The Wall of Privet on Parsonage
By Matt Mitchell
We’ve all seen the change. It has no political affiliation. And it has no Super-PAC to fund. It does have a small constituency of loyal fans who do their best to protect a way of life. It is the remaining farmland in theHamptons. What was once vast wide open land is now a place where the crop land meets the vision of a developer, head on — and the crop land is losing.
You see, nature is my religion. It’s the place where I go to find harmony. It restores me. I make it a habit to take the long windy roads back to my modest rental in Hampton Bays. It is here along the dusty back roads that I witness the most.
As an observer of her subtle changes: crop rotations to newly developed projects, I’m seeing the Malthusian conclusion up ahead. It’s coming, and coming soon. The unabashed beauty of the seasons on the diminishing farm lands here are becoming fewer and far between. Farm stands sit out front of smaller acres of local crops, selling their wares from rustic wagon wheel tables and on inverted wine barrels where the Lexus, Range Rovers & Mercedes Benz ‘clean out’ the cash boxes with freshly minted one-hundred dollar bills for a ten dollar purchase. I’m usually the one behind them with a small daily purchase of the freshest most wonderful tasting local crop. The look by the local farmer is not lost on me as they pry open the cash box, lift the coin tray and dig into their pockets to make change. Sales are good, brisk. So it all works out in the end as the eager parade stop ever so briefly and then zip away.
I often wonder if they see what I see. If they even take the time to see all the beauty that surrounds them. They should. It would restore them as well, and make them protective of the diminishing farm land and the crops which fill their lengthy tables with the bounty of her harvest.
Don’t get me wrong. I may sound like a local, but I am seasonal. I come here to work theHamptons. I don’t own nor do I rent a lavish place. I am an ‘unofficial’ chronicler of the changes, though and not much has been lost with two small cameras: one a digital and the other for movie files.
Some day all the material will be organized in a professional way. But if it hasn’t been done by then, I know someone will land on a treasure trove of archival footage of theHamptons1990-2012.
I have come to familiar stops along the way to film the beauty of the land. The Red Barn offScuttle Hole Roadcalled ‘Breeze Hill’ has been one of my favorites over the years. They have planted wheat fields only twice in twenty years, this year is the second time. And the beauty of the setting sun as it hits the Red Barn with the contrast of the golden brown wheat, framed by a row of arching one-hundred year old trees, makes me warm inside.
It is one of many stops out here.
I love to mark the summers by the crops that are planted, tended and harvested from the time I come out here until the very last moment I leave for the canyon of concrete and glass of Manhattan: sweet corn, four feet high by the Fourth of July; wheat turns golden brown by the middle of July awaiting the scythe and the bailer to bundle; and the potato fields which start so lush and green, then flower, dusting the field in snowlike white, only to shrivel and into yellow brown gnarled stalk before harvest.
Wesnofske. Corwith. Krasnewski. The staples are still here in the areas I travel the most. Their machinery and equipment pop out at harvest time and combines, harvesters, bailers, haulers all wait their turn to be loaded and sent off to the big market.
I stopped by the farm next to the Wolffer Estate to take a picture of their old tractors out front. Someone came out and asked me what I was doing on the property. I apologized. Showed him my camera and said, ‘documenting history.’