A Note From Layton | July 2023

July 27, 2023

By Layton Guenther

Farms for the Future
Quail Hill Farm

Over a decade of farming here in Amagansett, I can tell you one thing: the weather is becoming more unpredictable each and every growing season. Moderate coastal farming is now punctuated by extremes, and now the outer edges of what was considered “normal” for this climate are part and parcel of how we approach the season.

These extremes aren’t an abstraction: huge rain events (what farmers like to call rainstorms) can be catastrophic. Here’s what that looks like at Quail Hill: on Sunday July 16th, we woke up to a weather radar that was predicting about 1.5” of rain in the early afternoon. A pittance, given the size of the storm and the force with which it was taking the turn eastward from New York. By day’s end, we had received 4.5” of water in approximately a two-hour period.


For context, it takes 27,156 gallons to cover an acre of land with one inch of water. Take a moment, then, to consider the weight, force and velocity of 122,193 gallons of water. That’s on one acre– we’re farming on closer to thirty.

At Quail Hill Farm, groundwater is our bread and butter in terms of irrigation. Groundwater is fed by aquifers, which are recharged by rain events throughout the year, and also melting snowpack when we’re lucky enough to see snow during the winter. Surface water is what farmers call streams, rivers and other freshwater sources of irrigation. Of course, surface water in our area invariably leads to bays, harbors, inlets and untold precarious riparian areas.

Huge rain events like the one we experienced last weekend are unable to be fully captured into groundwater – think of the lowly dish sponge for analogy’s sake. A petrified sponge struggles to retain and absorb water, whereas the partially wetted sponge will readily take up water. The land is the same– drought conditions followed by deluge are, literally, too much of a good thing. Unable to be absorbed into the groundwater, rains wash out and make a mad dash to the lowest point, the surface water, which pool over nonporous surfaces like blacktop with almost malevolent speed.


When a farm field sees 4.5” of rain, even if it’s virtually flat to the naked eye, gravity has its way: en route to its lowest point, water carries silt, soil, sand and all manner of other detritus through the field. Although I love an alluvial aesthetic, (the rows often resemble a micro Mississippi Delta) what’s more difficult to comprehend is the amount of topsoil erosion and soil compaction that can result from these types of storms. Having seeded dozens of miles of crops by hand at this point, I know how delicate and precarious their natal state can be: a tiny seed, waiting for water underneath .5” of soil, to germinate. Rainstorms like this can wash out entire plantings.

In the coming weeks, you’ll notice a dearth of some crops that have been standard to this point in the season: arugula, radishes, turnips, mustard greens are taking a break. Green beans, edamame, dill and cilantro (summer crops of whom we would have already planted a second or third succession) will gap, meaning there will be 2-3 weeks when you won’t find them in the fields at all. In the coming weeks, we’ll be planting out our fall crops: cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower are first on the list. Fruiting crops like cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers are on the very near horizon, and shishito peppers and others have begun to fruit prolifically. This season, we decided to plant all of the QHF eggplant on our field on Town Lane– we’ll be harvesting this crop for you and putting it out at the Stand in the coming weeks.

Many of you have pulled me aside this season to rave about the beauty and bounty of the farm this season. As we round the corner into August, remember that feeling of abundance, and the lessons of this great experiment that is Community Supported Agriculture: when we invest in one another and in strengthening local food systems, we also share in the risks and rewards of such endeavors. And if you can, thank your farmers, without whom none of this would be possible.

Take care, and see you in the fields,


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