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A Note From Scott: A Secret Revealed

August 2, 2019

By Scott Chaskey

Here  is a secret revealed. Seven years ago, when I served on the Board of Sylvester Manor, Shelter Island, I was part of the team that interviewed an eager, young candidate for the Farm Manager position, one Layton Guenther, fresh from the Sustainable Agriculture course at Santa Cruz.

I sensed a kindred spirit, a lover of the music of the soil. I was patient and proper in my role; when another candidate was chosen for that Manor job I invited Layton to apply for a similar position at Quail  Hill Farm. A number of us at the Trust saw the process through, weighed  the questions and answers, and we invited Layton to join us in the fields in 2013. We have worked together in the fields for 6 years and counting, and I know that most of you are familiar with the transition, but still, isn’t it kind and just to WELCOME! Layton to the role of Director of Quail Hill Farm.

As  I retire to my study (that is an active role for a writer), and to travel and to speak up for the beliefs that have motivated my work here for 30 years I contemplate the words of John Hay: “To what useful end could I use my eyes without acknowledging that they are only one of the earth’s inexhaustible ways of seeing?” In my time at Quail Hill I hope I have lived up to the legacy of Deborah Light (who gave us this land): a love of the Earth and of words that inspire others—habits and qualities  that also motivate Layton.

Thirty  years ago, when Meegan and I returned to this country after 10 years in  England—Love Lane Cottage, Mousehole, was our dwelling—my sculptor father-in-law, Bill King, invited me to attend a meeting of this grassroots thing he was part of: Community Supported Agriculture in Amagansett. Very few people had heard of the concept, though I was attracted by the impulse to care for the soil, and by the (pervasive) sense of purpose.

The  early meetings of CSA, held in a Waldorf school in Kimberton, Pennsylvania, gathered together 25 people from around the country, then 50, then 150, 400, then meetings in Canada, California, France, Portugal, China, and Greece. According to Urgenci, the organization that coordinates international CSA activity, over 2 million people are now  directly involved in supporting community based agriculture (40 nations were represented in Greece in 2018). More to the point—those people are now aware of what is required to promote and maintain a healthy soil so that healthy plants will flourish and feed more and more people.

Agriculture is by definition a work in progress, but especially now—to promote ecological, restorative, regenerative principles—this culture needs your support.

It  is too early to say goodbye—I’m here ½ time through the end of the year. So I will write again, and more that you can read in book form, hopefully, should the Muse, with grace, visit my study. I have learned so much from my meetings in the field with you, from working together, and from our conversations: over all these years I can say with confidence that we have accomplished it all together. In this strained and fractured time, that is an accomplishment, yes? In a recent conversation with my youngest son he expressed gratitude for what he had been given in life—I echo that here. And I echo the words of another Long Island poet:

“The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering…

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,

But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,

And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,

Missing me one place search another,

I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

Thank You All,

Scott