Amber Waves began by way of apprenticeship that forged a friendship, which inspired a dream to nourish their local community. In 2008, Amanda Merrow and Katie Baldwin met in an apprenticeship program helmed by poet farmer Scott Chaskey. While they were learning to plant and harvest, they marveled at the fact that Long Island’s diverse foodshed was missing a key ingredient. No one was growing artisanal, culinary grains for baking or dough-making. After considering the intoxicating allure of unlimited locally-grown dough, the two women responded to a request by the Peconic Land Trust for agricultural business plans. Their plan was to utilize the newly- conserved farmland behind the iconic Amagansett Farmers Market, and in 2009 they were awarded a three-year lease on those 7.7 acres.
Their new farm was just a mile from the ocean. Enamored with its unique location, and the water’s influence on the soil and terroir, the rich flavor it imparted in the grains, they named their newly acquired dream Amber Waves Farm. A nod to community and grit, togetherness and the beauty of the land, fields of grain grown with the support of the sea. In founding Amber Waves, Katie and Amanda revived wheat production in the area and sought to carve out their singular niche in Long Island’s agricultural history. But they soon realized they were growing more than just grain. Amber Waves was cultivating an unprecedented, and much-needed, community.
The Amber Waves Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program was inaugurated in 2009 with 18 members, many of whom still pick up weekly baskets today. At the same time, the farm was transformed into a true public-access space with pick-your-own areas available for harvesting to CSA members, and an open gate policy wherein all visitors were invited to wander through the fields. In those early days, Katie and Amanda personally talked to everyone who came through, showed them what they were doing, and encouraged them to be a part of it. As their community grew, they became inundated with emotional stories from visitors who were moved by the intimate relationship they had developed with the farm. The experiences shared a common thread: Amber Waves was a place people felt at home, inspired, and empowered.
Moved by their own experience meeting as young apprentices, Katie and Amanda launched their very own Apprenticeship Program in 2012 with the mission to grow the next generation of farmers and teach them the art of sustainable agriculture. They’ve since sent more than 30 new farmers out into the world, the most important crop they’ve ever grown.
In 2016, Amanda and Katie led Amber Waves to become the official owners of the farmland in which they had fallen in love in 2009. They were aided by a passionate community of members, neighbors, and donors who joined together to help them secure the future of the farm, and the collective of visionary women who came before them. It began in 1956 with Pat Struck, who devoted decades of her life to growing the Amagansett Farmers Market from its humble beginnings to a legendary East End mainstay. It continued in 2008 with Maggie de Cuevas, who was the farmland’s ultimate protector, having ensured its agricultural use in perpetuity. It lives on with Amanda and Katie, who reunited the farmstand with the farmland after years of separation, launching the next chapter of Amber Waves’ role as an institution in the community.
After achieving the long-coveted milestone of property ownership, Katie and Amanda reopened the Amagansett Farmers Market in 2017 as the Amber Waves Market. They infused it with their own produce, artisanal foods from local purveyors, and a full-service kitchen that serves up meals with field-to-plate ingredients harvested just a few steps away. Together, these two icons of Long Island agriculture finally exist as Katie and Amanda envisioned: in harmonious support of one another and in the service of their local community.
Now, nearly 30 acres across a patchwork of fields in Amagansett and East Hampton, Amber Waves embarks on its second decade with unlimited potential, on track to become one of the premier educational farm operations in the country. It has grown from a staff of two to more than 50 farmers and employees, boasts a CSA membership of nearly 200 families, hosts innumerable workshops and events, and features a flourishing market, kitchen, and cafe in a signature location right on Main Street. Katie, Amanda, and Amber Waves have reinvigorated the Long Island foodshed and transformed the community, educating, empowering, and connecting growers, cooks, and eaters seed by seed.
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