By Rachel Bosworth
Amanda Merrow and Katie Baldwin wanted to grow a niche crop that no one else was growing on the East End when they founded Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett in 2009. The farmers successfully reintroduced grain as a staple crop, and have been growing it alongside hundreds of varieties of organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers ever since. After recently acquiring the Amagansett Farmers Market, the pair offer their insights to what’s new at the market this summer, and the future of farming on the East End.
EXPRESS MAGAZINE: In less than a decade, Amber Waves Farm has grown from an empty field and a mere 18 CSA members to now 17+ farmed acres of organic vegetables, herbs, wheat, flowers and more, feeding 150 families through your CSA. As you enter your ninth season, how has your farm evolved over the years?
AMBER WAVES FARM: We have evolved at a sustained and steady pace and have grown the farm and its programs organically. In the beginning, we received great advice from our dear friend and advisor Daniel Katz, founder of the Rainforest Alliance, who implored us to remain focused on three areas and any work we would take on would fall into one of those three pillars — food education, food production and the Amagansett wheat project. This directed us to focus our energies and grow each of these program areas so that all of our efforts would create maximum output. This was critical to achieving success since, in addition to growing food for our community, we were also establishing educational initiatives. The core foundation of the farm that has remained and strengthened over the years is the relationships we’ve built with our neighboring farmers, Quail Hill and Balsam Farms, and our farm members who join our Community Supported Agriculture program. People are the lifeblood of the farm.
EXP: Tell us about your acquisition of the Amagansett Farmers Market and farmland. What inspired you to make this move, and what are you hoping to bring to the table this summer?
AWF: Security through land ownership is critical to the long-term sustainability of any farming enterprise, and we are forever grateful to Maggie de Cuevas for her extraordinary conservation work that has led to this milestone for our farm. We would like to acknowledge the years of immeasurable support from our farm’s board of directors, members, and donors, as well as the entire de Cuevas family, Peconic Land Trust, and our neighbors at Balsam Farms and Quail Hill Farm. The unwavering support we have received from our community underscores our continued commitment to our mission of food education. We are looking forward to continuing the pursuit of this mission through many future decades of stewardship of Amber Waves Farm while we welcome the community to enjoy the farm as it grows and evolves. The acquisition of our farmland is the culmination of years of effort, and also represents the start of a new and exciting chapter in the evolution of Amber Waves Farm. We are honored to become a permanent a part of the fabric of the Amagansett community and for the opportunity to serve the people of the east end; we’re and excited for the work ahead.
EXP: Farming is an ever-changing landscape. What do you see for the future of South Fork farming?
AWF: We are hopeful for the future of farming on the South Fork. We have land conservation tools in place to make the soil accessible, and as part of our educational initiatives we train new farmers through our Apprenticeship Program and encourage them to stay on the East End to start their own enterprises and continue the rich agricultural history and legacy of the South Fork. Everybody eats so we want to work towards making sure our local food shed is biodiverse, secure and delicious.