|Posted by Bruce Ettenberg on June 14, 2010 at 9:12 AM|
A Farmhouse is not a Farm
Next Thursday’s vote to turn over the fate of the historic Marion Carl Farm is a challenging choice for many. The proposal will eventually bring in more tax revenue—if the town allows dozens of condos to be built. And the farm house, on the National Register of Historic Places, will be restored and then resold to a private party who will then pay taxes.
But a farmhouse, no matter how historic and important, is not a farm.
The magnificent thing about the remaining nine acres of Marion Carl Farm (house, barns, outbuildings and land) is that it is almost a perfectly complete time capsule of that complex, sustainable and successful ecosystem, the American Family farm. Such farms, and the values and ethics they instilled, made America the greatest nation in the world in the 20th Century.
Most people today believe the term organic is a reference to lack of chemicals in food. But its original application was to describe the farms themselves—farms that functioned as a complete organism with sustainable practices and agrarian values that ensured respect for people, animals, and the land.
Ironically there is a local food revolution sweeping the country today which is desperately looking for examples and opportunities to re-educate our society and our young people and reconnect them with these important ideals. What better mission could await this property?
I have been part of the “rescue” and preservation of the abandoned Hobbs Family farm in Centereach for some four years now. It is the last farm in the area, and the last African American family farm on Long Island. We have done so with volunteer labor, community and government support, and a mission to fed hungry Long Islanders and educate our youth. It was not an easy process, but in meeting the challenge, we have also developed a new sense of community identity in the area. I am humbled and proud when I now tell people that children “for untold generations” will benefit from our efforts.
The Commack School board’s decision to sell makes financial sense, and it was the best offer they knew about at the time of this proposal. They have owned the property for over 40 years. But they never contacted organizations like the Peconic Land Trust, who have come up with creative solutions, using both public and private resources, to preserve over 10,000 acres of farmland on Long Island. There are good people willing and anxious to work for such creative solutions here.
It would be an irony of tragic proportions if a 300 year old farmstead, intact and preserved for so long already, should be dismembered now when there is such a resurgence of interest nationwide in all things agrarian. Extinction, of animals and historic farms, is forever.
Tom Lyon, co-director
Hobbs Community Farm
178 Oxhead Road
Centereach, NY 11720