Eating fresh, local fruits and vegetables certainly has health benefits.There’s also the superiority of flavor these foods deliver, as well as the boost buying them provides the local economy. However, another key benefit that is often overlooked is how the purchase of these products benefits local farmers, who need to be able to live while working the land in the Hamptons.
One group has been an advocate for conservation of Long Island’s working farms for several decades: the Peconic Land Trust. This year the non-profit group celebrates its 30th anniversary with the “Through Farms & Fields Country Luncheon at the Port of Missing Men.”
This year’s gathering will be held on Sunday, August 4, at noon and will be hosted by the Salm family and John v.H. Halsey. Chuck Scarborough will serve as the master of ceremonies. On August 7, a “Garden-To-Table” tasting and demonstration with chef Peter Berley will be held at Bridge Gardens at 5 p.m., also in support of the Trust.
The Country Luncheon will honor the memory of Peter Salm, the grandson of Colonel Henry H. Rogers, who dedicated his life to preserving the Port of Missing Men. Conservationist Louis Bacon, a renowned philanthropist who has worked to protect over 1,000 acres on Long Island, will also be honored.
Today, the Trust faces some of the same issues it did when it began, and then some, according to Mr. Halsey.
“Some of the same issues that we confronted 30 years ago remain, including tremendous development pressure and high real estate value,” he said.
He reported that huge federal and state taxes make it complicated and challenging to pass land from one generation to the next. The high land values here on the East End also make it difficult for farmers who don’t generate enough money from vegetable sales to be able to afford the land passed down to them, he added.
“Even protected farmland has very high values that make it difficult for both established and new farmers to acquire land for food production,” he said. “That’s a huge challenge that the Trust is working to address.”
The goal of both events, the Country Luncheon and the garden-to-table demo, is to highlight different resources here on the East End, he said.
The luncheon will serve as an opportunity to highlight the “amazing salad greens and vegetables of our farms, to the fresh fish from our shores, to the wonderful wines of our vineyards,” according to information provided by the Peconic Land Trust.
The tasting and demonstration will include Mr. Berley cooking up ingredients picked from the beds at Bridge Gardens. The James Beard Award-winning chef, who has written multiple cookbooks on vegetables, is no stranger to the Trust, according to Yvette DeBow-Salsedo, director of marketing and communications. He cooked at an event for the Trust last year and has been an active supporter since.
“We met Peter last year, he generously donated his time to a small dinner party,” Ms. DeBow-Salsedo said. “He was very enthusiastic about the mission and about the Land Trust.”
Mr. Berley, who owns a home in Jamesport and has a garden of his own, has made it his mission is to get people to grow their own food.
“I want to encourage people to grow a little food themselves so they grow a greater connection to the source of our nourishment,” he said during a telephone interview last week. “It’s a powerful experience.”
The chef pointed out that New York is an incredible food-producing place. Additionally, he said that food is the basis of many local economies, and something that needs protection.
“It’s not something you get rich on, but it’s a calling for people, certainly the farms around here,” he said.
The importance of growing local food is understood, but maintaining the ability to do so is an important part of the process, according to Trust officials. In July the Trust, with the assistance of the South Fork Land Foundation and an anonymous supporter, purchased 20 acres of productive agricultural land in Bridgehampton from ninth-generation descendants of William Haines, who settled the land in 1682. In 2002, the protected farmland was worth $10,000 to $15,000 per acre. In July 2013, just 11 years later, the Trust paid $125,000 per acre.
The enormous leap in value is a microcosm of the issues faced by farmers all over the East End, Mr. Halsey said. But because of families like the Salms and the Bacons, local small-scale farming has been able to endure on the East End.
“It’s always great to point out and recognize people who have done incredible things locally and nationally and who inspire others to do things along the same lines,” he said.
The “Through Farms & Field Country Luncheon” will be held on Sunday, August 4, at noon, at the Port of Missing Men on North Sea Road in Southampton. Tickets start at $350. The “Garden-to-Table” tasting and demonstration with chef Peter Berley will be held at Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton on Wednesday, August 7, at 5 p.m. Cost is $30 per person, or $15 for Bridge members. To register or purchase tickets, contact Robin Harris at email@example.com or call 283-3195, ext 19. To learn more, visit peconiclandtrust.org.