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Nurturing Nature’s Gifts: Celebrating the Bounty of Your CSA Membership

June 27, 2024

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Nurturing Nature’s Gifts: Celebrating the Bounty of Your CSA Membership

The Magical Bounty of Amber Waves

It all started with a dream – two friends, Amanda Merrow and Katie Baldwin, cultivating the rich, fertile soil of Amagansett to create a bountiful oasis for their community. Back in 2009, these two trailblazers leased farmland just behind the Amagansett Farmers Market, determined to bring the field and the farmstand back together as one.

As they recounted to Edible East End, the first harvest celebration was a joyous affair, with “Bread, Beer, and Berries” as the theme. Friends gathered to tour the fields, sample the fresh bread baked from Amber Waves’ very own wheat, and sip on wheat-infused craft beer. It was a magical moment, a true testament to the power of community, passion, and the bounty of the land.

Fast forward nearly a decade, and Amber Waves has blossomed into a thriving hub of local food and community spirit. The farm’s partnership with the Amagansett Farmers Market has come full circle, with the women now owning the farmstand and expanding their reach. “We now have a feeling of permanence,” Merrow shared, a sense of belonging that comes from putting down roots in the soil and the hearts of their neighbors.

Cultivating Connections, Growing Community

As I walk the aisles of the Amagansett Farmers Market, I’m struck by the palpable energy of connection and collaboration. It’s not just about the produce – it’s about the stories, the relationships, and the shared passion for nurturing the land.

Take the partnership between Amber Waves and Montauk Brewing Company, for example. Back in the farm’s early days, the two businesses bonded over a shared wheat-infused brew, celebrating the fruits of their labor. Now, Montauk Brewing has its own tasting room, and the two continue to support one another, weaving their stories into the fabric of the local food community.

And then there’s the intergenerational link, as evidenced by the cherished Amagansett Presbyterian Church Cookbook. When chef Carolyn Stec of the Mill House Inn arrived at the market bearing a rich, fudgy chocolate cake from the church’s archives, it was a beautiful reminder of the deep roots that ground this place. The recipe, submitted by Pat Struk, the original owner of the farmstand, connected the past to the present, honoring the traditions that have nourished this community for generations.

Fostering Abundance, Cultivating Accessibility

As I speak with Amanda Merrow, I’m struck by her unwavering commitment to making the bounty of Amber Waves accessible to all. “We never want food to be exclusionary,” she tells me, explaining the farm’s decision to donate salad to the local Amagansett School every week.

This ethos of abundance and inclusivity is woven throughout the Amber Waves story. The farm has expanded its CSA program from just 18 members to a thriving 160, making their fresh, organic produce available to a wider community. And at the market, the shelves are stocked with a diverse array of local favorites, from Mecox Bay Dairy cheese to Browders Birds pickled eggs.

But it’s not just about the products – it’s about the people. As market manager Juliana Nash tells me, the transition in management has been “happy and upbeat.” The Amber Waves team embodies the spirit of positivity that Ina Garten, the beloved Barefoot Contessa, once advised them to cultivate. “You can teach anyone about selling coffee or cheese,” Merrow reflects, “but you can’t teach people how to have a positive attitude.”

Rooted in Friendship, Blooming with Possibility

At the heart of Amber Waves’ story, you’ll find the deep-rooted friendship between Amanda Merrow and Katie Baldwin. As they told Edible East End, “One and one equals three, because we both feel better as a team.” Their partnership is a testament to the power of collaboration, and it’s a model for the kind of community-driven approach that makes Amber Waves so special.

As I wander the market, I can’t help but feel a sense of wonder and excitement for the future. The farm’s transition from leasing to owning the farmstand has been a long and thoughtful process, but the outcome is nothing short of remarkable. “We’re so thrilled with the outcome,” Merrow shares, her voice brimming with pride. “Katie and I are not from here, but we live here now, so it feels like a family farm.”

And the possibilities for growth and innovation seem endless. The team is exploring new partnerships, like potentially carrying Balsam Farms’ world-famous corn and Jen Halsey’s apples from Milk Pail. They’re also hosting a vibrant calendar of community events, from flower arranging workshops to preserving the harvest classes.

As I sip on a cold brew from North Fork Roasting Company, I can’t help but feel inspired by the ethos of Amber Waves. This is a place where friendships bloom, where community is nurtured, and where the gifts of nature are celebrated with every bite. It’s a reminder that when we come together, with open hearts and a deep respect for the land, the possibilities for growth and abundance are truly endless.

Embracing the Cycles of Nature

As I delve deeper into the stories of Oz Farm, I’m struck by the way the team embraces the natural rhythms and cycles of the land. From the apprentices who learn to “wake up the fields from their winter slumber” to the farmers who tuck the land in for its season of rest, there’s a profound reverence for the ebbs and flows of the natural world.

The Oz team understands that they are not just growers of food, but caretakers of the soil – an intricate ecosystem thriving with life. As farm manager Katy eloquently explains, “We are in fact not so much growers of food as caretakers of the soil. The soil is not static uniform dirt but rather an ecosystem thriving with life – bacteria, fungi, algae, worms, nematodes, etc. Plants including the food we grow here at Oz are just one node of this larger web that depends on everything else.”

This holistic, interconnected perspective has led the team at Oz to explore the path of no-till agriculture, a method that minimizes soil disturbance and supports the natural cycles of the land. “At Oz this season we are beginning to practice no-till agriculture, a system in which we try to leave the soil undisturbed as much as possible while continuing to feed and care for it,” Katy shares. It’s a approach that requires patience, attentiveness, and a deep respect for the wisdom of the land.

As I ponder the lessons of Oz Farm, I’m reminded of the words of the poet Wendell Berry, who wrote, “When I rise up, let me rise up joyful like a bird. When I call, let me fall without regret like a leaf.” This sentiment of embracing the natural cycles of life and death, of growth and decay, resonates deeply with the Oz team’s approach to agriculture.

Cultivating Community, Nourishing the Soul

At the heart of the Oz Farm story is a deep commitment to community – not just the local community, but the broader web of interconnectedness that sustains us all. As farm manager Dean reflects, “In a world where so few have the opportunity to witness such startling daily beauty, I try not to take this special land for granted.”

It’s this sense of gratitude and reverence that permeates every aspect of life at Oz. From the evening gatherings around the table, where the team shares stories and nourishes both body and soul, to the annual Harvest Celebration that brings the community together in joyful revelry, there’s a palpable spirit of connection and belonging.

As apprentice Rosa eloquently writes, “During the day our key focus is tending to the land, seeing what she needs from us in order to continue to provide. In return, we’ve been not only nurtured and provided for by the wealth of food growing out of the ground, but guided into community.”

It’s this holistic approach to food, farming, and community that truly sets Oz Farm apart. They understand that nourishment goes beyond just the physical sustenance of the body; it’s about feeding the soul, cultivating connections, and weaving the stories of the land and its people into a tapestry of abundance and belonging.

As I leave the farm, my heart is full. I know that when I sign up for my Thornnapple CSA membership, I’m not just getting a box of fresh, organic produce – I’m becoming a part of a vibrant, connected community. I’m joining in the celebration of nature’s gifts, and embracing the cycles of life that sustain us all.

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Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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