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Hamptons-Based Arts Center To Screen Documentary About Affordable Farmland On Long Island

Nicole Barylski

Back in 2011, the seeds were planted for a documentary that focused on the issue of affordable farmland on the East End. Michael Halsband and Hilary Leff's Growing Farmers debuted at the Hamptons International Film Festival in October 2012 as part of the Views from Long Island section.

If you happened to miss that screening, you can see the film, which is still incredibly timely seven years later, at Southampton Arts Center on Friday, February 16.

Created in partnership with the Peconic Land Trust, the documentary also takes a look at the Trust's Farms for the Future - an initiative that helps farmers secure affordable farmland on eastern Long Island. Additionally, the Trust provides guidance with everything from setting up the farmer's irrigation system to building a fence.

"We're excited to partner with SAC in the screening of Growing Farmers, our short documentary film produced by Michael Halsband and Hilary Leff," shared Kathy Kennedy, Outreach Manager, Peconic Land Trust. "When it won the Audience Choice Award at the 2012 Hamptons International Film Festival, we knew the message resonated with a wide audience."

Growing Farmers follows several farmers that lease land that is either owned or managed by the Peconic Land Trust, both on the North and South Forks. The film also includes input from East End-based chefs, educators, and students who are involved in Long Island's food movement.

Rising real estate prices, continual development, a disinterest in food production farming, and the shortage of reasonably priced farmland for both new and established farmers led to the creation of the Trust's Farms for the Future in 2008. The Trust, a501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which was established in 1983 by John v.H. Halsey and a group of local residents, actively seeks to safeguard the East End's farmland to ensure that Long Island's farms and farming communities will remain an integral aspect of the area.

The initiative's primary objectives are to "explore and refine a new set of conservation tools and techniques that address the issues of farmland accessibility, affordability, and sustainability (see Overlay Easements with Affordable and/or Affirmative Farming Covenants); buy, protect, rebuild and resell farms to farmers; and develop and expand our Farmland Leasing Program."

"Growing Farmers was an early look at the Trust's Farms for the Future Initiative," Kennedy explained. "The initiative has continued to grow and support our local farmers, helping to provide them with access to affordable farmland and to encourage the next generation of farmers to stay on Long Island. Without local farms there is no local food."

The documentary features commentary from John v.H. Halsey, Scott Chaskey, Chef Joe Realmuto, Amanda Merrow and Katie Baldwin of Amber Waves Farm, Alex Balsam and Ian Calder-Piedmonte of Balsam Farms, Fred Lee of Sang Lee Farm, Chris Browder of Browder's Birds, Stephanie Gaylor of Invincible Summer Farms, and more.

Following the 17 minute film, a panel discussion with the film's producer Halsband, the Trust's Senior Manager of Agricultural Programs Dan Heston, farmers Fred Lee, Greg Kessler of The Hoppy Acre, and Jennifer Halsey-Dupree of the Milk Pail Farm will take place. Meghan Harlow of Editor of Edible East End will moderate the discussion.

"We are excited to share the film as well as what we know will be a dynamic conversation with local farmers," Kennedy added.

Admission to the screening is free, and the event begins at 6 p.m.

Southampton Arts Center is located at 25 Jobs Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 631-283-0967 or visit southamptonartscenter.org. For more information about the Peconic Land Trust, visit peconiclandtrust.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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