Edible Eden gives insight on the agricultural history of Long Island

Credit: Daniel GattaCredit: Daniel Gatta

By Daniel Gatta and Christian Cangiano

In 1855, William Sidney Mount, a renowned Long Island painter, completed an oil canvas titled, “Branch of Cherries.” The work is a colorful, detailed image of a cherry branch peacefully blowing in the wind. Mount hoped the image would serve as a microcosm for his surroundings; Long Island, a cornucopia of nature, wildlife, and farmland.

Through July 30th, the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook will be displaying “Edible Eden,” an art exhibit that celebrates the rich, agricultural history of Long Island and the surrounding region. The exhibit showcases roughly 20 works, including Mount’s “Branch of Cherries.”

“All of the works you see in the Edible Eden are from our master collection,” Julie Diamond, Director of Communications at the Long Island Museum, said. “The art displayed in here shows people farming and tending fields, but the overarching message is hard work.”

A section of the arts building at the Long Island Museum is filled with works from the Mount Family, Charles Henry Turner, Harry Roseland and other masters.

Paintings in the exhibit show people doing hard labor, picking apples in orchards, the transportation of crops via horse and wagon, and colorful, close-up images of cherries, carrots, and other crops.

“People in those days worked tirelessly to earn money and grow crops so they could support their families,” Diamond said. “These works portray things that were a big part of life for people living on Long Island at the time, and I’m glad we have this exhibit to showcase the meaning behind it.”

Long Island agriculture blossomed in the 19th century and continues to be a staple of the local economy. Farms on the east end would grow and ship their crops to the city, with some still operational after hundreds of years in business.

“Back then Long Island was basically the market garden for New York City, if you want to call it that,” Philip Schmitt, owner of Schmitt’s Family Farm in Riverhead, said. “My great grandfather was a farmer in Rosedale, Queens, and in those days agriculture played a much more prominent role than it does in today’s society.”

“Edible Eden” shows why Long Island’s climate and landscape were ideal for agricultural success.

“Long Island is a really a unique place,” Schmitt said. “We not only have coastal area, but the way the island is positioned we’re basically 70 miles out into the ocean. We have moderate temperatures, but we don’t experience severe winters or severe heat in the summertime. In my opinion, the combination of our climate, landscape, and resources has made Long Island a great agricultural community.”

About the Author

Daniel Gatta
Daniel Gatta
My name is Daniel Gatta and I am a journalism major at Stony Brook University. I am 21 years old and live on the south shore of Long Island in Oakdale, NY. I am an avid sports fan and hope to pursue a career in sports journalism.