Summer in The Hamptons may bring to mind famous people vacationing in their palatial summer homes, gala parties, or even nightmarish traffic on the weekends, but it also means the opening of hundreds of colorful farm stands around the east end of Long Island. With deep topsoil that the locals say reaches up to 16 feet deep, Long Island was once a farming oasis, supplying food not just for the largest city in the US, but exporting things like potatoes all over the world. Much of this amazing soil has been paved over by mega mansions and vast expanses of chem-green lawn, but behind many of these arrogant summer homes remains some of the older farmers still growing their potatoes, and newer generation farmers growing a diversity of vegetables, berries, small livestock, and wine grapes. We spent a week with one of these farmers who happened to be an old friend of my husband, weeding her asparagus, pruning and staking her tomatoes, and catching up on the local gossip.
Marilee Foster comes from a long line of farmers- by my count she must be at least the 5th generation to farm the same land in the little hamlet of Sagaponack, Long Island, NY. Although her family grows mainly potatoes and feed corn in rotation, she began dabbling in vegetables about 15 years ago. Her market vegetable ‘project’ as she calls it is now a full-fledged business that consumes nearly her every waking hour. One look at Marilee’s bulging arm muscles tells you this woman works hard. Thankfully she still makes time for a little art and writing, penning a farming memoir several years ago called “Dirt Under My Nails” and writing a column for the local newspaper and Edible East End magazine.
Listen to our conversation we had about how she got started, how she sets herself apart from all the other farm stands on the East End, saving the family farm, and more.
P.S. I borrowed this picture above from Edible East End's Lindsay Morris because I forgot to take pictures of the beautiful farm while I was volunteering there. Marilee doesn't really drink much while she works, but I admire her nonetheless!