When we first met Pete in Brooklyn a bunch of years ago we were shooting Quiet Town in a space connected to his shared art studio, The Invisible Dog. He told us about his family farm on the North Fork of Long Island, about going back and forth between farmers markets and gallery shows. Our pre-pandemic mind couldn’t fathom how he managed to balance these seemingly oppositional worlds. But it turns out, for Pete, the two worlds are inseparable. The farm has become a living piece of art and his art is informed by his farm. And it’s not just Pete’s art, Treiber Farms has opened its barn doors to other artists, chefs, designers and musicians becoming both farm & forum. Treiber Farms is known for its beautiful cedar barn & vintage truck with the American flag painted on it. Something that has sparked the best kind of political conversations covered by the New York Times & locals alike.
How does an artist become a farmer? What’s the story there?
I became a farmer because I wanted to learn about growing food and to be outside more. The six years I spent in Brooklyn were crucial for my growth as a person, as a builder, as an artist and creative thinker, but my leaving has been a really important decision in my life. I once thought of the art and the farming as two very separate practices, but after a few seasons I’ve come to appreciate them both as one and the same. In fact, farming is the greatest creative pursuit I could have ever found. It engages all five senses. The varieties that you choose to grow, the colors, the flavors, the smells, the physicality of it, the shaping and sculpting the land, saving seeds, observing the natural cycles and processes, the practices you employ, the people you collaborate with and enough learning/experiencing to last several lifetimes…It is the ultimate!
What are you currently growing on the farm?
It is currently August which means that all sorts of things are ripening, but here is a list of some of what is coming out of the fields; tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, leeks, chard, kale, head lettuce, beans, edible flowers, raspberries, blackberries, apples and peaches. Things to come this fall are the winter squash, drying beans, and all the favorite root crops. This year we tried two new crops in our greenhouse which are turmeric and ginger which will be ready late this fall. We also got into more cut flowers for bouquets and dye flowers for the natural dyeing of fabrics!
Tell us about all of the art on the farm!
Since arriving on the farm in 2016, having been at The Invisible Dog Art Center for the five years prior, I was wanting to share the farm and try and recreate some of that creative community feeling for myself and others. It all began with some live music in our old barn and since then we’ve had film screenings, art shows, dinners, fundraisers and dance parties, to name a few things. We also partnered up with Cooler Gallery of Brooklyn and have slowly launched our residency Cooler Ranch. We’ve hosted some amazing artists for some site specific works to be made out in the fields as well as taking in public art works that needed a new home. We aim to have a more established, formal residency in the years to come.
What’s a typical morning like for you? How early do you start and what are some of the things you routinely do?
I normally get up just before 6am. I then make myself a coffee. It once was French press, but now I’m on a cortado kick. Once the coffee process is underway I might: sweep the kitchen, read a little, answer some emails, stretch, finish up some sewing, meditate and/or write out a list for the day/week. During peak farming season, we begin work at 7am, but that’ll change to 8am once the weather cools off a bit and things slow down.
Your farm really stands out on the North Fork because of all the cultural and creative ways you bring the community together. What are some of the things you’re working on right now?
We just hosted a natural dye walk/workshop with artist Cara Marie Piazza which involved a tour around the farm with emphasis on the color garden, a demonstration by Cara and some colorful snacks. The following day we invited folks to eat with us in our old barn for a Vietnamese community lunch made by our friend Phoebe Tran of Bé Bếp Kitchen highlighting ingredients from the farm, the surrounding North Fork waters and tropical fruits from her family’s garden in California. We love collaboration and with agriculture there are myriad ways to work with different artists, producers, makers, doers. Look out for the next spirit made by our friends at Matchbook Distilling Co. of Greenport, they have made some incredible flavors with crops from the farm, from lemongrass to pumpkins and even a turkey! I’ve also got a project in the works with a really cool young clothing brand called Whim Golf based out of Chicago that should be out in the world this fall!
What are some of your favorite North Fork spots?
I love any beach on the sound. I like to see (and show) art at VSOP Projects in Greenport. Other farms that I love are Deep Roots, KKs, Feisty Acres and 8 Hands. Anything that happens over at The Lin, from Pawpaw pop-ups to One Kourt Studio champagne tastings. Oysters at Little Creek.
I know a lot of farms put their crews up and everyone lives together. Is that what Treiber farm does? If so, what’s that like? Who gets the outhouse?
Housing on the North Fork is damn near impossible for young working humans. Anyone who has extra space rents it out for super high prices during the summer, leaving people that want to work out of luck. We luckily have some space for some employees but I’ll say this, I really don’t like having to think about it every few months. It adds a level of stress that takes away from us thinking about how we get the best people out to our farm to do the best work and I know the same goes for a lot of other businesses.