community up at the same time that we were growing the soil to grow good food.”

For the past 23 years, Chaskey has helped to build community here on the East End through his work at Quail Hill. Education is fundamental to CSA, and Chaskey said he is dedicated to teaching the next generation of farmers.

“Besides providing food,“ Chaskey explains, “we’re also running programs to educate people about what we’re doing and about sustainable agriculture. Lots of different things, that’s what a community farm is about.”

Organic farming on the East End has come a long way since the only farms were the Green Thumb and Quail Hill. Through many successful harvests, Chaskey has had over 100 apprentices. Students can volunteer for a day or stay for a year, and many go on to start CSA farms themselves.

Former apprentices Katie Baldwin and Amanda Merrow founded Amber Waves Farm, also in Amagansett, with the guidance and support of Chaskey and Quail Hill, as well as The Peconic Land Trust, which leases land to both Amber Waves Farm and Quail Hill.Chaskey’s influence on the careers of Baldwin and Merrow is apparent in their commitment to education, sustainability and community building.

Through Peconic Land Trust’s Incubator Program, young farmers like Baldwin and Merrow are encouraged and supported to venture out on their own. In the model of a homestead program, new farmers are leased land to cultivate.

“The whole existence of NOFA is to educate not only farmers, but consumers to be aware of the importance of organic farming,” saysChaskey, ”Those years of educating, I think we’re starting to harvest the fruit of it now.”

Due to growing awareness of the health concerns of processed, unnatural foods, there has been a striking increase in the national demand for organic produce. That demand is especially prevalent here on the East End, where excellent soil and preserved land have not only allowed for the survival of the rich farming tradition, but enabled it to thrive in recent years.

“From that one farm, it’s amazing how it’s spread in the last 20 years,” says Chaskey. The NOFA Conference, he recalls, “used to be attended by a couple hundred people and now it’s almost 1,500 — and well over half of them are in their twenties.”

The influx of youth into organic farming has reinvigorated the business and heartened proponents of natural food.

“It’s very encouraging to see how many young people are interested in getting involved,” Chaskey says with excitement, “It’s amazing — the quality of people who have graduated with this or that degree and want to do some sort of meaningful work. And that’s happening not only here, but all over the country.”

Chaskey is optimistic about the future of organic farming, hoping to see the higher demand translate to higher acreage and larger scale farms. If the past 23 years of success are any indication, Chaskey’s optimism could be right on point.

Finding the Lost Ladybugs

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Heller_Lost Ladybug Project Amagansett 7-10-12_8530

By Amanda Wyatt

From the most avid nature lovers to the biggest city slickers and couch potatoes, nearly everyone likes ladybugs. But recently, a group of researchers, preservationists and local citizen-scientists have taken their appreciation for the “ladies in red” to a new level.

Led by a team from Cornell University’s Lost Ladybug Project and the Peconic Land Trust, these enthusiasts gathered at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett on July 10 to document and collect various species of ladybugs.

The project, which is based out of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Science, researches and examines the changes in the ladybug population across the United States.

In particular, researchers and participants were eager to find the rare nine-spotted ladybug (coccinella novemnotata), which they collected in glass vials to take back to the Cornell campus in Ithaca, New York.

Although it’s currently difficult to find, the nine-spotted ladybug is actually the official insect of New York State.

“It was named our state insect because it was once so common and considered so important for agriculture,” said Dr. John Losey, a Cornell professor and the director of the Lost Ladybug Project. “The problem is, by the time it was named, it had already started to decline.”

In fact, New York State went 29 years without seeing a nine-spotted ladybug, and researchers believed it to be locally extinct. But while organizing a search for native ladybugs at Quail Hill in 2011, Peter Priolo struck gold — or red.

“I wasn’t looking for the nine-spotted,” Priolo said. “I was, of course, hoping we’d find one, but I just wanted to find native ladybugs. I knew [Quail Hill] would be a hotspot for biodiversity because it’s an organic farm and their planting methods are very diverse.”

Priolo, who had previously interned with the Peconic Land Trust, was already familiar with the Lost Ladybug Project. He took a photo of a ladybug he found in 2011 and sent it to Dr. Losey, who confirmed that it was a nine-spotted. Soon, he learned that his discovery marked not only the first sighting in decades of the nine-spotted ladybug in New York, but one of the first in the entire Eastern U.S.

A science enthusiast since childhood, Priolo was excited to be involved in the project.

“I just do this for fun, and to fulfill that young science boy inside of me,” he said.

There are over 5,000 species of ladybugs across the globe, roughly 500 of which are indigenous to North America. However, the diversity within the ladybug population has greatly decreased over recent decades, and a number of species have become endangered.

“What we’re going from is a really diverse group of native ladybugs to a much less diverse group of foreign ladybugs, dominated by the seven-spot and the Asian, multicolored one,” said Dr. Losey. “We want to know what happened to the nine-spot and if we can turn that around. We fear that if we get totally dominated by just a few kinds, the ladybugs might not be able to do their job as well for us as they have in the past.”

Priolo, who has his bachelor’s degree in ecology, agreed that maintaining a wide variety of ladybugs was crucial. “The more biodiversity there is, the healthier it is,” he explained.

According to Dr. Leslie Allee, an entomologist at Cornell, ladybugs are one of nature’s best pesticides. Ladybugs prey on soft-bodied pests like aphids, who otherwise suck the sap out of leaves—essentially destroying farm plants and orchard trees. They also eat the eggs of scales, including mealy-bugs, and various other pests.

