Editorial: Two Faces of Agriculture


Two applications, coming from opposite ends of the agricultural spectrum and demonstrating the right and wrong way of doing things, were aired before the Southampton Town Planning Board on Thursday.

The Sagaponack Farm Distillery, the creation of Dean Foster, a member of one of Sagaonack’s few remaining farming families, is seeking permission to add a tasting room, where its customers can sample the small-batch vodkas it has recently begun to make.

The distillery is a textbook example of the changing face of agriculture in a modern world, where development across the South Fork has hemmed in farms, making it difficult to continue traditional farming practices. In response, a new breed of entrepreneurs has sought ways to marketing their produce, whether it is raising grain for artisanal bread, raising bees for honey, or, in the case of the Fosters, using potatoes for vodka instead of a dinner table staple.

In his presentation before the board, Mr. Foster stressed that he was proposing a low-key operation that would allow his customers to learn about the distilling process and buy a bottle or two of spirits to bring home. He pledged to work with the town to make sure his business has minimal impacts on the neighbors.

That same evening, representatives of Campbell Stables, a horse farm a few miles to the west, also appeared before the board, seeking permission to legalize a number of improvements that were made in violation of its existing site plan.

It was clear by the outpouring of opposition to its request for that Campbell Stables has not been perceived as a good neighbor. But let’s face it, when you move your manure pile closer to your neighbor’s backyard, build an access road along another neighbor’s property line and advertise riding lessons in violation of the conditions of your town approval, you are not going to make a lot of friends.

It seems there are two faces to agriculture here on the East End: that practiced by people like the Fosters, who are very much of this place and understand its fragile nature, and that practiced by the Campbells, people who come from the outside and impose their will on the landscape and their neighbors. The planning board should stand up for the former and against the latter.