Saturday, October 6, 2012

Growing Farmers Film Documentary World Premiere at Hamptons International Film Festival Showcases Homegrown LI Farmers & Chefs

Tomorrow is the world premiere of the documentary film, "Growing Farmers."  
See trailer below.

I am so proud that there a number of Homegrown chefs and their inspired growers in the must-see documentary.

While the message, “No Farms, No Food” may be a somewhat rather ubiquitous bumper sticker, especially in tony areas where the abundance of fresh, healthy, local food can be celebrated; the fact is, American farms are disappearing all too fast.

The venerable Peconic Land Trust, lauded for its success “Conserving Long Island’s working farms and natural lands” (and waters) also operates what can be considered the flip side the preservation coin.
The “Farms for the Future” initiative is a kind of antidote for what ails us when it comes to creating working farms in an ever-encroaching land-grab chokehold vise grip that puts affordable farms out of reach to none other than --farmers…

Through its Farms for the Future effort, the Peconic Land Trust developed it Farm Incubator Program, offering would-be farmers hands-on help starting or expanding their commercial agricultural enterprise “with access to productive farmland.”

I had the privilege to interview Hilary Leff, a Peconic Land Trust Board member for 14 years, now the Vice Chair of the Board. and the Growing Farmers film’s co-producer by phone earlier today.  

While there is no question The Peconic Land Trust is recognized for its outstanding work preserving land, Leff said the question  “But what do we do with it?” led the Trust, spearheaded by her and the Trust’s project manager, Steve Searl, among others, to seek a solution that would benefit Long Island and compliment their preservation efforts. 

Leff explained that over the past decade the value of local farmland – even protected farmland – has climbed waayy beyond what can be considered affordable to most farmers. 
“It’s just too expensive for the farmer to buy land or operate the farm,” she said.

Having learned of the Incubator program, Leff traveled up and down the east coast, researching various working programs in order to create a Long Island template that would help insure the next generation of East End farming.

The Trust writes: “The work that the Land Trust is doing in helping to keep farming on the East End is so important on so many levels; it helps the economy, it creates jobs for people interested in farming, it provides fresh, local food for the community,” said co-producer Leff.

Leff pointed out some of the Trust’s farm success stories, including Pike Farms in Sagaponick and Balsam Farms in Amagansett.  (Both farms, along with Trust’s Scott Chaskey and chefs Joe Realmuto, Nick & Toni’s and Bryan Futerman, Foody’s are featured in my recently-released book, “The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook 

“Getting to know some of the young farmers and hearing their stories was inspiring,” Leff said. 

This Growing Farmer film stories took root.

When asked why she chose to tell the story in film, Leff explained friends introduced her to the award-winning documentary filmmaker, Michael Halsband. 

Further, the Trust notes, “Working with the Peconic Land Trust to make the movie has made me realize more then ever how important it is for everyone to know how vital and important it is to each and everyone of us to support farming wherever we are,” said Director and co-producer, Halsband. “It directly impacts our health and well being, and our support of farmers who really care about the quality of the food they grow is and has become more important then ever. I hope this documentary we made will help to spark a greater awareness and interest in where our food is coming from and an appreciation for the people who put the love into growing it for us.”

Featured farmers, chefs, farm enthusiasts, and supporters in the Growing Farmer film include:

Jennifer and Jim Pike, Pike Farms    

Pike Farms

Jamerican farmer, Rodderick Brown
Stephanie Callan, NF Seed Savers

Katie Baldwin and Amanda Merrow of Amber Waves Farms

Balsam Farms Ian Caldor-Piedmonte (L)
Alex Balsam and Ian Calder-Piedmonte of Balsam Farms 

Chris Browder of Browder's Birds

Trust Project Manager Stephen Searl 
Trust North Fork Stewardship Manager Dan Heston
Trust President, John v.H. Halsey

Chef Joe Realmuto, Nick & Toni's (L) & Scott Chaskey, Peconic Land Trust. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Calais-Smith for The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook
Quail Hill Farm Director, Scott Chaskey  

Chef Joe Realmuto of Nick & Toni's

Philanthropist John deCuevas, and more

Leff’s hope is that the film will continue the dialogue, save land and support the farmers and the farming family.  
“Not a lot of people even know about this (issue),” she added with what sounded like a touch of wistfulness stirred with solid determination and East End grit.

Following it’s world premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival, the film will be seen at other venues, including Plum TV and The Young Farmers Conference.

Mark your calendar for the two tastes of Growing Farmers at the Hamptons Film Festival:

Sunday, October 7, 2012, 11 am 

Growing Farmers at the Hamptons Film Festival
UA East Hampton, Main Street
New short documentary film chronicling the Trust's work with farmers on Long Island will debut at the Hamptons International Film Festival. The screening is at 11 am, and will air along with the long-form documentary Herman's House. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit the Hamptons Film Festival website at
Hungry for more Long Island foodie Farms?  Enjoy an “amuse bouche” or second helping, of sorts, at an inspiring panel discussion:

Monday, October 8, 2012, 10 am
Rowdy Talks Roundtable: From Farm to Table to Film
Rowdy Hall, Main Street, East Hampton.

Foody's chef & owner, Bryan Futerman
As part of the Hamptons International Film Festival, a panel discussion with moderator Laura Donnelly, pastry chef, Maidstone Inn, food writer, and restaurant critic for the Star, featuring Growing Farmers director Michael Halsband, co-producer Hilary Leff, chef Bryan Futerman, Foody’s  
and the Trust's Director of Quail Hill Farm, Scott Chaskey, will take place at 10:00 am at Rowdy Hall. Titled: From Farm to Table to Film, this is part of the festival's Rowdy Talks series. This is a free event, but limited seating.

Growing Farmers movie Trailer:

“The issue of access to affordable farmland is the
greatest impediment to young farmers starting out on Long Island. Land
values on Long Island have continued to rise, driving farmers off the
land and precluding new farmers from entering the market. Growing
Farmers, a new documentary, looks at the issue and explores some of
the solutions.
For more information contact the Peconic Land Trust at

Directed by Michael Halsband
Co-Produced by Hilary Leff, Michael Halsband & Peconic Land Trust
Edited by Daniel Fetherston
Cinematography by Michael Halsband, Robert Leacock, Gabriel Wilson
Sound Peter Miller, Michael Jones
Line Producer Marc Santos
Music Jose Gonzalez, Eddie Vedder
Color by Gloss 

Featuring in Order of Appearance
Scott Chaskey, John v.H.Halsey, Fred Lee, Stephanie Gaylor, Stephen Searl, Dan Heston, Chris Browder, Katie Baldwin, Amanda Merrow, Rodderick Brown, John De Cuevas, Art Ludlow, Joe Realmuto, Alex Balsam, Ian Calder-Piedmonte and Pete Ludlow

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