HEAVEN AND EARTH by Steve Wick

HEAVEN AND EARTH

The Last Farmers of the North Fork
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Wick's (Bad Company: Drugs, Hollywood, and the Cotton Club Murder, 1990) elegiac story of the farmers on the North Fork of New York's Long Island, whose centuries-old way of life is approaching a sorry finale. The last glaciers bequeathed to the North Fork a rich, loamy earth, free of boulders, a bounty not lost on the native Algonquins, who farmed the land for many a year. When Europeans came ashore in 1640, they too appreciated the agricultural potential of the land, much of it cleared into meadows thoughtfully provided by the Algonquins before they were given trinkets, rum, and dubious legal documents and told to take a hike. Descendants of those first European settlers--the Wickhams, Tuthills, and Wellses- -continue to farm the North Fork 350 years later, for potatoes and peaches and cherries, apples, tomatoes, corn, and hay, a mere two hours and a lightyear away from New York City. Wick, a Pulitzer Prizewinning reporter for Newsday who lives in the area, did his homework: His narrative starts way before the first European contact, and continues with the 15th-century English cod fishermen fetching these reaches, Cabot and Verrazano and Hudson, the Pequot wars. He follows closely, very closely, the lives of the earliest settlers, how they shaped the land, finagled every last acre from the natives, conducted their internecine rivalries, handled the influx of Irish in the 1840s and Poles in the years after 1910. Threaded into this history are the lives of the Wickham and Tuttle families, what it means to be one of them today: contending with taxes and pesticide restrictions and farmhand camp inspectors, struggling with failing machinery, failing prices, failing weather, and vineyards and condos the crops of the future. (Sixty-four pages of photos by Lynn Johnson were not available for review.) Storm warnings cloud the North Fork farming forecast, much as they did for Peter Matthiessen's fishers in Men's Lives.

Pub Date: June 13th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14352-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996