How Farmers Celebrate the End of a Season: The OktoberFeast Potluck at Amber Waves Farm
Celebrating the harvest is a tradition that is deeply entrenched in farm culture. During the summer months, time is precious and devoted to working the fields. With the cooler weather of autumn the frantic pace lessens, leaving time to reflect on the season and to thank the community for their help and patronage.
For Katie and Amanda, the two farmers who run Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett, New York, their annual “OktoberFeast” is the perfect way to celebrate and share the bounty of the harvest with their friends, family, staff and CSA (community supported agriculture) members. This year, I was invited to the festivities and had the chance to join this close-knit community in toasting a successful and abundant season.
Preparing for the Party
Getting ready for OktoberFeast is like an old-fashioned barn raising – farmers, fishermen, farm members, apprentices, and chefs all pitch in to make the dinner a collaborative celebration highlighting the vast bounty of the east end.
The farm crew sets long communal tables with fresh fall flowers. Stacks of plates are at hand. A tiny table is set just for the children with crafts and a box of farmer dress-up clothes. Each table holds mason jars full of fairy lights and as the sun goes down, each lantern casts a merry glow. The scene is rustic and chic, but the highlight is the food.
Preparing the Feast
Chef Roy Wohlars is the captain of this dinner and he stands at the helm pulling pounds of fragrant smoked pork under the trees as his dog, Winnie, winds her way through his feet, hoping for one dropped morsel of the succulent meat. Lazy wasps, drunk off of pig fat, loll around the table while I chat with him about the menu.
This meal represents Roy’s cooking philosophy: take the highest quality meat, fish and vegetables and put it on a pedestal, highlighting and elevating their natural flavors and character.
The Star of the Feast
The anchor of the feast is a heritage breed pig raised by friend and fellow young farmer Pete Ludlow from Mecox Bay Dairy. The Ludlows primarily tend to their herd of dairy cows and produce artisanal raw milk cheese, but as conscientious full-circle farmers, they wanted to upcycle the whey, a byproduct of cheese making. Pigs were the right answer to enjoy and devour the unused elements of crafting cheese.
Pasture-raised and cheese-fed pigs became a staple of their farm ecosystem, and the prized pork is desperately sought after by chefs who know the quality of this meat is unmatched. For the OktoberFeast dinner, 70 pounds of pork is smoked for 15 hours, pulled from the bone and served with a Carolina-style sauce.
Food from the Sea
This food community also celebrates gifts from the sea, including Atlantic butterfish, Jonah crab and two whole mahi-mahi. Sean Barrett, founder of Dock to Dish a local CSF (community supported fishery), caught 150 Atlantic butterfish and left these instructions for volunteer Julie Resnick and the FeedFeed prep team.
“It’s pretty fast and simple, all you need is scissors. Then:
- Head off
- Guts out
- Snip off fins
- Towel dry
Takes approximately 1 minute per fish. Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper and grill for 5 minutes.”
The Jonah crab stars as the interactive appetizer provided by fisherman Anthony Sosinski, captain of the Montauk-based Anna Mary. Two whole mahi-mahi, weighing in at 20 pounds each, are stuffed with large bundles of parsley, dill, and basil and grilled whole on the oversized Ranch Kettle Weber grill.
Food from the Fields
The vegetable harvests from neighboring farms are made into simple rustic dishes. Freshly-dug potatoes for potato salad and roasted sweet corn from Balsam Farms compliment the lacinato kale, cilantro and Thai basil-dressed Amber Waves Farm wheat berry salad.
Slivers of crisp Quail Hill Farm cabbage are splashed with apple cider vinegar, making a colorful slaw. The Amber Waves apprentices assist Chef Roy by making a delicata squash soup and a fall harvest hash with Beauregard sweet potatoes and apples picked at Briermere Farms.
The Bread at the Feast
Carissa Waechter, owner of Carissa’s Breads who regularly collaborates with Amber Waves, bakes loaves of fresh beer bread using grain from the farm and stout from Montauk Brewing Company, each hearty loaf branded with a toasted ‘C’. And then there is the pièce de résistance: Carissa’s apple cider beignets.
The Local Libations
The Atmosphere of OktoberFeast
As the guests start to stream in, it feels like a reunion of good friends. Children tumble across the lawn and clamor for a turn on the swings. The lit fire pit adds its own cheerful crackles to the hum of the gathering crowd. The cool air is tinged with the fallen leaves and wood smoke.
This event is every bit the celebration of fall and the harvest. As plates are heaped with the autumnal bounty and fruits of Roy’s delicious labor, I feel grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this celebration of the farm and the community that comes together around it.
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.
- For more information on the Trust, visit the Peconic Land Trust.
Photographer: Mallory Samson
Mallory Samson is a storyteller who uses photographs. Mallory was a former Fashion Editor at J. Crew and Photography Editor at Nike. Mallory’s photographs have appeared in numerous magazines and she has authored two books featuring her photographs. Mallory has been a professional photographer for 17 years and lives in Southampton, New York.