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Harbes Family Farm plans celebration for 30th anniversary

The Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck is celebrating its 30th anniversary season this year, featuring its annual Sweet Corn Festival as well as some new festivities.

The Mattituck location, which includes Harbes Barnyard Adventure and Harbes Vineyard, has been hosting events since May in honor of the landmark anniversary and will continue doing so through October. All of the planned events this season have a focus on the family’s beginnings, but new activities and developments will be highlighted as well, such as a “Super-Sweet Corn” flavored ice cream. The family will also debut a new playground on a portion of the eight-acre Barnyard Adventure area.

“It’s mostly a milestone to my wife and I and our whole family because what it represents is a transition from wholesale potato-type farming to a retail style of farming,” founder Ed Harbes III said.

Mr. Harbes III said wholesale-style farming wasn’t providing in a way that was sustainable for the long term.

“In the late ’80s, it became inconsistent to the point where I wasn’t sure we’d be able to continue with farming, so we were looking for some alternatives and we thought we’d start the farm stand. That started in 1989, and this represents 30 years of just adapting to the interests of the public and satisfying them in the way that they’ve enjoyed.”

Mr. Harbes III said every generation needs to adopt more modern business models that fit with changing times. His father was a farmer, and so was his grandfather. The business has been passed down to his son, Edward Walter Harbes IV, who now manages the farm.

“Little by little the business has kind of grown steadily over the last 30 years, and I am happy to say that it’s provided a good life on the farm for our family and hopefully for generations to come,” said Mr. Harbes III.

The Harbes family founded their Mattituck farm stand in 1989 as a small, roadside family-run retail outlet, according to Mr. Harbes III. They have been growing sweet corn and tomatoes for the last 30 years and have expanded into Riverhead and Jamesport, where they run an orchard and another farm stand, respectively. The farm stand also sells apples, pumpkins, heirloom tomatoes, watermelons and peaches. The Mattituck farm sits on 100 acres of property.

Jason and Monica Harbes at the original Mattituck farm stand in 1989, when offerings included fresh tomatoes and ‘Super-Sweet Corn,’ which is still handpicked each morning. (Courtesy photo)

On each day of the Sweet Corn Festival, scheduled for July 20-21 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., two contests will be held in the courtyard area, including a roasted corn-eating contest, open to people of all ages. There will be live music from 1 to 5 p.m. both days: Singer Dan Donnelly is scheduled to perform classic and contemporary rock on Saturday and Long Island native singer-songwriter Nico Padden is set to give a folk-rock-pop performance on Sunday.

Traditional events like the Singing Hayride Tours will have a special anniversary focus on the history and beginnings of the farm, according to a press release. The family will additionally be posting “Flashback Friday” photos on social media every Friday morning, and guests will have the opportunity to earn prize giveaways throughout the season. Four lifetime season passes will be awarded to the winner of a “Why I Love Harbes” social media contest, giving them access to the Barnyard Adventure attraction.

“To go to a farm stand and have corn that is picked that very morning…” Mr. Harbes III said, “…we’ve always made a pledge to have fresh-picked corn that very day, that’s something that we can do that the other grocery stores can’t do … The other thing that we’ve learned over the years is that we can sell varieties that we’ve specifically selected for taste and quality rather than shipping characteristics and high yield.”

The Barnyard Adventure area includes pig races and a number of children’s activities throughout the day, including the ability to interact with farm animals, use of the farm’s “Jumbo Jumpers” bounce pillows and use of the farm’s Sports Zone. For preschoolers, a “Lil’ Farmers PlayLand” will be available, along with a trike track and a musical animatronic chicken show.

Harbes Wine Barn, located behind the main farm stand, will also be open, featuring tastings, wine by the glass or bottle and hard cider.

“I think with any family business, one of the best possible outcomes is a business that sons and daughters would enjoy and want to continue and that would have a good chance of being viable for the foreseeable future,” Mr. Harbes III said. “I think that’s the hope of anybody with a family business.”

Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck is located at 715 Sound Ave.

Top photo caption: Harbes Family Farm founder Edward Harbes III and his wife, Monica, Monday. The couple started the Mattituck farm stand in 1989, and have adapted to meet changing times and growing demand. Their son Edward Harbes IV now manages the business. (Credit: Tim Mulrain)

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