A Day in the Life of a Farm

published Jul 12, 2014
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(Image credit: Mallory Samson)

One thing I’ve learned after a few weeks of following Katie and Amanda of Amber Waves Farm is that an average day for them is not so “average.” In mid-June, early into the harvest season at this CSA farm in Amagansett, NY, I took on the task of following them from sun up to sun down. In a single day the farmers conduct an orchestra of activities: harvesting, hoeing, planting, working with children, and preparing for weekly CSA pick ups.

Come walk along with me in a day on the farm!

Good morning! Let’s get caffeinated. (Image credit: Mallory Samson)

A Very Early Start

The day starts early, with a 5:30 am arrival at the farm, coffee in hand. The heat this week – a bit off from what has been a very mild late spring – calls for the early start.

After the morning chores (more on this in an upcoming post) – they make the one mile trip from their Main Street field to their 10 acre field on Town Lane, a part of the Peconic Land Trust’s Deborah Ann Light Preserve.

The Deborah Ann Light Preserve is shared by many of the Land Trust’s organic tenants, including Bhumi Farms, Bonac Farms, and Balsam Farms, which leases the largest share of the acreage and has had a farm stand on site since 2005. The Trust’s Quail Hill Farm also shares land at the Light Preserve.

The movement from one farm field to another includes a parade of farmers, apprentices, trucks, tools, harvesting knives and bins, and a tractor. The tractor moves first, taking about 15 minutes to make the 1.4 mile commute. In the meantime, farm apprentices Laura Rose, Ben, Mark, Brendan, Adrienne, and Abby load the trucks with harvesting tools, top off their coffees, grab their hats, and hit the road.

Harvesting for CSA. (Image credit: Mallory Samson)

Early Morning: CSA Harvest

Once they arrive, the crew moves quickly to beat the heat – dividing into smaller harvesting teams to pick, sort, and fill orders of lettuce, radishes, and garlic scapes. The day’s bounty is destined for a variety of places: restaurant kitchens (including Provisions in Sag Harbor and Ruschmeyers in Montauk), farmers market displays, and CSA members’ weekly boxes.

Even out in the fields, Amanda is in contact with customers and suppliers — never missing a beat.

Learning about the life cycle of the wheat plant from seed to plate. (Image credit: Mallory Samson)

Mid-Morning: Time for School

While the some of the crew remain in the fields on Town Lane, apprentices Laura Rose and Adrienne lead a tour with kids from the Amagansett School. The program includes a tasting tour through the fields to learn about the vegetables and herbs, a seeding project and a discussion about the story of wheat — from seed to loaf.

The harvest is completed in the 9 o’clock hour (late morning in farm speak), when Katie heads back to the Main Street field to harvest Red Russian kale for CSA pick up the following morning.

Apprentices hoeing the onions. (Image credit: Mallory Samson)
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Good morning! Let’s get caffeinated. (Image credit: Mallory Samson)

Late Morning: Work Begins in Earnest

With the harvest out of the way, the day’s work can begin! With a crew this size there is always multitasking: Adrienne and Laura Rose work in the washing station to clean and pack produce into the cooler while Ben and Mark prepare for the afternoon’s planting, and Brendan and Abby get to work hoeing.

Noon: Lunchtime!

When the downtown noon whistle blows the crew breaks for lunch, everyone grabbing vegetables picked this morning — one of the amazing benefits of growing your own food.

Katie heads to the farm’s favorite sandwich shop, Mary’s Marvelous in downtown Amagansett. In the meantime, Amanda seizes this 20-minute window to finish assembling wooden CSA boxes that members pick up each week at the farm. Amanda’s carpenter-dad Curt helped Amanda and Katie design and construct the first ones they used, which are now a signature component of the Amber Waves CSA.

The crew transplanting kale. (Image credit: Mallory Samson)

After Lunch: Transplanting Seedlings

After lunch, apprentices gather kale seedlings from the greenhouses and return to Town Lane to transplant the young plants using the farm’s new waterwheel transplanter. The tractor-pulled transplanter is a major equipment upgrade for the farm. A planting project that would have taken half a day on hands and knees now takes apprentices Ben and Adrienne – who ride side by side on the rear of the equipment – merely an hour to plant thousands of seedlings into neatly shaped raised beds that Mark and Amanda prepped just after lunch.

Late Afternoon: Beetle Check!

The late afternoon finds the crew assembled back at the main farm a “beetle check” on the eggplants (the Colorado Potato Beetle is especially aggressive on potato and eggplant crops on Long Island, and the Amber Waves crew removes the beetles by hand three times a week throughout May and June to avoid spraying to kill the pesky bug).

Laura Rose collecting eggs at the end of the day. (Image credit: Mallory Samson)

End of the Day Chores

As the day comes to a close the crew divides up to complete end-of-day chores: collecting eggs, closing up the greenhouses, shutting gates, putting away tools, cleaning up, and harvesting food for their own dinners.

The apprentices leave for the day and Katie and Amanda continue to work. Tractor work is usually reserved for the early evening hours. Amanda drives the 1974 Alis Chalmers pulling the disc harrow to prepare a field for planting winter squash. Katie hops on the 1982 Case International to cultivate between lettuce, sweet potato, and kale beds.

When tractor work is done, Amanda and Katie meet in the farm office to make the to-do list for the next day, and then the work starts all over again.

A New Generation on the Farm is a season-long exploration of the work at Amber Waves Farm, and it is a partnership between The Kitchn, photographer Mallory Samson, and the Peconic Land Trust. Founded in 1983, the Peconic Land Trust conserves Long Island’s working farms, natural lands, and heritage. This is the first in a series about first generation farmers the Trust is working with to ensure that protected farmland is used for farming on Long Island’s East End.