This Common Ground

Photos by Michael Halsband
Text and captions by Scott Chaskey

My name is Scott Chaskey and I have been fortunate to farm garlic, greens, potatoes (and sixty other crops) for the Peconic Land Trust, at Quail Hill Farm on the eastern end of Long Island, for the past 27 years. Twice a week 250 families visit the farm, one of the original CSA's (Communited Supported Agriculture) in the country, to harvest their share of the crops; we grow over 500 varieties of vegetables, fruit, and flowers.

For the farmer aware of ethical choice and ecological necessity, each flick of the hoe, each pass with the disc harrow, each disturbance of wild nature can also be an act that supports the integrity and beauty of the land. The Trust, a conservation organization founded in 1983 by John Halsey and friends, has to date protected over 12,000 acres on the East End of Long Island. For a couple of decades we were singular in creating a marriage between conservation and community farming; our mission has been to encourage more of it. From a handful of farms in 1986, it is estimated that over 6,000 CSA’s are presently growing, cultivating, and harvesting in our United States.

Each year Quail Hill Farm employs apprentices to learn the trade and to expand the business of sustainable/ ecological farming on soils that should be farmed, and through “Farms for the Future” the Trust links aspiring farmers with available land. Quail Hill Farm is in the best sense a communal response to the preservation needs of a seaside place, an attempt to create and conserve what Aldo Leopold, the author of “A Sand County Almanac,” calls “a state of harmony between men and land.”

That's me, inspecting the netting in a far field —placed to dissuade crows from feasting on our watermelons.

Welcome to a magical, productive meadow and valley surrounded by ocean and bay, in Amagansett (“place of good water”), New York.

Meadow man, house scholar/ from field to chair/ I hear the deep choir of the anvil…

Two hands (Mateo), one seed tray, Vermont Compost soil mix, 128 potential lettuces.

Matthew (Mateo) Gregory, 2016 advanced apprentice, by way of the Center for Agroecology, Santa Cruz, California.

Brassica seedlings, seeking light.

Thousands of plants “hardening off” before being transplanted into our fields.

Our favorite, and the favorite of pollinators, summer cover crop: buckwheat.

Flowers, experienced hands, and a sharp Opinel.

Layton Guenther, farm manager, with a bouquet of summer squash blossoms.

Some prefer the fruit, some prefer the flower: squash blossoms!

Brendan McMullan harvesting in the onion patch.

August rhymes with tomato—Juliets ripening on the vine.

Layton with an heirloom: a work of art, and full of flavor.

It is August in the peppers, and the crew began farm work in March.

"Bring me the sunflowers crazed with the love of light" (Eugenio Montale) Or, if you please, bring me the peach.

Harvest day in our CSA field—look! Unlimited zucchini for all…

Each day another crew member prepares a fresh, delicious lunch (from left: Sarah, Katrina, Scott, Greg, Brendan).

In the farmhouse kitchen. “Enough chatter,” says farm dog Bella, “back into the fields.”

“The mystery of action: we are seeds.” (Rumi)

A portion of our harvest of 33,000 bulbs: garlic, the stinking rose, drying in the greenhouse covered with shadecloth.

Our Italian apprentice from Napoli, Anthony Cinicolo, washing vegetables

Anthony, washing. Part 2

Sarah resting—before the afternoon shift—on a thousand pounds of soft white winter wheat.

Originally from Peru, home of the versatile “earth nut:” Papa cacho.

Arranging bouquets for market—we grow over 60 varieties of flowers, from zinnias to Kilamanjaro, snow-on-the-mountain.

In light and shadow flowers delight.

Preparing for direct sowing into Amagansett soil.

Sowing root crops, in August, we will harvest in November/December, bound for the root cellar.

A pause, on the Kubota, after 35 years of gardening and farming.

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