April 26, 2013 Day 5
(Pictures by Lindsay Kennedy)
The bus departed for Suffolk County. Dr. Larry Van de Valk organized the Friday schedule. Our first stop was an organic farm and market – with the perfect name – Garden of Eve. Yes, the owners name is Eve. The farm is owned and farmed by Eve and Chris Walbrecht. They have started a “community share” of their vegetables, flowers, fruits, herb plants, and eggs. Their clients pay them in advance and then Eve’s Garden ships whatever is fresh that month to the clients. So the clients are surprised every month with fresh vegetables. 70% of things grown are pre-sold. Eve sends out an email newsletter that includes recipes for the months fresh vegetables – what has grown that month and how to prepare it. Currently the farm has about 400 who have bought into the community share – 1500 clients that visit the garden regularly to make purchases. It is a lifestyle change for most of these clients who reside in New York City but it is a way to link people back to the farm.
Lunch was fun – a polish lunch at the Riverhead Polish Hall. Joe Gergela with the Long Island Farm Bureau spoke to us about the Long Island farm issues. To protect the farm land they too are setting aside land in preservation purchases to restrict the land for farm only. The problem is that the farmer is still not protected from people complaining or filing suits about the farm buildings, sheds, etc. The land is Suffolk County is very rich – formed by glacier depositing rich soil in this area. They are also blessed with abundant water. Perfect combination for farming. But the land scape has changed and this has become the week-end gathering place for the rich and famous from New York City and all over the world – the Hamptons. And so the politics begin. Simple lies work over complicated truths. Fabrications begin over pesticides – farm abuse of land – water contamination. Joe has reached across the aisle to Hilary Clinton and made a friend who has helped him on numerous occasions. Joe had a strong passionate message for all of us in the ag business – we must be active – participate – work with any and all sides of politics to get our message out and advance our agenda. Get the truth out about who we really are and what we really do. The EPA gains more power and control every day with a message people want to hear – but the message needs to get back to the truth and stop putting people out of business in the name of “saving the environment”. We need a unified voice in agriculture – cattle, grains, fruits and vegetables – pull all associations together for one strong truthful voice. The message of food should be as powerful as the message on the environment. The truth – we all want the same thing and we should be able to work together to accomplish a bountiful stewardship of our land and water resources.
Our next stop was the Half Hollow Nursery in Laurel located on 625 acres of Long Islands’ North Fork. They have become a premier grower and distributor of quality nursery stock – evergreens, deciduous trees, perennials and seasonal color. They have established a broad customer base – shipping products throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and Canada.
Martin and Carol Sidor are the third generation to farm potatoes on long Island’s North Fork. Times have been so tough for the farm that they decided to get creative and start making a hearty potato chip kettle cooked in real sunflower oil. Thus began North Fork potato chips. These chips are cut twice as thick as regular chips and come in a variety of flavors – barbeque, sweet potato, cheddar, sour cream and onion. They are all natural – no preservatives – Kosher. Their creativity has not made life any easier, but the North Fork potato chip production will save the family farm.
Our last stop was in Peconic – the Pindar Vineyards and Winery – Long Island’s best known wine producer. The vineyard started as a dream of the founder – Dr. Herodotus “Dan” Damianos – in the 1980’s. Now after 30 years the vineyard encompasses more than 500 acres of 17 varieties of grapes – crafting these grapes into 23 varietals and proprietary blends. They produce 70,000 cases of wine a year. It is still a family owned and run business. Steve Weir and Farm Credit East treated the group to a wine tasting.
What an amazing trip. You know – there is always a story to tell. People in all walks of life have a story. We shared those stories – those lives – even if for a moment. We shared links to our past – fallen heroes – men and women who fought for what they believed – fought so we might continue our freedoms and be strengthened to take initiative to fight for what we believe in. We met political leaders entrenched in agendas – paralyzed by diversity. We met bold politicians that were engaged – principled. America is complicated – blessed – steeped in history based on a Constitution based on a God that has afforded us abundance and excess. And yet – we face difficult times – times of conflict and adversity. Who better knows about adversity than a farmer? Who better knows about love of God, family, country, community than a farmer? Who better understands perseverance – a servant’s heart – and truth than a farmer? The agricultural community grows more than seeds of harvest to feed a nation – we have heart lessons to teach.
In the Capitol there is an inscription:
When tillage begins – other arts follow. The farmers therefore are the Founders of Human Civilization.
We are very good at quietly going about our business. But the one consistent message that continues to resonate for our ag community is that we must unify and speak out – speak the truth. The world is saturated with media frenzy on every topic and their interpretation. People need to know who we really are and what we really do. With every trip we make – I feel better educated – strengthened – energized – enabled. God has a plan for each of us. I don’t believe in random acts – so my being chosen for TALL was for a reason. I am passionate about the work of our ag community and the families that strive to preserve our food supply and a legacy. We need a strong voice – advocates for agriculture. I intend to be one!!!