Ever wish you could have a bountiful vegetable patch, but the deer won't let you? Or you want to grow tomatoes, but you live in the woods? There's a solution: for $175/season, you can rent a deer-fenced, full-sun 20' x 20' raised garden bed, ready to plant, at EECO on East Hampton's Long Lane, and make new friends besides. This week, Bruce Buschel, local restauranteur (Southfork Kitchen) and longtime member of EECO's Board of Directors, tells journalist/blogger Cara Greenberg all about the 44-acre organic farming community and how to get involved.
What's the backstory on the founding of EECO?
Ten years ago, there was this farmland the Town didn't know quite what to do with. Different proposals were made, and they chose a non-profit community farm. They cleaned up the land, which had gotten pretty dirty during the Temik era (a pesticide widely used for potatoes). It's been ten years now, and the land keeps getting better.
How is the farm set up?
We have 120 gardens, but those take up only 2 or 3 acres. We also lease land to professional farmers. Balsam Farms has 7 acres, the Food Pantry Farm another 2 acres, Dale Dale Haubrich and Bette Lacina have an acre. The main thing is, everybody has to sign up to follow New York State's organic farming code. The farmstand on Long Lane is a couple of years old and we hope is a face to the public.
Are there more individual plots available?
We're sold out every year. This year, there are about 120 gardens; five years ago there were 50 or 60. But there's space there and, as required, we can allot more space to gardens.
Who are the gardeners?
A lot are people who are here year-round who don't have space or the right conditions, not renters or summer people so much. We have a deadline at the end of April to request a garden. You have to be aware of this and plan ahead, so it's not for people passing through. The majority of gardeners come back year after year.
We provide water, free compost and mulch, tools and wheelbarrows, and most important, other people. That’s always helpful if you're having trouble with your tomatoes or you're away and need some watering done. We don't tend your garden for you. You have to do that.
So it's like a garden club?
No, it's not. A garden club is an insulated group. We're open to the public; we welcome people who want to learn about organic gardening and farming. We have potluck picnics, full moon parties. It puts you in touch with other people who are concerned about this kind of activity. It’s practical, it works, and please come and try us out.
What's EECO Outreach?
Last year, East Hampton High School wanted to have a farm and grow their own food. We realized they don't know what they're doing, so we started EECO Outreach to make ourselves available to anyone with questions about organic gardening or farming -- schools, restaurants, businesses. Gardening is an endless challenge. A good gardener knows about weather, insects, seasons. We have excellent farmers and many master gardeners, and we send somebody to answer questions, tell them what kind of seeds to use, where to buy equipment ? basic things people starting out don't know and need to know.