Farm Tours

The past few years, we've had the pleasure of being on farms across America. We've been able to listen to and learn from America's farmers. Saturday we had a screening in East Hampton, NY, presented by Balsam Farms, which is operated by Ian Calder-Piedmonte and Alex Balsam, both long time friends of mine. In 2007 and 2008, I worked at Balsam Farms, planting, harvesting, and occasionally selling produce at the farm stand. 

 At noon, Alex and Ian hosted a farm tour, which is part of a series of tours designed to build the community of farmers in Eastern Long Island. Each week, farmers will meet at a different farm, and share some of their knowledge- successes and failures of seasons past. On this afternoon, the farmers, almost all of them young, gathered in the grass between a walk-in regrigerator and the greenhouse, sipping Ian's home brewed beer. Once the tour began, many questions were asked, and much knowledge shared. Ian talked about the importance of leaving seedlings outside for a few days before transplanting, so they can get acclimated to life outside in the elements. Alex talked about the different implements used during cultivation, and showed off a recently purchased cultivator that had been made by a company in Michigan.

We made the mistake of competing with a sunny spring Saturday afternoon, which meant about 45 folks joined us for our 2pm screening at Guild Hall. Nonetheless, it was a good screening, as we were joined by farmers Ian and Alex, Art Ludlow, and Scott Chaskey. Chef Joe Realmuto of Nick & Toni's joined us on the panel, and hosted a wondrous reception following that featured local meats.  Ian talked passionately about the importance of balance, respecting all types of agriculture. Art talked about the changing face of his family farm, from producing potatoes, to beef, to milk and cheese. Adapting to what makes sense for the farm, and to the market. He also mentioned that they are currently forced to drive more than 5 hours to the closest slaughterhouse.  Scott, with a Whitmanesque beard, talked about decades of commitment to alternative agriculture, working to form the first CSAs in the mid-80s, and seeing the movement take strong root decades later. His farm Quail Hill is an enduring example of a successful non-profit based CSA model of production.

After dinner, we headed to Amber Waves farm, started by Katie and Amanda. We had a lively conversation around a fire, the spring evening still cold enough to make heat needed. Got a chance to make some new friends, and see some old ones like Brian, recently arrived from New Hampshire with his dog Blue, who I had worked with a few summers back. 

Sunday, before heading back to the city, Susan and I planted seedlings of tomatoes and watermelons using a water wheel as Ian slowly drove the tractor. It brought back memories of summers past, long good days of work on the farm. 


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published this page in Ruminations 2012-07-18 12:43:36 -0400