A farmer died. His dreams live on.
Many East Enders fondly remember Joshua Levine, namesake of the Joshua Levine Foundation. He was the smiling face at Amagansett’s Quail Hill Farm table at the Sag Harbor Farmers Market on Saturdays. Organic farming was Josh’s second career, after working in real estate with his father Myron Levine.
In 2010 Josh died in a tractor accident, at age 35, leaving behind his wife and two very young children. It was a shocking loss to the East End community. Josh’s funeral service at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor had traffic piled up around the block.
Farming accidents are all too common—the fatality rate in agriculture is higher than in any other economic sector. In fact, a large percentage of all fatal workplace accidents occur on farms, though only a small segment of the workforce is employed in this business.
Josh wasn’t just dedicated to innovative farming and farm marketing strategies. As Quail Hill Farm Director Scott Chaskey says, “Josh always had new ideas about how to do things.”
Josh sacrificed his life for what he believed in—a local, organic food supply. His family is fulfilling his legacy through the Foundation, which has a stated mission “to identify and support charitable programs which promote good farming practices, healthy eating, education and a sustainable environment.”
On Sunday, March 25 the Foundation and Slow Food East End will hold its 8th annual Moveable Feast fundraiser in Sag Harbor to support its programming initiatives, including the Edible School Garden program.
According to Myron, “the East End of Long Island has grown into one of the largest, most successful school garden programs in the United States, 27 schools in all! From Montauk and Orient to Westhampton, our children benefit by working in the Edible School Gardens supported primarily by funds raised at the annual Moveable Feast. This program has lasting impact on our children’s health and their future. That’s why so many restaurants, chefs, farmers, vineyards, purveyors of food and beverage and others selflessly donate to make the Moveable Feast one of the most anticipated and affordable charity events of the year.”
This year’s participants include: Aldo Maiorana, Aldo’s Coffee Co.; Jason Weiner & Jeremy Blutstein, Almond; Cheryl Stair & Eric Householder, Art of Eating; Chef Arie Pavlou, Bistro Eté; Debbie Geppert, Bostwick’s Clambake & Catering; Bradley Thompson, Breadzilla; Brian Szostak, Bridgehampton Inn; Peter Ambrose, Events by Peter Ambrose; Abra Morawiec, Feisty Acres Farm; Jennilee Morris, Grace & Grit; Nadia Ernestus, Hampton Brine; Lauren Lombardi, Lombardi’s Love Lane Market; Carolyn Iannone & Cory Guastella, Love Lane Kitchen; Art Ludlow, Mecox Bay Dairy; Mike Doall & Mike Martinsen, Montauk Pearl Oysters; Joseph Realmuto & Rachel Flatley, Nick & Toni’s; Noah Schwartz, noah’s and Suffolk Theater; Jeri Woodhouse, North Fork Specialty Kitchen; Claudia Fleming & Stephan Bogardus, North Fork Table & Inn; David Falkowski, Open Minded Organics; Taylor Knapp, Paw Paw Pop Up; Matt Ketchum, Peconic Gold Oysters.
Myron continues, “Because our children are the beneficiaries, it’s important that parents, teachers and other residents of the East End participate. That’s why the ticket prices are kept as low as possible.”
They have a discount program available to members of Slow Food and a subsidy for teachers who would like to attend. There’s also a “subsidize a farmer” program to encourage residents who can afford it to purchase a ticket for a local farmer, fisher or forager. At this year’s event, some of the children who have participated in the program will discuss what their experiences in the garden have meant to them.
In addition to supporting this laudable program and enjoying some of the East End’s best local comestibles and a silent auction, you can meet food movement stars next Sunday. Chef Sam Kass is best known for his tenure in the Obama White House as Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition and for his work with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign. He will be the keynote speaker and discuss Growing Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities and the Future of Food. The discussion will be moderated by Richard McCarthy, Executive Director of Slow Food USA.
Slow Food is a nonprofit, member-supported organization that advocates for healthy food produced with minimal damage to the environment. The East End Chapter, encompassing the North and South Forks, is part of the global Slow Food network of more than 100,000 members in more than 150 countries.
Through a vast volunteer network of local chapters, youth and food communities, they link the pleasures of the table with a commitment to protect the community, culture, knowledge and environment that make this pleasure possible. Their mission as an international grassroots membership organization is good, clean and fair food for all.
McCarthy has just returned from a trip to Venice where he was working with Slow Food’s founder Carlo Petrini and their international committee. This is what he’s thinking:
How are farmers markets central to eating right?
“These ancient mechanisms continue to outlast anyone’s expectations—in part because they are light and easily replicable but especially because they make public the experience of learning about food. Farmers learn how to navigate volatile consumer trends and we, as eaters, learn how to value scarcity and the harvest of plenty. There’s something profound in tasting yesterday’s fruit today, sold from the folks who grow it. With the competitive assembly of vendors, we as eaters gain choice that gives us power and connection to time, place and taste.”
Is being vegetarian “easier” than it used to be in this country?
“So much easier! At 15, when I was politicized by food and the horrors of industrial meat, my decision to become vegetarian placed me into such a strange, marginal minority. My parents suggested I learn to cook. I did. It was at this point that I began to fall in love with food in an entirely new way. Going out to eat— a rarity in 1980—I had to ‘warn’ the chef that I was coming with problems. Today, chefs have come to embrace the challenge and adventure of vegetable-forward cooking. Moreover, immigrant food has demonstrated that vegetables need not be a supporting cast of characters on a plate. Sadly, the one unfortunate indicator of our return to tribalism has been the carving out of the menu between disparate communities of vegans versus the bacon-on-everything eaters. Food should be a bridge. When it’s not, we lose. This would be the one element that has grown harder.”
When is eating a political act?
“Eating is integral to civilization. No matter how clever we think we’ve become, social peace is deeply dependent upon reliable access to food. And while the industrial food grid has achieved remarkable wonders, it has done so at tremendous costs (often hidden costs upon the people, land, water and animals). The potential of the revolution of everyday life is that the decisions we make to support the heavy and destructive forces of industrial food or the light and hopeful alternative. As eaters, we can vote with our forks.”
What is the most important thing to teach the next generation of diners?
“While technique matters, and cooking can be intimidating, it’s far more important to dive in, experiment and cook and eat together—even if only once a week.”
A Moveable Feast not only celebrates the legacy of Joshua Levine and supports Edible School Gardens, it’s the kick-off of the spring season, the waking of the earth. Funds raised from this event promote good farming practices, education, a sustainable environment and healthy eating for children and their families by providing stipends for three Master Farmers and grants to be used for the purchase of garden tools, supplies and materials.
Don’t you want to pitch in?
8th annual A Moveable Feast at Dodds & Eder Landscape Design Showroom, 11 Bridge Street, Sag Harbor; Sunday, March 25 4-7 p.m.. To purchase tickets or make a donation visit slowfoodeastend.org. Tickets $150, Slow Food members $100. slowfoodeastend.org. To bid in the silent auction without attending the event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read more of Dan’s Papers Senior Editor Stacy Dermont’s writing on DansPapers.com and stacydermont.com. Stacy is currently at work on a seasonal Hamptons cookbook with co-author Hillary Davis.