A Landscape Changed

A family of homesteaders goes full tilt.

SAG HARBOR—It’s easy to look around and get discour- aged by the unconsciousness of this vacationland. Trees cut. Pools in. People grabbing at nature and bending it to their weekend will.

But the story of Green Acres Farm in Sag Harbor is one of reclamation and metamorphosis. Once the air here was choked by 2-cycle engines. Scarred and pitted by dirt bikes and ATVs. Eroded, when it rained the land bled. “This place was overly cleared. Major erosion. I brought in 30 containers of organic soil,” says Michael Lyons, owner. Now, improbably, red carrots grow. Purple beans. Poppies. Wheat and vegetables.
Lyons points east down the gently sloping property, “That’s where Elisabeth is going to trellis the tomato plants. She’s in charge here.” He’s referring to Elisabeth Wolfe, farm manager, a graduate of Smith with a degree in environmental biology and sustainable development. “It’s a take on a grapevine vineyard look,” says Elisabeth. “We’ll be edibly landscaping this whole property with deer-resistant edibles: golden hops, shade tolerant grapes and blueberries.”

This weekend she’s manning the “cart,” an ingenious rolling farm stand. Six days a week Lyons pedals the cart to Tutto Il Giorno on Bay Street in Sag Harbor. In Blue Hill at Stone Barns-esque fashion, patrons of the restaurant mull over the produce, purchase it, and chef Jon Albrecht cooks it for them, right then and there. “Farm to table,” smiles Lyons. “Can’t get it any fresher.”

Green Acres is a self-described “microfarm.” The land supports eight families as a CSA. During pickups it’s full of children’s feet. “I grew up the youngest of seven,” says Lyons. There was always something going on. I wanted that feeling for my kids. Most of the members have kids. Part of this story is that the farm is here to educate children. It’s important for them to understand where their food comes from.”

Green Acres is proud of its community involvement and excited about future events. “This past Halloween, after the parade, we had 40 kids here. And we’re just getting started.” Lyons and Wolfe plan on inviting chefs to come to the house to cook farm-to-table dinners for members. “I want to share this place with the community. I want to share in the bounty of this land,” says Lyons.
We’re standing on the patio overlooking the farm. Below our feet is the root cellar. A barn swallow swoops low to hawk an insect over the pool. But the pool isn’t surrounded by decking, more decking and sod. Rows of basil and tomatoes push up to the edge. Challenging space. Even the pool area has been reclaimed. The swallow seems to understand.

Five acres transformed. Personal property used with a focus on the community. It can happen.