Johnny Appleseed, the Fireplace Farmer

Erik Engstrom, left, works part time for Fireplace Farm helping Paul Hamilton. Durell Godfrey

Fireplace Farm, where Paul Hamilton grows produce and flowers and keeps bees and chickens, is a rural place right near Gardiner’s Bay, with hardly any houses to be seen. On two acres off Hog Creek Lane at the northern end of Springs-Fireplace Road, he plants enough vegetables, berries, and lettuces to sell at a farm stand and at the Springs Farmers Market, which he runs. In early June, he told a visitor that strawberries, which were beginning to ripen, thrive in the farm’s sandy, dry soil but that as a result of the cool, wet spring, were coming in later than usual.

Mr. Hamilton is something of a Johnny Appleseed. He also plans, plants, and maintains seven private kitchen gardens in East Hampton, which are “an extension of this place,” he said. A chef who depends on one of these gardens is pleased when Mr. Hamilton is able to supply a desired vegetable from Fireplace Farm if his garden is not producing it. Whatever is left at Fireplace Farm after harvesting goes to the East Hampton Town Senior Citizens Center on Springs-Fireplace Road.

The biggest private garden Mr. Hamilton oversees is a quarter of an acre, with 40 apple and pear trees, 30 chickens, and many herbs. The smallest one has eight 4-by-16-foot raised beds. He planted one of the private kitchen gardens 10 years ago. Today, the private gardens, which have increased by word of mouth, are just about at capacity.

Fireplace Farm was once part of a girls camp called Fire Place Lodge. The farm exists through the courtesy of Mary Ryan, who bought the property years ago and receives only farm bounty in exchange. She recently said that she delights in the land’s agricultural use and is anticipating that a small area will be farmed by children this summer.

 Mr. Hamilton plows Fireplace Farm’s fields by tractor, and the crops are tended by hand with part-time help. This year he is growing arugula, cucumbers, carrots, beets, squash, corn, raspberries and strawberries, lettuce, peppers, eggplant, beans, leeks, and apples. He also has seven different kinds of basil, 24 different kinds of tomatoes, and lots of greens. He grows buckwheat and sunflowers to help his bees make honey.

Even though he learned how to farm over a three-year period in the Peace Corps, in Belize and Niger, Mr. Hamilton grew up around farms in Yaphank and, once he had returned to the States, became an apprentice and then assistant mzanager at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, which is owned by the Peconic Land Trust and was the first community supported agriculture venture on the South Fork. He also managed the East End Community Organic Farm in East Hampton.

Mr. Hamilton said all that chefs have wanted so far this summer are ramps and peppers. He seems to want only to continue what he is doing, as a man comfortable in his own skin and his world.