“The bottom line is that ladybugs help us grow food with fewer pesticides,” Dr. Allee said. “So ladybugs directly impact the amount of pesticides that are needed on many crops that we eat.”

She continued, saying that anyone “who’s concerned about getting wholesome, clean food with as few pesticides as possible should also be concerned about the fate of ladybugs. If we didn’t have ladybugs, we’d have to use many more pesticides and organic agriculture would really be in danger.”

“Every ladybug does its job a little bit differently in terms of eating pests,” Dr. Losey added. “So what works best for pest suppression is to have lots of different kinds all doing their thing in different ways.”

The Lost Ladybug Project, which was founded by Dr. Losey in the early 2000s, was originally intended to be a small-scale, local initiative. But after receiving funding from the National Science Foundation, they were able to expand their efforts. This led to media coverage, and the project quickly took off from there.

“We had thought we were just going to work in New York, as well as with some collaborators in South Dakota, and build it slowly,” Dr. Allee recalls. “But we got so much press that people from all over the country became interested, so we had to really scurry and grow the project quickly.”

In fact, citizen-scientists from all 50 states, as well as several Canadian provinces and Mexican states, have submitted their own photos and other research to the project.

According to Kathleen Kennedy, outreach manager for the Peconic Land Trust, researchers from the Lost Ladybug Project will be back at Quail Hill in a few weeks. Their next visit is scheduled for July 31, 2012.

Kennedy hopes that that the project will keep gaining momentum. “I think it would be great to do this as an annual event,” she said, adding: “Hopefully, we’ll have more and more people aware, and more and more ladybug colonies.”

Photography by Michael Heller

Marine Meadows Workshop Brings Eelgrass Restoration to Sag Harbor

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This Thursday and Friday, trained experts from the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) will forage shoots of healthy eelgrass from marine meadows throughout the region. They will then bring them to Sag Harbor and enlist the help of dozens of volunteers to aid in the Cooperative’s 18-year-old Eelgrass Restoration Program.

On Saturday — National Estuaries Day — the Cornell Cooperative Extension along with The Peconic Land Trust and the Sag Harbor Oyster Club hope to give East End residents a hands-on experience and education in eelgrass restoration.

From 3 to 5 p.m., the organizations will gather under tents at Bay Burger just outside Sag Harbor Village for the Marine Meadows Workshop. Volunteers will be asked to weave eelgrass shoots into burlap disks that will be planted in the Peconic Estuary the next day, establishing a new, healthy eelgrass meadow which ideally will become habitat for finfish and shellfish, and enhance the overall health of the bays.

According to the CCE’s Habitat Restoration Outreach Specialist Kim Barbour, the Marine Meadows Program is a community-based, collaborative initiative developed by the Cooperative as an offshoot of its Eelgrass Restoration Program.

Eelgrass is a critical aspect of the coastal ecosystem, noted Barbour. The seagrass provides habitat for marine life, helps filter nitrogen — preventing harmful algae blooms — and even protects the shoreline from erosion.

For decades, eelgrass has been in decline — globally and locally — due to pollution, disease and disturbance. Preserving what remains of the eelgrass meadows locally, as well as restoring the eelgrass stock is at the heart of the Cooperative’s Marine Program.

“The loss of eelgrass is one of the most significant issues facing the Peconic Estuary,” said Bay Burger owner and Sag Harbor Oyster Club founder Joe Tremblay. “Eelgrass is a critical habitat for a number of threatened species, most notably bay scallops and winter flounder. Scallop populations may never be able to be rebuilt if its natural eelgrass habitat disappears. The bottom of Sag Harbor Cove was historically almost entirely covered with eelgrass, and now it is virtually non-existent there. The Peconic Estuary has lost over 90 percent of its historic eel grass meadows.”

The Marine Meadows Program was conceived last spring to involve coastal communities on Eastern Long Island and Connecticut in the CCE’s efforts, providing a method to teach residents about water quality and the necessity of eelgrass restoration. It also enables the CCE to tap into local civic groups and community organizations as a pool of volunteers willing to donate their time towards eelgrass restoration projects in the Peconic Estuary, the Shinnecock Bay and in the Long Island Sound.

According to Barbour, this will be the fifth Marine Meadows Workshop event, and the program is gaining in popularity, community groups eager to get their hands dirty in the spirit of improving water quality across the region.

The workshops would not be possible without the initiative of Cornell Cooperative Extension restoration ecologist Chris Pickerell, who created the new, more efficient method of planting eel grass beds on bay bottoms. After weaving the healthy shoots into the burlap disks above water, they are planted by scuba certified CCE Marine Program staff the next day.

“The more we can get assembled, the more restoration,” said Barbour.

The process, she added, “is elementary, but as we do this we provide an education about the species while volunteers handle the live plants. This tremendously increases the planting units we have to work with and hopefully people will walk away with a new found knowledge and enthusiasm for protecting our estuaries.”

Barbour said CCE is hoping to make the program an almost year-round aspect of their overall Eelgrass Restoration Program, and with the amount of community support the workshop has received so far, she is hopeful the organization will meet its goals.

The Marine Meadows Program, sponsored by the Cornell Cooperative Extension, The Peconic Land Trust and the Sag Harbor Oyster Club is free, and will be held Saturday from 3 to 5p.m. For more information contact Kim Barbour at 852-8660 or at kp237@cornell.edu.