The Story of Bhumi Farms
In Search of a Greener New York is an ongoing Garden Collage series of explorations about sustainability efforts in New York City and beyond– including the people, places, and ideas that are making Manhattan a healthier, happier place to live. In this column, we spotlight individuals who are making New York a “greener” place in an attempt to discover how, exactly, they are doing it. This week, GC spotlights Frank Trentacost of Bhumi Farms, who always keeps the big picture in mind.
When it comes to “beyond organic” farming, Frank Trentacoste of Bhumi Farms has the art down to a veritable science. East of Long Island, Frank uses his farm in East Hampton to produce one of New York’s best farm share boxes each week during the harvest season (June through August), which he thoughtfully delivers right to the doorsteps of his patrons in New York City and Brooklyn.
Part of what attracts patrons to Bhumi Farms’ CSA share has to do with the rigor that goes into Trentacoste’s soil testing, which is ultimately a labor of love.
“I believe that the healthier the soil is, the healthier the plant is,” he reminds us. “The healthier the plant is, the more it’s able to fight off pests and sickness, and I believe the same is true for humans,” he tells us, speaking about the “above and beyond” standards he employs to ensure that his soil is rich in the 17 essential nutrients plants need to thrive. “The soil is basically the gut of the whole system, just as our gut is so much the center of human health– that’s my belief system,” he confides.
Community Supported Agriculture is a nascent phenomenon in a bustling city like New York, and Trentecoste’s involvement in farming speaks to the core of why this is so: “I didn’t grow up in a farming family,” he tells us, “but there was definitely an appreciation of food and the power of food to heal and to bring people together. We always had every meal together, regardless of how busy we were,” he continues. “So, as life proceeded for me and I worked in the city at trading desks, I felt like what I experienced as a child was missing from the modern world”.
“People were just eating on the go, convenience was taking priority over health and the importance of food, and my community was being lost,” he recalls. “On top of that, I felt like food policy in the U.S. was terrible– and much to the peril of children– so I decided to do something about it, one town at a time and one family at a time.
“I remember this quote I read around the time that went, ‘You can’t be neutral on a moving train’– Howard Zinn said that. So I thought that the train, for me– when it came to food and family– was moving South. It was going down. I wanted to do something about that. Since 2013 I’ve been farming out here, and that’s how I became a farmer.”
“Going from the ‘idea of farming’ to actually farming took a lot of faith, though, and my baseline belief was that plants grow on their own; I’m more of a shepherd than a farmer, because if the seed is in the right soil then it will grow. That’s bigger than me; that’s bigger than any of us. With that as my belief system, I was not nervous about growing food– I was more nervous about selling food and building a community around food. Growing food, I thought, was the easier part.”
“As I started growing things, my philosophy developed to mirror much of my philosophy about what it is to be a human on this Earth,” which is how he feels of his CSA operation today. “There are mistakes, and there are corrections, and there’s learning– so I don’t try to be perfect when I farm. But I know that I can make mistakes and Mother Earth will take care of it.”