Pictured Above: Apprentices at Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett learn valuable skills on the job and in the classroom. The Stony Brook program looks to jumpstart their knowledge base before they get to the fields. |. Photo courtesy Judiann Carmack-Fayya

Stony Brook University is introducing a new piece into the local food ecosystem here in 2023, with the launch of a new Small Scale Farming Program this month at the university’s Southampton campus.

Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, who was instrumental in getting school garden programs off the ground on the East End in her career at the Bridgehampton School and her work as New York Director for Slow Food USA, is now the Director of the university’s FoodLab, which for years has been running a conference on food and agriculture.

“You can’t separate food from food production. I feel really strongly about that,” said Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz, who is now responsible for creating FoodLab’s educational programming.

She had used a biointensive farming model created by J.M. Fortier in her work at Bridgehampton, which she plans to continue to use at Stony Brook.

“He created a model of farming that is profitable on small acreage. I feel super-strongly that we have to provide the means for people to make a living, particularly out here,” she said. “People aren’t inheriting land or farms. A starting farmer is challenged by a difficult market. Biointensive farming is different than traditional farming.”

The class, which meets once a week on Tuesday evenings beginning Jan. 17, will be taught by Ian Calder-Piedmonte, co-owner of Balsam Farms in Amagansett, based on J.M. Fortier’s educational program.

“We’re hoping this would be a training that leads to an apprenticeship at a local farm,” said Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz. The program is partnering with Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett, which already has an onsite educational program. They’re also looking to work with other local farmers.

“We’re hoping to take the burden of providing education off the farmer, so their apprentices, when they come, have the knowledge already and are getting their field experience on a farm. We’re looking to provide a knowledge base and partner with farms so we’ll be a pipeline to each other. We’re trying to save food production on Long Island.”

Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz sees this program as another branch of a network of local food non-profits that are helping keep a longstanding industry here, including the Peconic Land Trust, which conserves land to keep it farmed, and the East End Food Institute, which is building a new Food Hub in Riverhead to enable local farmers to process their goods.

“You need to have value-added products,” she said. “Ian will speak to the need for creating a business model that is comprehensive.”

Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz is also looking to get the Long Island Farm Bureau involved in an effort to make farming a registered trade in New York, and to expand access to information about aeroponic farming, which has the ability to feed a lot of people in very small spaces.

“With that, a lot of assistance could come to farms, and the state could provide subsidies to people,” she said. “We need to find a group to sponsor that. The Department of Labor, on the New York State level, has been super-receptive and willing to be extremely helpful in making that happen.”

“Food processing is a recognized as a major growing industry on Long Island,” she added. “I see this program as bringing in all of the efforts of the not-for-profits. It’s natural to develop an educational arm, and I believe Stony Brook, being the flagship New York State university, is the place where that education should be taking place. If we’re all working together, this takes away the energy not-for-profits have to spend on educational endeavors. I see this as a place we can all convene and talk about climate change, food production and how we’re going to provide food for a growing population. I think people are assuming Long Island is just not going to be a food-producing region because of land price pressures. I’m not willing to give up on that. Small-scale farming is a solution where you can keep local food production growing and preserve our agricultural heritage.”

The FoodLab at Stony Brook is part of the university’s Lichtenstein Center, which has a presence on the main campus in Stony Brook, at the Southampton Campus, and in Manhattan.

Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz asks that people interested in taking the class have some knowledge of growing, and that they “want to make this a viable pursuit or are interested in a new model of farming. This is meant to jumpstart their careers. I was motivated to have this class by seeing a farmer or two who’ve failed because of the learning curve, and the costs associated with the learning curve. This will provide a way to certify you have certain abilities and a knowledge base.”

Registration for the Small Scale Farming Program at the FoodLab is ongoing through Jan. 16. Classes begin Jan. 17. For information on registering, visit thefoodlab.org. Scholarships are available for the program, which costs just shy of $2,000.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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