Rest in Peace, Farmer Steve
Restoration Farm wouldn’t be where it is today without Steve Cecchini. He entered our lives in 2011 as a volunteer, bartering hard work and mechanical skill for a boots-on-the-ground education. He returned in 2015, and by the following year had firmly established himself as field manager. From 2016—2021, he poured his heart and soul into the farm—from seeding, to field prep, to planting, to cultivating, to harvest, to even bathroom cleaning. To Steve, all work was noble, and no work was beneath him. Nevertheless, it was his skill as a mechanic and mentor that made him stand apart. Steve never met a machine he couldn’t troubleshoot, or a person he wasn’t willing to teach. He was humble, patient, and determined. He took great pride in his work, and he wanted others to feel that pride, too.
Steve's first battle with cancer came in 2019, but he was back in 2020, keeping a stiff upper lip about his condition, and putting the rest of us to shame about complaints we might have lodged about heat, mosquitoes, etc. He stayed on through the spring of 2021, but post-surgery complications and the return of cancer prevented him from completing the season. We saw much less of him after that. But even when he couldn’t work in the fields, Steve was always a phone call away. Whether it was how to set the finger weeders, which fish emulsion to use on transplants, or the ideal spacing for strawberries, he was eager to contribute.
We all knew the end was coming, but when it finally came, it was quick. Steve went into hospice on January 24 and passed on February 5. The farm crew visited him multiple times in hospice. When he passed, his brother, daughter, and son were at his side.
Steve touched so many people, both directly and indirectly, as a brother, father, political activist, and farmer. He left us much too soon, but we are grateful for the memories. May we all carry his memory with us, and keep his one-of-a-kind spirit alive.
If you'd like to share your memories of Steve, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll post them here.
Steve came to Restoration when I had been there for a few years—he was the real deal in every sense. While I was convincing myself that I was a “real” farmer, I quickly realized that while I loved being part of the farm—I would never really be a “real “ farmer like Farmer Steve (that’s what all the kids called him)
His first year that he went to the NOFA conference in Saratoga was my last—I have such a memory of him being my square dance partner—we danced and laughed so much that night. He was such a great and special guy.
He will be missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him. —Lesly Steinman
Steve was such an essential part of our experience at Restoration Farm. His energy, his enthusiasm, his expertise, his generosity and kindness and patience, a truly awesome man. We feel very fortunate to have met him and to have the chance to sort potatoes behind one of his adapted creations.
October 23, 1960 — February 5, 2023
I have many recollections of Steve, most noticeably his twinkling blue eyes and smiling face as he rode vehicles around the farm and interacted with its members. However, there are two distinct memories that will remain with me.
One is of the time I was crossing the quad of Suffolk County Community College’s Eastern Campus in Riverhead, where I taught, and noticed a large crowd in front of the library holding signs. They were protesting how voting ballots were set up during county elections, where candidates could be listed under numerous parties. Two individuals I immediately recognized in the crowd: one was our campus executive dean, cheerfully conversing with the protestors while keeping a vigilant eye on what was so far a peaceful demonstration. The other was Steve Cecchini! Our eyes lit up as we recognized each other—an unexpected event in this setting so remote from the farm. Steve carefully explained to me the issue, and how multiple-party listing could lead to corruption. I was so impressed with his passionate command of the problem and patience in explaining it to someone who was ignorant of its implication. We spoke for quite a while, and I believe our campus dean relaxed a little when she saw Steve conversing with me.
The other memory is my most treasured one! My father (and Caroline’s granddad) George Garbarini was a longtime member of the farm until he and my mom Arline moved to a senior facility in Valhalla, NY. In the years leading up to that move, my mom volunteered at the farm stand and my dad in the fields, doing whatever needed doing. However, it became apparent that in his advancing years (we’re talking George’s late 80s and 90s) he needed a companion. All the farm volunteers kindly and generously helped out with this, especially Judy, Glenn, and Donna—but no one helped as much as Steve! Without a word, he became my dad’s silent “buddy,” taking him about the fields and working side by side with him on tasks. About a year ago, I thanked Steve for being such a friend to my father (who has never forgotten him, by the way!). Steve explained that when he was young, about 20 or so, his own grandfather needed care, and Steve went to live with him to help out. That caring, nurturing spirit never left Steve, and my family is deeply grateful for the time he spent with my dad.
—Susan Garbarini Fanning