A Letter from Quail Hill Farm Director, Scott Chaskey…

February 22, 2018
Quail Hill Farm

When asked, I will advise that the true task of a farmer is to build up the health of the soil. So in this season, as we move inside and take stock of our seed supply, and order seeds for the coming growing season, it is this aspect of the vocation, or obligation, that we contemplate. The Hidden Half of Nature, as geologist David Montgomery and biologist Anne Bikle title their recent book is another name for the undiscovered country beneath our feet. We were lucky enough to encounter David and Anne at the inspiring Northeast Organic Farming Association Winter conference in Saratoga, and to hear more of the story of “the microbial roots of life and health,” and of the diverse species underground that Darwin referred to as “the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” 


Oddly, we may know more about the surface of the moon or Mars than we know of the hidden half of nature that we walk upon. I mention this here because the subject is central to my daily work, to the fertility of our fields and the taste and nutrition embodied in your food. The husband and wife team of Montgomery and Bikle observe that “the latest revelations about microorganisms show that we are not who we thought we were…An unfathomably vast array of invisible life—bacteria, protists, archaea, and fungi—thrives on us and in us…yet we are only beginning to learn what they do for us. And our planet—like the bodies of plants, animals, and people—is literally covered, inside and out, with microorganisms.

 The authors introduce a new name for the microbes that dwell within us—“the human microbiome.” Why should we care to turn our attention to this microbial life? Because, as intuitive farmers have learned over millennia, the microbial life within a soil is the secret to maintaining soil fertility, and now we are finding that an increased knowledge of microbes may also serve to “counter the plague of modern chronic diseases…All around us microbes literally run the world, from extracting nutrients plants need from rocks, to catalyzing the global carbon and nitrogen cycles that keep the wheel of life turning.” The hidden half of nature “is part of us, not apart from us.”


As we contemplate the hidden half of nature, before the earth again begins to warm, we also have the enjoyable task of re-imagining the visible landscape of our farm, and of counting and handling the material essence that will blossom into that landscape: seeds. Some varietal names are now familiar: Rainbow Lacinato, Gigante d’Italia, Forellenschluss, Chioggia, Touchstone Gold, Paul Robeson, and Jaune de Flamme…but we always search for something new: Honey Boat, Natascha, German Pink, Aconcagua peppers. We will be inundated by seed packets soon, and by the beginning of March the contents of those packets with be placed one by one into the cells of seed trays—potential plants bound for our fields later in Spring.


Quail Hill Farm is in its 29th year of community farming in the fields of Amagansett – I hope you join us this year.  Our farm crew will be planting and tending seeds and seedlings beginning in March. The first harvest days will begin in early June and continue through October.   Those members who have joined our winter share are still collecting a harvest of carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, and cabbage—the fruits of the 2017 growing season—as we plan for the coming year

May you find some peace in the season of frosts, and some comfort—inside—through the experience of reading, listening, or contemplating the living foundation of life, both the visible and invisible. Luckily there exist innumerable guides to lead you into that landscape, the poet Rilke for one: (from Sonnets to Orpheus) “ /In spite of all the farmer’s work and worry, /He can’t reach down to where the seed is slowly/Transmuted into summer. The earth bestows.” And the earth provides, through a symbiotic relationship that occurs between  macro and micro organisms. It is up to us to nurture that relationship, and to participate.



Scott Chaskey

Director, Quail Hill Farm

Join us in the fields this season! Purchase a CSA share at Quail Hill Farm today!

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