When you think of an international fashion icon, what images spring to mind? Mud-crusted rain boots? An entourage of goats? Us neither, but knee-deep in heritage crops and some 200 chickens is exactly where you’ll find one of the industry’s most coveted faces, Elettra Wiedemann. More precisely, you’ll find her on Mama Farm, a 5-acre regenerative farm nestled on a 23-acre preserve in the bountiful beach-side paradise of Brookhaven, New York. Mama Farm is not only home to Elettra, her two kids and mother, Isabella Rossellini (yep, the iconic actress, and animal behaviorist), who founded the project in 2013. In-between visiting B&B guests and kids making music at Timbalooloo class, it’s also home to a growing flock of heritage sheep, honey bees, ducks, Elsa the sheepdog, organic crops and blooms, plus Isabella’s beloved chickens who follow her around like puppies.
What inspired Elettra’s decision to trade the cover of Vogue for cover crops? “I worked as a model for over 12 years and I am so grateful for all the memories and experiences,” she says. “Inevitably, as you get older a new generation comes in and, frankly, modeling contracts are not banging down your door for most people at 30-plus-years-old.” Stepping into the wellies to work alongside her mother as executive director of the farm turned out to be a welcome change for the born-and-bred Manhattanite. “I was ready for the shift in focus to family and my food studies in graduate school which, through a meandering road, brought me to Mama Farm.”
If there’s a thread to tie Elettra’s meandering road with Mama Farm, it’s food. Brimming with an energetic passion for feeding ourselves sustainably, Elettra’s path didn’t stop at shooting with Karl Lagerfeld, Mario Testino and co. At the same time as her modelling career was rocketing through the stars, she studied food security at the prestigious London School of Economics before publishing her first cookbook, Impatient Foodie, and becoming head of food and drink at Refinery29.
At Mama Farm, she draws on her career in food to bring people together like friends around a dinner table. Between Full Moon concerts, a community-supported agriculture scheme and the B&B rooms that come with Isabella’s farm-fresh hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, an Italian passion for food, family and friends runs deep.
This most vibrant atmosphere focussed on sharing and inspiration is modeled after the bustling Italian piazza and agriturismo, reflecting the spirit of the family’s Roman and Tuscan heritage. “We learned the ropes,” says Elettra. “My mom and her best friend, Pietro Cicognani, designed it. Mom loves to create spaces – landscapes, houses – then it’s my job to figure out the systems that make things run and community programming.”
Though Mama Farm is ground into action by these two extraordinary mothers, Mother Earth remains the matriarch. You can see her in the beautiful woodlands, a sanctuary for chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats, quail and ducks, and in the fields filled with autumn abundance – crops cultivated from heirloom seeds using organic and regenerative agriculture techniques. An emphasis on sustainability is abundant: no environmentally harmful fertilizers are used on the land and instead of slaughter, animal products such as eggs and honey are incorporated into Mama Farm’s veg box scheme, supported by the local community.
What’s next for Elettra and Mama Farm? “Right now, I am just focused on the 2022 season and how we can improve for our farm members and surrounding community.” As any Italian mama would say, chi si volta, e chi si gira, sempre a casa va finire. No matter where you turn, you will always end up at home. Make that, Mama’s Farm.
With gratitude and love to Elettra and her team at Mama Farm. To find out more about Mama Farm, to book a room in its B&B or become part of its community-supported agriculture scheme visit the website here. Photographs by Genevieve Garruppo.