On Thursday, May 19th, 6:30 p.m., in the Oak Bluffs Public Library Meeting room, we’ll be screening a documentary film: Farming the Future: Farm Life on Long Island. The film celebrates the more than three-century old family farmer way of life, examining the challenges of farming in suburbia and exploring solutions that can help farmers remain on the land. The one-hour documentary weaves interviews, historical photographs and contemporary footage to sew a vibrant tapestry of Long Island’s farming legacy from a historical, cultural and economic perspective. Farming the Future: Farm Life on Long Island features Farm Aid President and music legend Willie Nelson, Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, Congressman Tim Bishop, Assemblyman Michael J. Fitzpatrick, Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper, Long Island Farm Bureau Executive Director Joseph M. Gergela III, local bluegrass band Buddy Merriam & Back Roads, and a cross-section of Suffolk and Nassau counties farm families, including the Halseys, Tuthills, Grossmanns, Schmitts, Fosters, Kennedys, Talmages, and many more. Massapequa native, actor William Baldwin (Backdraft, The Squid and the Whale) narrates.
Although best known as the oldest suburban community in the country, Long Island housed nearly 3,000 farms in 1950. In 2005, only 700 remain, but Long Island farms continue to be the most productive in New York State, adding $150 million annually to the economy in the shadows of strip malls, as the region faces looming financial and environmental challenges. According to a 1997 study by American Farmland Trust, “Long Island is one of the top 20 most threatened agricultural regions,” reports Northeast Regional Director Jerry Cosgrove.
The program begins by exploring the history of farming on Long Island, highlighting the various ethnic groups that settled here and forever left their marks, including English, Irish, and Polish families. Viewers gain a sense of life growing up on a farm as the families share their emotional stories – the value system, work ethic and appreciation of nature, as well as the challenges of fighting natural and manmade factors beyond their control, such as weather conditions and real estate development pressures. The program also explores the ways that farmers have adapted to changing times, highlighting niche markets like the wine industry; flower production; direct marketing of produce to New York City restaurants; agri-tourism including pumpkin picking, corn mazes and music festivals held in the fields; and suburbanite support of local family farms.
After the screening, we would like to have a short discussion about the film’s relevance to Martha’s Vineyard.
Produced by Rudaitis Media. Producers: Ron Rudaitis and Sarah L. Rudaitis. Thank you to the authors for allowing the Oak Bluffs Public Library to screen the film!