Farming is a field of mentorship. The saying “the more you know, the less you know” certainly applies to its diverse styles and applications. It’s full of risks, detrimental mistakes, unpredictable natural influences and the need to think quickly. Yes, there are lovely fresh vegetables and a satisfying ethereal connection, but the list above is scary enough to discourage the most passionate agricultural dreamer. Even still, as the sustainable food movement gains momentum, bushels of young apprentices pack their bags, leave their jobs and flock to Long Island farms with hopes as high as our old oak trees. The average age of the American farmer is 57 years old. Despite forewarnings of financial unpredictability in a society dominated by industrial agriculture, young farmers want to balance this out and bring production back to the small scale, organic diversified farm, and they’re coming to our island to learn how to do it.
Every morning I pinch myself, unable to believe I am finally farming for real on my own turf.
I left my manicures and eyeliner behind, (how I miss them), to pursue a full season apprenticeship at Sylvester Manor Educational Farm on Shelter Island. Long Island boasts an incredible culture of farmers, winemakers, distillers, bakers, food writers and more, ready to share their secrets and pass on the knowledge. They are patient and determined to help apprentices succeed; they know the future of our food supply lies within the confidence they pass on to the next generation of cultivators. Follow me and my fellow apprentices through propagation, transplanting, harvesting and feasting on an organic farm on the East End. You’ll hear the stories of the island’s agricultural migration and meet the young people learning our soil’s secrets. There will be plenty of mud, irrigation leaks, plump tomatoes, potlucks, plowing and broken backs. The season is just beginning, the soil is warming up, and there are plenty of Long Islanders to feed. Bring it on.