03/08/13 4:00pm
03/08/2013 4:00 PM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht (left) of Garden of Eve in Riverhead explains her products to a visitor during Saturday’s Community Supported Agriculture Fair at Polish Hall in Riverhead.

Over 150 people gathered to hear the benefits of buying a share in a local organic farm at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York’s Community Supported Agriculture fair held at Polish Hall in Riverhead last weekend. This was the second time such a fair was held on Long Island, and the first time it was held in Riverhead.

“I’m pleasantly surprised by the number of people here,” said Fred Lee, owner of Sang Lee Farms in Peconic. “If they could join a CSA, it would help that farm tremendously.”

Members of the community buy a farm share in the late winter, and during summer and into fall they receive a season’s worth of fresh farm produce in return.

“CSAs are very beneficial for the farms,” Mr. Lee said. “By taking payments up front, it produces a lot of up-front capital we can then use for fertilizers, land rent, to pay workers and things like that.”

“We’ve been doing this for eight years now,” Mr. Lee said. “Last year we had over 600 shares.”

Farm shares range from about $400 to $600 a season, and buyers will receive fresh produce for about 25 weeks through the summer and fall, said Nicole Dennis, CSA fair coordinator. Each farm handles shares individually, and produce ranges depending on what each farm grows, she said.

“We like to think of ourselves as a specialty vegetable producer,” said Mr. Lee, whose vegetables include bok choy, Asian radishes and snow peas. “Things that may not be in other shares.”

Steph Gaylor, owner of Invincible Summer Farms in Southold, said she plants 350 types of tomatoes and 250 kinds of peppers, and says that diversity is what sets Invincible Summer Farms apart. Ms. Gaylor said she offers 40 shares, providing shareholders fresh produce weekly for 20 weeks.

“I think this is great. CSAs on the East End have been around for a while. I think it needs to travel west,” Ms. Gaylor said.

“Long Island has some of the best soil in the U.S.,” said Roxy Zimmer, representing KK’s Farm in Southold. “I think people are discovering that the taste of food grown on local farms is more delicious. It’s a step away from the lack of quality in industrial agriculture.” She said KK’s Farm offers what’s called a Gourmet CSA that has no up-front fee.

“The people that take advantage of the farms out here really benefit,” said Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht, owner of Garden of Eve in Riverhead. “Our goal is that you get more than what you paid for.”

Ms. Kaplan-Walbrecht said shareholders get seven to 9 different types of produce a week depending on what’s in season.

“I got a few people to sign up,” said Phil Barbato, owner of Biophilia Organic Farm in Jamesport. “It’s very nice to see all these people interested in organic local food.” Mr. Barbato said he only offers 50 farm shares a year.

“I think the fact that [my program] is so small, I get to know everyone personally,” he said. “I really enjoy that part.”

Mr. Barbato said he sends his shareholders weekly newsletters with updates and information about the farm. He also started a young farmers program so the children or grandchildren of his CSA members can learn about agriculture. The children plant seeds in his greenhouse, and when those seeds grow into a seedling, the kids get their own space to plant them on his farm, Mr. Barbato said.

“I want them to see what it’s like; they can see how wonderful it is,” said Mr. Barbato, who hopes to get other children in the community interested as well.

Elena and Ron Dobert of Mattituck made their way around the fair, hearing about the different types of produce each farm offered.

“We have a garden and we are trying to eat more healthy,” Ms. Dobert said. “This seemed like a good opportunity to have organic vegetables.”

About an hour later she and her husband chose to sign up with Mr. Barbato, saying the location, price and the way he would keep them informed and educated about the farm is what set Biophilia Organic Farm apart from the others.

“And he has flowers,” Ms. Dobert said with a smile. “We are looking forward to it.”

To find out more about purchasing a farm share visit farms individually or log on to nofany.org/csafair.

07/29/12 12:00pm
07/29/2012 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Farmer Ken Jurow harvests tomatoes in the ‘big house’, an Aquebogue greenhouse where he grows 22 varieties of heirloom and cherry tomatoes.

Late last winter, a small wooden box appeared along a stretch of Route 25 between Aquebogue and Jamesport, announcing that fresh organic lettuce was available there. Every morning, there would be about a half-dozen bags brimming with lettuce on the stand, which disappeared by midday.

