Empowering the Tiller and the Pen

November 8, 2022

Frank Calderale


On September 10 the Peconic Land Trust partnered with Herstory to conduct the Equitable Earth: Writing for Equal Access, Protection and Preservation Writers Workshop. Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton provided the setting for our first meeting. Five acres of beautifully cultivated botanical gardens formed the backdrop where writers came to discuss and to contemplate the value nature plays in their own designs.

The second workshop was held at the Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett; where, I was reminded of the affect the preservation of farmland and the practices of sustainable agriculture have had upon us. Such practices aide in the protection of indigenous traditions and the continuation of Long Island’s farmland heritage. In a society where more than eighty percent of the population lives in urban environments, a vital need is served by those who preserve and conserve our lands.

The preservation of land and our agricultural traditions promote values respecting environmental concerns benefiting people of all ages. This is quite evident in the community garden concept. On Young’s Avenue in Southold, the Charnews Farm is a stellar hallmark of the integral role played by the Land Trust’s efforts to connect the community to its philosophical precepts: a credo maintaining that sound conservation practices work best when those who till the soil are vested in it. Many North Forkers flock to this site to experience the benefits that come from tilling the earth. Tending the soil is a slow, laborious, and tedious process. Patience and perseverance are skills cultivated by those who heed the rhythms entwined in nature. These skills when passed on can reverberate generationally, ensuring that core planetary values continue to preserve the legacy of our need to nurture what will nurture us.

At this site I have seen small groups of children frolicking and assisting in the workings of the gardens. In a world where so many children are environmentally deprived the Community Garden offers children an opportunity to experience natural rhythms, far more tactile than the technological underpinnings to which so many are accustomed. The stewardship of our lands and waterways is a core value propagated by the Peconic Land Trust. When children interact with the environment, they have an opportunity to be drawn to it and to develop a long and pervasive appreciation for the outdoors. At the Community Garden stewardship is not textbook formatted; instead, it is experiential and tactile; here, surrounded by gardens and the gardeners who till them, much is bequeathed to the young pollinators.

I have learned from my wife and daughter how gardens manifest into a happy place and a sanctuary where one’s thoughts flow unimpeded. It is difficult to assess the myriad benefits, inherent, in the connections forged between an individual and the landscapes they nurture; but, when personally experienced they become self-evident. My daughter, whose proclivity for nature has benefited, on many levels, from her association with the Land Trust, has taught me this. As a fledgling farmer the Land Trust empowered her to pursue her passion. She experienced first hand the perplexities confronting farmers daily. When problems arose and resolutions needed to be pondered she confronted the challenges; and, as her gardens proliferated so, too, did her confidence and her abilities. Her contact with the site’s management proved invaluable. Here she experienced a philosophical connectedness which nurtured her desire to learn while pursuing new goals. Surrounded by like-minded people, willing to share their expertise, she found a safe harbor in which to grow. Today her planting and foraging skills, cultivated via the connections made through the Land Trust, are now sought by others who value her expertise and kind words. Words which speak of the nourishment of the soil while offering designs about how to feed and nourish one’s soul.

In many ways to me she represents the best of what the Peconic Land Trust and its core values instill. Currently, she continues her agricultural pursuits while pursuing a degree in Botany.

Amazingly, the tentacles of the Land Trust spread far beyond the soil. There are many lessons to be culled from the templates furrowed in its fields and the vistas preserved in its landscapes. Henry David Thoreau offered a prescient preview of the configurations forming the bedrock of the Peconic Land Trust’s vision. His reverence for nature and for the lessons it bestows is exemplified in these lines from “Walden” where he explains why he went to live in the woods: “… to live deliberately to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach.” His sojourns into nature led to self-discovery.

Long Island is greatly enriched by the landscapes preserved by the Peconic Land Trust. When we walk its contours and enjoy its waterways we, too, can delve into the simplicity of nature. In the natural environments we visit, we can learn to live more simply; and, like the gardener, we can learn to listen to its silence and all its innate wisdom.

As the writers sat beneath the arbor at Bridge Gardens, I was reminded by how nature’s tentacles sublimely and subtly encase our lives. The more exposure we have to natural habitats the more opportunities exist for our understanding of whom we are and how we are connected to mother earth.

The value of the storyteller lies in showing us whom we are and where we have been. The preservation of personal memories are the seeds from which our connections to history grow. Being able to relate, contextually, to our past permits us to link with past generations in more understandable ways, enabling us to utilize the critical lens necessary in formulating contemporary understandings. Much like the contours preserved by the Land Trust the storyteller bequeaths a sense of what has been. In the legacy painted by our words lie the echoes of our humanity. Those who preserve and protect our rights to the free access of land and thought provide us opportunities to walk in the footsteps of those who have come before us.

A most critical role played by their stewardship is the preservation of our humaneness. Herstory and the Peconic Land Trust share an interconnectedness through the safeguarding of our lands and of our stories. Their empowerment enable our stories and our natural environments to continue at the crossroads intersecting past and future generations.

Many thanks to Yvette Salsedo, from the Peconic Land Trust, for her support in helping to contextualize the settings in which conversations for our writings unfolded. Many thanks to our Herstory Workshop leaders, Milady Gonzalez and Belinda Castilian, for their promptings, support, and encouragement. Most importantly, much gratitude must be extended to the Peconic Land Trust which continues to propagate its vision beyond the toils of its soil.


Frank and Jeannie Calderale

We are so grateful to you Frank for sharing your eloquent thoughts with us. Thank you.

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