During growing season, Elisabeth Hlawaty of Elmont doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty volunteering in the fields at Crossroads Farm in Malverne.
“Dirt under your fingernails — that’s the epitome of happiness,” says Hlawaty, 81, a retired corporate accountant. Three hours a week while the sun shines, she volunteers at the Nassau Land Trust’s 3 1⁄2-acre farm, pulling weeds alongside dozens of other volunteers.
It’s not only a change of pace from her desk job. Hlawaty does it, she says, for “the therapy.”
Working farms from Nassau to the East End are seeking volunteers to plant, grow and harvest crops, some of them bound for local farm stands and area food pantries. Sign up and you’ll feel like the salt of the earth, toiling outdoors (don’t forget the sunscreen) and bonding with other friends of the farmer. As a fringe benefit, you’ll also get tips to make your own garden grow.
“It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding,” says Judy Consigli, operations manager at Crossroads.
Here are volunteer programs that will both employ and educate your green thumb.
Nassau Land Trust/Crossroads Farm at Grossmann’s
480 Hempstead Ave., Malverne
INFO 516-881-7900, nassaulandtrust.org
Nassau Land Trust’s Crossroads Farm has somehow managed to survive amid the county’s suburban sprawl, but it’s not what you’d call a community farm. Produce and herbs grown there are sold at a farmers market and a roadside farm stand. You might even find their greens dressing up your dinner plate at one of Long Island’s farm-to-table restaurants. The fields are typically planted with eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, zucchini, kale, lettuce, Swiss chard and arugula. There are rows of oregano, lavender and other herbs.
While you assist in harvesting crops, stocking the farm stand and general gardening, you’ll learn about organic growing methods, plant care and the importance of locally grown food.
No farming experience is necessary, but you’re required to attend one of the regularly scheduled orientation sessions. Call for the date of the next session.
Peconic Land Trust
296 Hampton Rd., Southampton
INFO 631-283-3195, peconiclandtrust.org
Peconic Land Trust, a nonprofit organization, helps to protect 12,000 acres of land, including some working farms on the East End.
“Volunteers get their hands in the soil, learn how to grow their own food and contribute to the broader community,” says spokeswoman Yvette DeBow-Salsedo.
Volunteers are needed at three farms:
Quail Hill Farm, Amagansett
Situated on a 220-acre preserve, Quail Hill provides food for community members, a farm stand, the Sag Harbor Farmers Market, local markets and restaurants. Volunteers assist with seeding and transplanting seedlings into the fields, harvesting, cleaning and preparing vegetables, flowers and herbs.
The Agricultural Center at Charnews Farm, Southold
Volunteers plant, harvest and deliver beans, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables to a local food pantry.
Bridge Gardens, Bridgehampton
The five-acre public garden includes community gardens and demonstration gardens showcasing vegetables, herbs, roses and native plantings. Volunteers help harvest the demonstration vegetable garden for the Sag Harbor’s food pantry. They also weed and water flower and herb beds.