Whitman Nurseries expanding operations after 9-acre purchase

01/04/2016 7:00 AM |

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Those driving down Main Road in Aquebogue recently may have noticed somewhat of a change: nearly 9 acres are being cleared across the street from Vineyard Caterers.

This land, recently purchased by Whitman Nurseries owner John Sipala, will be used to expand his current stock of trees, which sit on 60 acres of land behind the new parcel. Mr. Sipala began clearing the area early last week, and plans to have it done within the next few days so that he can get the area ready to begin planting in the spring.

Whitman Nurseries grows and sells around 100 types of trees to the New York City Parks and Recreation Department as part of the Million Tree Program, started by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007. Mayor Bloomberg’s hope was to plant one million trees in New York City by 2017. According to the program’s website, the goal was met Nov. 24 of this year by planting trees in parks and along the streets.

“What most people don’t realize is that New York City has more parks than Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles combined,” Mr. Sipala said, adding that studies have shown areas with more trees lead to improved reproductive health and decreased crime.

Mr. Sipala sells about 95 percent of his trees to the city, and the remaining trees are sold in other local markets. He said he already has different ideas for how to utilize the space once his contract with the city comes to a close, which include introducing agri-toursim to the nursery.

“I do hope I can come up with a long term plan that would interest my kids so that I can bring the next generation into doing something in agriculture,” he said of his two sons and daughter, who are all currently in college. Mr. Sipala has worked at Whitman Nurseries, a family owned business started in 1957, his entire life.

While it certainly isn’t the area’s most visible part of the agriculture industry, nursery crops comprise an enormous part of Suffolk’s agricultural economy. According to the 2012 census of agriculture, nearly $50 million in nursery stock crops were sold in Suffolk in 2012 — or about a fifth of the ag industry.

Mr. Sipala said he wasn’t looking to expand, but when he was offered the parcel about seven or eight months ago he couldn’t turn down the offer. The biggest benefit to having the additional land, which he purchased for $775,000, is the “amazing soil.”

“I walked around and looked, but until it’s cleared you can’t tell what the soil is like underneath,” he said. “Soil is a big thing for me. It was a pleasant surprise.”

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Photo Caption: Whitman Nurseries most recent addition is currently being cleared so trees can be planted in the spring. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

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