AgriCulture: Uncertainties

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In a time of uncertainty, one certainty is that one’s feelings are going to ricochet all over the place. Mine certainly have been.

We all wonder what the world will look like in six months or a year, even though it’s nearly impossible to know. Will we be in a post COVID world or something more like John Ehrlichman’s “modified, limited hangout, er.., pandemic”? The future of New York City, the economic engine of this entire region, is in doubt. It is a metropolis built around office space, in a world in which the diminished relevance of office space has been revealed by the ability of so many to work at home. Other pillars of its economy are tourism, culture, and restaurants, all reliant most of the year on bringing masses of people together indoors, when both public health and the personal preferences of the millions at risk dictate avoiding just that.

Who will care for Ayse, 12 years old and blind? Photograph by Mark Scherzer

Back in May, I wrote: “Whether what I’d call the pandexodus is temporary, and simply an expression of the privileged classes’ ability to seek safety and comfort in hard times, or permanent, in a way that will reshape the relationship between City and country in unforeseen ways, is the great question.” But I, whose self-image is closely tied to being a Gothamite, had no such uncertainty about my own future. I said “I will at the right time eagerly go back to the place I always thought of as the center of the universe.”

Now, approaching six months of full time residence on the farm in which I’m feeling very much at home, I’m not so sure. I’m wondering, seeing how effective we’ve all been working from home, whether my law practice needs a full New York office, or whether we could get by with just some allocated space in my apartment.

Further, given how much I’ve reveled in the enjoyable daily component of outdoor physical labor the farm provides, I’m wondering whether I would be as happy, even post-COVID, returning to City life four days a week. I know I would miss the ability to be on top of weeding the vegetables and fighting back the descent of the perennial gardens into chaos. I would worry about Ayşe, our 12 year old blind ewe, who repeatedly loses track of the rest of the flock and requires rescue to rejoin them. The farm has dozens of these constant attention needs, and suffers from absentee supervision.

If I could somehow avoid carrying the cost of both office and apartment, would I thereby put my financial life on a far more solid footing as we face uncertain times? If both the practical benefits of a physical base and the psychological benefits of City life are seeming so much less important, should I fundamentally re-order my life?

My uncertainty has been compounded by the state of my transition plans for the farm. The week before last, I got an email from the lovely young couple with the vegetable CSA who I had lined up to move their operation here and assume stewardship of the land at the end of this year. They backed out. The uncertainties of the COVID world had made them put a priority on certainty, which to them meant staying where they are a bit longer in the interest of buying their own land rather than committing to mine.

I was discouraged, but then I recalled an email inquiry I had received just three days before through the Columbia Land Conservancy’s farmer-landowner match program from another couple. They are moving here from Illinois so one of them can assume a job in an agricultural support and education agency. They want the other to operate a farm of about this size to feed themselves, generate additional income, and raise their daughters with the benefits of a farm and 4H upbringing. We met via Zoom. I liked them very much. Discussions have proceeded apace. Our views of what a farm should be are in sync.

Rock garden
Who will weed the rock garden? Photo by Mark Scherzer

A major sticking point, however, is housing. Everyone now knows that houses in the region are a hot commodity these days, thanks to the many folks who found COVID lockdowns in cramped apartments in the City unendurable and are looking for alternatives. If any of you know of houses in the immediate vicinity of the farm coming up for rent or sale, suitable for a family of five, please let me know. The uncertainty of whether I can pass on the operation of the farm to someone with youthful energy and full time commitment is one I’d very much like to resolve.

Of course, I don’t need to tell you about uncertainty. We all share the concerns about the how the pandemic will change things. We all face transitions in how we live. And we’re all facing uncertainty as to who will be entrusted to safely guide us as a collectivity through this minefield of dramatic change.

I felt my spirits rise a week ago when presented at one political convention with the possibility of a government that put respect for truth, science and competence at the center of its pandemic response (and governing generally). I liked that they recognized the need for more help to those who are paying the highest economic price of COVID’s uncontrolled spread. I felt my spirits fall back down this week, as I heard the President and his minions say that we’ve done such a wonderful job addressing the pandemic and have such a healthy economy that we are the envy of the world. He even promised a vaccine by the end of this year, which I expect will be released right after the wonderful new health plan he’s been promising for the last 4 years. What we really need to fear, they claimed, is not the damage of the pandemic but communist mobs threatening to deprive us of our liberty and devalue our property.

I became anxious. Not because I could see the mob making its way down Lasher Avenue, but because I could envision enough people believing it will to give us four more years of dishonesty, ineptitude, and undermining the structure of government. All ingredients for yet more uncertainty.


In limited quantities, first come first served:
slicing cucumbers, 50 cents each
Turkish pole beans (like long flat romano beans) $3/lb
Okra $4/lb

As I said last week, LAMB is back. Because one purchaser was not able to take delivery of a half lamb, in addition to the usual cuts (legs of lamb and loin chops, $14/lb, boneless lamb shoulder, $10/lb, Ground lamb, $7/lb. For the Central Asians among you, lamb tails, $5/lb) we have lamb shoulder steaks at $10/lb as well, packs of two.

WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEKSlicing cucumbers, 50 cents each
Turkish pole beans $3/lb
Okra $4/lb (small quantities)
Large black Spanish Radishes, $2 each
Fennel, larger bulbs now, $2 eachGreen shiso leaves $1, pack of 10
Kale, (curly leaf or lacinato) $2/bunch
Swiss Chard, $3/bag
Fresh dug horseradish root, $3/lb.
Sorrel, one gallon bag, $3/bag
Mint, $1/ bunch
Garlic chives (the flat kind), $1/bunch
Lambsquarters $2/bagEGGS: $5/dozDill and lettuce back soonMEATS: Have been largely cleaned out during the supermarket shortages of this spring. What is still in stock:LAMB: fresh back from processing, Legs of lamb and loin chops, $14/lb, boneless lamb shoulder and shoulder steaks, $10/lb, Ground lamb, $7/lb. For the Central Asians among you, lamb tails, $5/lb.PORK: fresh ham roasts (2 to 3 lbs), $12/lbChickens will be available again at the end of summer (September 15), additional lamb shortly

FARM PICKUPS:Email us your order at, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Because I’m now here full time, we’re abandoning regular pick-up times. Let us know when you want your order any day between 10 and 5, and unless there are unusual circumstances we’ll be able to ready it to your convenience. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or text at 917-544-6464 or email.


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