Farmland Saved for Farming

Amber Waves seals deal with de Cuevas
The Amber Waves pea patch in June 2016 David E. Rattray

Amber Waves Farm, a not-for-profit educational farm that runs a 150-member community supported agriculture program in Amagansett, has purchased the farmland on which it has operated for the last eight years, as well as the attached Amagansett Farmers Market, from Margaret de Cuevas. The transaction follows several years of collaboration and cooperation among the farm, the de Cuevas family, the Peconic Land Trust, and the Town of East Hampton. 

The 9.33-acre land sale includes the donation of an enhanced easement by Ms. de Cuevas. The easement includes provisions to ensure the land is actively farmed in perpetuity. 

Ms. de Cuevas, officials of the trust, and Amber Waves’ principals, Katie Baldwin and Amanda Merrow, held lengthy and productive discussions that led to the transaction, Ms. Baldwin said on Tuesday. 

“We are thrilled,” she said. “The enhanced easement we chose is the first in East Hampton, so we wanted to get that right. Maggie has a long history of land stewardship in Amagansett, and we wanted this to really signify her legacy.” 

Discussions, she said, were “also about figuring how this purchase would benefit us as farmers. We shared the importance of that, and of the long-term vision we’ve had since we started the farm, with the land trust and Maggie. Our vision can now be realized, essentially, because of the land security. It’s phase two of our farm and business, and it opens a lot of new possibilities and opportunities for us.” 

The acquisition of the farmers market is one such opportunity, which Ms. Baldwin described as “an avenue for us to create long-term financial sustainability for the farm, to feed back into our education programming.” 

While Amber Waves is “primarily a C.S.A. farm” and its produce is also sold to local restaurants, “the underpinning is the farm-based education.” That effort is accomplished through on-farm and in-classroom lessons with schools, after-school groups, and summer programs. The farm also manages an apprenticeship program that trains farmers through a season-long intensive course in farm work. 

The farmers market was opened in 1954 by Ellen (Pat) Struk. In 2008, the Peconic Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that works to conserve working farms and natural land, announced an agreement under which it would lease the property from Ms. de Cuevas, who had purchased it from Ms. Struk. 

The 3,000-square-foot market was run for the past two seasons by the Amagansett Food Institute, of which Amber Waves Farm is a member. 

“We wanted to serve the community in a way that people will want to come there as a social gathering place, a place to learn about food — a ‘food campus’ — and a place for the farm to sell the goods we grow and those of the solid-food partners that we work with,” Ms. Baldwin said. The strategy, she said, will be to “start small and make it a fun, enjoyable place for people to gather.” 

The market will be open by Memorial Day weekend, she said.