A brunch to help nature
The fields were being tended for Early Girl Farm crops, the turkeys were quiet but fanning out their plumage, and the skyline vista with languorous clouds was soft and wide on a recent visit to South Country Farms. Isabella Rossellini, sitting under a trellis, is hoping her calm, pretty haven will attract nature enthusiasts to the Solstice Farm Brunch on June 22. You’ll get a farm tour; talking to the animals is welcome.
Money from the brunch will support her next-door neighbor and collaborator, the Center for Environmental Education & Discovery in the old Washington Lodge, which will uptick its programs in earnest this year.
After the brunch, walk over to CEED, which is holding its free Summer Solstice Festival with vendors, animals and Native American activities.
“My grandson Ronan is already participating in a program he loves,” she explained of 1½-year-old Ronan and the Aishling Forest School course offered by CEED. “And my daughter Elettra has a master’s [degree] in environmental science and will be teaching a class in foraging with Eric [Powers].”
Powers is vice president and co-founder of CEED with president Rebecca Mueller, and also runs Your Connection to Nature, which connects with 10,000 students a year, a separate business he is winding down. “I come from a background of food survival,” he explained of the Friendly Forager programs, one of four, starting June 15. “You can make rope out of some plants as well as eat them. I use black cherry stems to brush my teeth, and you can make the most delicious tea with sassafras roots, and the leaves are edible. We’ll also take time out to remove invasive plants and also plant native herbal/medicinal plants. Our aim is to slowly convert our forest into an edible and sustainable forest and we’re using the class as a conduit to teach participants about nature, be good stewards and get their hands dirty, so they can take these lessons home and apply them to their yard.”
Rossellini, who poured some of her artistic passion into the land she purchased several years ago as a way to create an environmental stamp, leaned over and displayed the adorable Instagram photo of her farm turkey, which adopted a chick whose mom had gotten hit by a car. Talk about going viral!
Between silent film gatherings under the stars to support the Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center, book festivals and other events, “the farm has slowly become a farm and a place of art,” she said.
But it has also become a place for collaborations that include Friends of Bellport Bay, Post-Morrow, Brookhaven Town. And CEED.
“We’re having a lot of conversations,” Mueller said. “We help each other with parking availability and have meetings to see what can cross over. Isabella is very supportive and has a plot of land the schools rent but have a hard time maintaining, so we’re talking about some kind of cooperative effort.”
Mueller commented that when Your Connection to Nature ends as a separate entity, those programs would be incorporated into CEED in the fall. Raising quails — which are endangered on Long Island — and releasing them to help solve the tick problem is just another offshoot of Powers’ environmental ingenuity. Last fall CEED introduced four programs, she said. This summer and fall, they’ll introduce nine.
Rossellini’s farm and CEED have taken years to materialize, but are definite entities now; Mueller said the old Washington Lodge building, leased from the town, on their adjacent property requires substantial renovation work that still needs to be tackled, thus the fundraisers. “We’re hiring a part-time administrator for support programs,” Mueller said.
CEED’s treasure, along with the two acres the lodge sits on, is also the seven-plus acres of land surrounding it, with 37 acres of county land known as the Dennis Puleston, across the street. A one-mile trail, thanks to grunt work by volunteers, has already been established and there are more planned.
“There’s a corridor we’re trying to create for wildlife and trails for us,” Rossellini said.
Mueller glanced up at the old growth trees surrounding both properties.
“I feel like we’re surrounded by our elders,” she said.
Tickets for the June 22 Solstice Farm Brunch with Isabella Rossellini, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., are $150 and include entertainment by the Shinnecock Cultural Performers with music by Shane Weeks, whose ode to summer will be translated by Rossellini. To make reservations, contact Rebecca Mueller at Rebecca7470@gmail.com, or call 516-353-0036. CEED’s Summer Solstice Festival next door at 287 South Country Road, Brookhaven, begins at 11 a.m. and is free.
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