Last weekend’s unseasonably hot temperatures brought an early start to the nude farming season on the East End. And as is common when this season arrives, the police got several alarmed calls from new arrivals unfamiliar with this traditional practice. The police informed callers there was nothing to be concerned about.
“It’s understandable that people would be a little freaked out,” Hamptons Police spokesman Larry Hirsch says. “Here they’ve got their new mansion with their view of pristine potato fields, and they’re out on their deck enjoying their morning coffee when, out of nowhere, there’s some geezer riding around on a tractor in his birthday suit.”
Hirsch explains that it’s a quirk of local laws that allows certain area farmers to farm nude, and that many of the farmers who have the right to do so continue to do it as a matter of principal.
“Naked farming was not specifically prohibited in the Hamptons until 1961,” Hirsch says. “And the way the law was written, only those farmers who were actively farming when the prohibition went into effect are still allowed to farm nude now—they’re grandfathered in, so to speak.”
They continue to cling to the practice, Hirsch says out of a reverence for tradition. “Look, it’s not like it’s a comfortable way to work,” he says. “There are lots of better ways to beat the heat, and the effect on the skin is brutal.”
Ninety-seven-year-old Sagaponack potato farmer Klaus Keinekleider, who has been farming nude since the mid-50s, concurs with Hirsch on this point. “It’s not about staying cool, it’s about freedom,” Keinekleider says. “Would I be better off wearing a shirt and long pants to shield me from sunburns? Of course I would! Does it burn when I go to nestle my hindquarters onto that hot metal tractor seat? Of course it does! But this is the way my father did it, and his father before him. Keinekleiders have been farming naked in the Hamptons since the 1700s, and we’re not about to stop now!”
Hirsch notes that the days of nude farming are rapidly coming to a close on the East End, as most of the farmers who were grandfathered in upon the passing of the law are long gone.
“Back in the day, it was all you saw out here,” Hirsch says nostalgically. “Men, women, boys and girls—it was like a nudist colony with a potato farm. Now you hardly ever see it. Those lucky few who have a view of the Keinekleider farm should be grateful—he’s one of the last of a dying breed.”