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NYTimes.com Article: $75 Rental in Hamptons (Tiny and Organic)

  • Subject: [cg] NYTimes.com Article: $75 Rental in Hamptons (Tiny and Organic)
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Tue, 8 Jul 2003 10:04:00 -0400 (EDT)

This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by adam36055@aol.com.

Like Jazz, the incorporation of the language of the street into mainstream English and the permutations of culture, community gardening seems to be beginning to be absorbed into the mainstream of our culture...here, in a very exclusive vacation community on Long Island, the Hamptons. 

As an old brick and trash moving cg pioneer type, I believe that this is a positive sign in our culture and I hope it catches on. Community Gardening is transformative and should last longer than "paint ball".
Best wishes,
Adam Honigman


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$75 Rental in Hamptons (Tiny and Organic)

July 6, 2003


EAST HAMPTON, N.Y., July 2 - It's the cheapest rental in
the Hamptons, but like most good deals, it's already taken.
For $75 a year, the East End Community Organic Farm, a
cooperative on Long Island, is renting 20-by-20-foot plots
of prime farmland to anyone who is willing to join up and
garden without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. And the
idea has swept through this summer resort town like the
latest Botox treatment. 

Last year, the first season the cooperative, known as Eeco
Farm, had use of the land, 35 plots were rented out; this
year, all 84 plots are taken, each with a splendid view
over an open field, a vanishing commodity here. Most
renters are Manhattanites with second homes in shady yards,
or landed gentry who have to garden behind their hedges,
where they are stuck staring at the same faces they drove
out with. But at the farm, Upper East Siders gather to
watch the sunset and, perhaps, drink a little pinot grigio
with Japanese, Chinese, French, Ecuadoreans, even local

Life is so good, there are no more plots. 

"We say `patches,' " explained Annie Bliss, the farm's
executive director and a founder. "We don't like the
connotation of plots." 

You could call this a community garden, but for most here
that would conjure up narrow patches dug out of rubble
between brick buildings in Brooklyn or East Harlem. Eeco
Farm's two acres of gardens are surrounded by seven acres
of organically farmed corn, beets and peas, grown by the
cooperative and sold to restaurants or given away to the
needy. But while the East Hampton crowd may wear more polo
shirts than their urban counterparts, the excitement of
connecting with the earth and watching plants grow is the

And when those tomatoes look wan, these gardeners are as
tempted as any others to cheat with a few chemicals. "Being
New Yorkers, they want everything instantly," said Lauren
Jarrett, a founder of the farm with Ms. Bliss. 

"I snuck in the Miracle-Gro," confessed Gale Meisenberg,
who runs a catering business called Gale's Kitchen, and
used to grow enormous chemically fed vegetables at home. "I
made 20 tins of eggplant parmigiana. Grew everything but
the cheese." But she has mended her ways, afraid she would
be busted if someone saw her mixing up the bright blue
crystals. And besides, she is now a believer. 

"Mr. Miracle-Gro sat on one shoulder, and Lauren on the
other," she said. "But I haven't given up my Botox

The experiment began as an attempt to save the 42-acre
potato field from becoming the site of 20 new houses. The
town of East Hampton was also reeling from a high rate of
cancer at East Hampton High School, and had banned
pesticides from public lands. In 2001, the town and Suffolk
County bought the parcel's development rights for nearly $5
million, a step that restricted its use to agriculture. But
that still left the door wide open to a farmer or a nursery
operator to buy it and continue to pour on the chemicals. 

So the town went the extra mile and bought the land itself
for an additional $650,000 - and leased it to Eeco Farm. 

To hear these weekend farmers talk, you would think they
were describing 1,000-acre spreads. "This is my farm," Shel
de Satnick, 70, a retired bridge teacher, said as he
surveyed his four eggplants and three tomato plants, all
lovingly staked. His partner, Walter Klauss, a conductor in
Manhattan, beamed at the rows of newly started lettuce and
radishes. "Even though we have a house out here, it's a
flower garden, not open space." 

And their yard is shady. "Every time I'd reach for a packet
of seeds, it would say `full sun,' and I'd put it back,"
Mr. de Satnick said. 

When seed potatoes arrived in the mail, the men thought it
was a mistake. Weren't seeds supposed to look more like
granola? "They were just potatoes," Mr. de Satnick said. 

The manager of Eeco Farm, John White, whose family has
farmed on the East End for 13 generations, showed them how
to cut up each potato so that each piece had an eye, or
growing bud. 

But it is more than sun and open space that draws the two
men to the farm daily to watch their garden grow. "It's the
level of energy out here," Mr. Klauss said. "And we're all
concerned about the environment." 

