Small Farm Get-Together

After exiting an auditorium packed with more than 500 people, which had just been filled with the sound of a protracted standing ovation, one member of the audience exclaimed, “Who would have believed that Joel Salatin would come to Long Island?”

She was among the truly dedicated—a participant in the first Long Island Small Farm Summit held in April at SUNY Old Westbury—those who know who Salatin is, and have probably read a few of his books.

Salatin, of Polyface Farm in Virginia, was featured in Michael Pollan’s best seller The Omnivore’s Dilemma and is known for his dedication to and evangelism of a way to farm—which he employs—that requires no fertilizers, pesticides or hormones. His method involves constant disruption of the land, by cows, chickens and pigs, to create healthy soil. He calls himself a grass farmer.

Once Salatin’s talk was over—a talk where everyone left kind of believing that the empty land bordering the Long Island Expressway could be converted into productive gardens (don’t get him started on golf courses)—attendees broke up into some standing-room-only seminars covering everything from organic farming, marketing one’s produce, beekeeping and public policy. Niaz Dorry, coordinating director of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, spoke of community-supported fisheries, a success in Massachusetts.

In between sessions, attendees strolled among displays by 49 exhibitors, including Slow Food chapters from Long Island, the Long Island Farm Bureau and artisans displaying everything from mushrooms to goat’s milk soap. Major sponsors of the event included North Shore Land Alliance, Land Trust Alliance/New York State Conservation Partnership Program, Whole Foods Market, Karma411, the Center for Social Innovation at Adelphi University, NOFA-NY and many other partners who glimpse in small-scale farming some solution to the suburban challenges of sprawl, community isolation and poor access to good food. Plans for a follow-up summit are underway for 2012. To get involved contact the North Shore Land Alliance at 516.626.0908.