America

They Fled City Jobs. Now, It’s Time for Farm Prom.

Prom season it was not. A blustery fall wind whipped through the rows of radicchio, across the butternut vines and edged the dance floor. And this was no high school-gym full of awkward teenagers; rather, it was a barn full of farmers. Dressed in their flannel and their finest, they danced into the night at a shindig called Farm Prom.

There was an oyster farmer with his date, a sometime organic-farm-stand cashier in a vintage fur, and a sungold-tomato grower in a plastic prom-king crown. At D.J. decks set atop a bale of hay was a flower farmer in a silver gown, bopping her head, which was topped with the Carhartt beanie she wears to work the fields.

But these farmers were not tilling the fields of America’s heartland.

Outside the barn doors were beach houses and wineries and the seaside resorts of Eastern Long Island. Few of the farmers stomping work boots on the dance floor came from agrarian roots. Most were corporate or academic refugees, who in recent years said they found new meaning in growing things.

In some ways, the partygoers were living out a fantasy shared by many of the laptop-bound: to leave behind the grind of Zoom meetings and e-mail and reconnect with the physical world. In other ways, though, they were confronting the reality of agriculture: long hours, little pay and grueling work. Farm Prom seemed a moment where both the dream and the reality could be true.

The hoedown was to celebrate the closing of the harvest season and thrown by Shani Mink, 29, the flower farmer and D.J. and also a food-systems educator and advocate, and Peter Treiber Jr., 35, an artist and vegetable grower on whose farm the dance took place. The Treiber land produces things like bergamot and asparagus on Long Island’s North Fork, where the humble potato farms that once dominated the area are increasingly crowded out by vineyards and the weekend escapes of Manhattanites. Many of the farmers were Manhattanites who had escaped themselves.

The hoedown was to celebrate the closing of the harvest season.Credit…Adrienne Grunwald for The New York Times

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