"The McMansions springing up instead of lettuce," put in B.
J. Roemer, a friend from nearby Water Mill, by way of
elaboration. Ms. Roemer, who has an adjacent plot, actually
hates gardening around her cottage. "I don't like doing it
alone," she said. "But I adore these guys." The three
gardening pals were inspired to plant nasturtiums along
their "waterfront," their word for the irrigation ditch.
"Next to the water, like Giverny," Ms. Roemer explained. 

Some back-to-the-earth types don't have time to get their
hands dirty, among them Faith Popcorn, who gives names to
lifestyle trends, like "nesting" and "atmosfear" (anxiety
about polluted air, contaminated water, bioterrorist
attacks, mad cow disease, and all that). Ms. Popcorn hired
Fusae Shigezawa to plant an Asian-style garden on her plot.
She wanted her 5-year-old adopted daughter to connect with
her Chinese roots. 

"I don't want her to think bok choy comes from Citarella,"
Ms. Popcorn said, referring to the Manhattan emporium,
which has an outpost in Water Mill. "She's going to plant,
reap and sell it at the farm stand." 

But so far, all the work has been done by Ms. Shigezawa,
who grew up in Hawaii and studied tropical agriculture in
college, and Fred Garofalo, an organic landscaper who dug
in his five-star compost. (Others with less exalted sources
have to rely on compost from the dump.) 

"Isn't that terrible?" Ms. Roemer said, casting a longing
eye at Ms. Popcorn's vigorous dark-green vegetables and a
lone marigold as big as a tennis ball. "I thought the idea
was to do it yourself." 

Mr. Shigezawa is not the only Asian gardener who has found
his way to Eeco Farm. Junheng Coach Xu, a year-round
resident of East Hampton who teaches swimming, tai chi and
healthful cooking at the town recreation center, is growing
snap peas and Chinese lettuce, bok choy and strawberries. 

"I was forced to learn, when they marched us out of
Shanghai," Mr. Xu said, remembering the Cultural
Revolution, which forced city people into the country. "We
were re-educated. This makes me very sick then. But I
learned how to grow vegetables. This, I like." 

His friend Fumiko Matsubara, who came to the East End from
Tokyo in 1989, tends the plot next door. This evening, she
came by with her uncle, Tsuneaki Horiguchi, just off the
plane from Yokohama, and went home with a basket full of

"We're aiming for diversity," said Ms. Jarrett, who has
been known to beat the bushes for gardeners other than
weekending Upper East Siders. "I saw some Hispanic people
on the other side of the fence, and I ran along spouting
words like `jardín!' and `verdes!' in my pidgin Spanish." 

José Cajamarca and Luis Tenecota, two carpenters from
Cuenca, Ecuador, got swept into the organic family. They
grow chilies, tomatoes, onions and watermelons on two plots
for their families. 

Ms. Jarrett commandeered two chefs from the Ross School, a
private school and Center for Well-Being founded by the
socialite Courtney Ross Holst. "She kept saying: `Take a
plot! Take a plot!' " Deena Chafetz, the school's executive
sous chef, said. "And I kept saying: `No, we're too busy.
Maybe next year.' " But there the two women were, hoeing
their Bloody Butcher dent corn. 

They may till rarefied earth, but these gardeners are no
different from any others when it comes to tomatoes. Who
has the first, the biggest, the juiciest, the most
flavorful. And almost everyone has too many. 

"I planted 27 plants last year," said John Malafronte, a
local public television producer. "The guy at the nursery
asked me if I had a big family - you only need four." Mr.
Malafronte now brags that his tomato paste sets the
standard for all tomato paste. 

The connection to the land cuts through class and money.
"Sometimes in the Hamptons, people get isolated in their
own groups," said Newell Turner, the editor of Hamptons
Cottages and Gardens, as he trellised his tomatoes. "They
race out from the city to go to the beach or sit by the
pool. But here, there's a whole range of people." 

Mr. Turner, 41, comes from a farm family in the Mississippi
Delta. "We grew 1,500 acres of cotton and sweet potatoes,"
he said. "My father handed my brother and me a hoe to learn
what it was all about. And hoeing coffee weed in 100-degree
weather is enough to kill you." 

At Eeco Farm, the fog rolls in, cooling the fields in the
evenings. The sun streaks the sky pink and red. 

Ms. Meisenberg wears gloves to protect her bubblegum-pink
manicure, but last week, thanks to her daily gym routine,
she was able to roll in two wheelbarrows of bricks and
enough sand to lay a little patio between her two plots. It
is now complete with wicker chairs, "so I can sit and watch
the weeds come up," she said. 

Her own epiphany came last year in the pumpkin patch. She
had donated all the seeds, "so long as I could pick any
pumpkin I wanted," she said. And one raw day right before
Halloween, as her husband and a friend pointed to the best
pumpkins from their pickup, she celebrated the harvest. 

"I pushed the wheelbarrow, and started to cry," she said.
"Just to be able to be out there, in that open field,
picking pumpkins." 



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