Q&A: Courtney Pure of Bayard Cutting Arboretum - Modern Farmer

Q&A: Courtney Pure of Bayard Cutting Arboretum

This week's winner finds inspiration in her grandparents' garden and local Long Island farmers.

courtney pure bayard cutting arboretum

Originally a dairy farm, the Bayard Cutting Arboretum CSA Farm is a two-acre vegetable farm complete with a small apiary, a strawberry and raspberry field, an herb garden, and 100 laying chickens. It’s the only CSA program in the New York State Parks system. Pure began interning at Bayard in 2014, and now the 26-year-old is entering her third season.

Modern Farmer: Why do you consider yourself a modern farmer?

Courtney Pure: Long Island is a very interesting place. We are a train ride away from New York City, and what was once a large farming community continues to dwindle everyday. Towns are becoming more like small cities and leasing land is extremely expensive. When I farm, I feel like I’m going against the grain a bit. Places like the Arboretum are little natural gems that we have here to escape the hustle and bustle of the city life.

With my background in film I try to merge my two passions of art and science on the farm through photography, illustration, or design. With all the technological advances we have in the modern age, I appreciate and respect the intricacies of nature as well. This juxtaposition of a busy metropolitan backdrop mixed with an appreciation for sustainable and regenerative food systems I believe what makes me a modern farmer.

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MF: Why is it important to you to support local agriculture?

CP: Food just doesn’t originate from the supermarket. Behind every piece of fruit, every vegetable, and piece of meat we purchase there is a farmer hard at work trying to grow those ingredients to make the commodities that we have today. When I started farming, I noticed the disconnect to our food sources and can’t believe how some of us, myself included, had not tapped into the gift that’s right in our own backyards. We have so many great farms including many vineyards, community supported agriculture farms, and community gardens all around the island. I think supporting local agriculture is not only important for our economy but also our communities.

MF: If you could grow or raise any food or animal, what would it be and why?

CP: Mushrooms! I’ve been casually studying forest farming and mushroom cultivation. Mushrooms are so mysteriously powerful and are considered an underground internet connecting all these different plants, trees, and shrubs together. I just geek out over mycology and the ways mushrooms influence ecological systems around us.

I also love taking care of animals. This year we just have the chickens but the year before that we also had ducks. They’re just great companions to have around the farm.

MF: What’s your favorite vegetable?

CP: I really love corn. Not popcorn, just simple corn on a cob… and Brussels sprouts!

MF: If you could give other modern farmers any advice, what would it be?

CP: Get your hands dirty! Even though we are in this age of technology, there are a lot of things we can do just by simple people power. I don’t know if I would have had the same appreciation for farming if I was not working in the field. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s so rewarding to see all of that prep turn into a field full of delicious and beautiful fruits and vegetables that our members enjoy throughout the season.

Also don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is a lot of science and problem solving that goes into having a happy and healthy farm.

MF: Do you have a farming/agricultural hero? Why do you admire them?

CP: Well I have a few: First my Nana and Pop. Even though are not farmers they have inspired me from a young age. Their garden was always bursting with activity and planting sunflowers in their garden was my first introduction into working with the earth.

Second is Jen, the farm manager here at Bayard. When I first started interning I was so inspired by her story of how she just started farming by just getting out there and doing it! She definitely encouraged me to keep pursuing this career despite my lack of formal horticulture/farming education. She also just has this unwearying passion for farming, this constant fever to improve and try new things every season. That really just pushes me to be a better farmer and to challenge myself.

And lastly my garden gurus Erick, my partner in crime, and Mike West who spearheaded the Patchogue Planting Patch, a community garden on the South Shore of Long Island. They are responsible for reigniting my love for the outdoors and farming.

That may have sounded like some kind of crazy acceptance speech but they each have had a significant impact on my farming and gardening education.

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