Over the course of her four years at what is historically deemed Ships Hole Farm in Smithtown, Jennifer Murray fell in love with a piece of land: its history, its purpose, its rolling hills, inhabitants and the soil she dug her hands and heart into, which during her reign as tenant was called Turtleback Farm. From 2009 through just this past autumn, Jen raised her young son there — along with her hens — cared for the sheep and pigs and gardens, the produce and the wool. The pastured eggs, her dog Lily and the 22 acres of greenbelt-lush land were all under her care and held closely to her heart. We had the opportunity to photograph Jen at Turtleback before she left and got to witness the love affair between a farmer and her farm. It is now that we feel the longing of that love, as she looks back nostalgically.
Dear Turtleback Farm,
I miss the days of sitting among the sheep peacefully grazing the tall orchard grasses below the black walnuts trees. The moment when the barn swallows fly gracefully just above the grass tops through the fields and down the rolling hills, and I am left mesmerized. The lingering smell of sweet soil after the chickens scratch the earth.
I long for the visit of an aging box turtle that I’ve met once before, the sighting of a metallic green sweat bee on my vegetable flowers, morning dew on my boots while the sun is low, gently waking the fields.
I yearn to again see the beauty of the place, the wildness, the history. I yearn to once again turn the soil exactly where another farmer did three hundred years before me.
How I miss you so.
The property, which dates to the turn of the century, has a decorated past; its future, however, remains unsettled. Currently on the market, it is not guaranteed to remain as Jen so lovingly remembers it. The Peconic Land Trust has protected the farm portion of the land from development outside the realm of agriculture, though the remainder of the property could potentially be developed.