In early spring, the lettuce sign was replaced by others announcing the availability of big heirloom tomato plants — which are grown from historic seeds saved for generations. Those plants also disappeared quickly.

Then, a couple months ago, a real farm stand appeared on the spot. Long Season Farm was now officially open for business.

The farm, which right now consists primarily of a small cluster of greenhouses on land owned by a friend, is run by Ken and Laurie Jurow and their three sons.

The couple lives in Quogue, but their longtime friends John and Irene Sipala, who run Whitman Nurseries in Jamesport, have been urging them for years to farm a small portion of their land.

Last year, when Mr. Jurow’s work as a carpenter began to dry up, the couple decided to dip their toes in the waters of growing local food. They grew some tomato plants for the wholesale market, which they sold by word-of-mouth.

They’re both longtime foodies with a love for unique vegetables, and that’s the principle behind their new farm stand.

“We want to grow what most people don’t grow,” Mr. Jurow said during a busy day of tending his tomatoes last week. “People don’t grow five kinds of eggplants. We have way more kinds of tomatoes than anybody.”

In the greenhouses, the tomatoes are now 14 feet high, despite the fact that they are grown with simple ingredients: each plant is placed in a big bucket of pure leaf compost and watered regularly. That’s it.

The they some food from other growers, including golden plums, corn and onions, but their philosophy is to sell only food they grow organically themselves or can source within a 10-mile radius. (They sometimes stretch that limit to include growers near their home in Quogue.) And they only stock enough produce at the farm stand to sell in one day.

“We don’t want to bring in pineapples from Hawaii or go to Hunts Point. We want it to be about local,” said Ms. Jurow, who works at the farm when she’s not at her day job as a case manager for an independent living group. “Many stands are like supermarkets. But we want to be a farm stand.”

The couple’s sons are also avid spearfishers, who bring fresh caught striped bass to the stand and prepare them for customers on the spot.

The new farmers’ philosophy is beginning to pay off.

Dave Plath of Grana, a brick-oven gourmet pizza restaurant in Jamesport, was buying green beans for the restaurant during a recent visit by reporters to Long Season Farm, whose vegetables are also on the menu at Starr Boggs in Westhampton Beach and at The Riverhead Project.

“Ken is a cook,” said Ms. Jurow. “He always tried to find the best quality ingredients.”

Mr. Jurow is also happy to stop work to share his recipes with customers. One of his favorites is a simple fresh Italian tomato sauce, made in a large flat-bottomed frying pan, unlike canned sauce usually used in Italian-American cooking.

“You drop the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove them and peel the skin. Roughly chop them — there’s no need to seed,” he said. “In a large, medium-hot frying pan, barely coat the bottom with olive oil. Smash one clove of garlic and add it to the oil. Add tomatoes until they’re about three-quarters of an inch thick in the pan. Italians use a wide pan, because it cooks quickly. Cook until the juices are released from he tomatoes. Add almost cooked pasta. When the water is absorbed, the dish is done.”

Ms. Jurow shook her head.

“Dave is one of the most confident chefs I know,” she said.

“It’s like art,” he said. “Less is more. I use all heirloom tomatoes. They’re analogous to wine. They all have their own character and flavor, and they’re all fabulous.”

The couple doesn’t plan to expand the business beyond what it offers now. They do plan to sell more heirloom tomato plants next spring. This spring, they sold out of the 1,000 extra plants they grew and were turning people away.

“People keep coming in to give me updates on their plants. They bring in leaves with spots on them to ask me to identify problems,” he said. “I’m becoming like the tomato doctor of Jamesport.”

“I don’t want to be that big,” Mr. Jurow said of his business. “It’s all about the integrity of the food. With food in general, small is better.”

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07/10/12 3:00pm
07/10/2012 3:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Ashley Schmitt of Phil Schmitt and Sons Farm on Sound Avenue in Riverhead husks some corn for a customer at the farm stand on Sound Avenue. Some farmers growing corn will have an opportunity to try a new type of fertilizer.

Local farmers growing sweet corn will have an opportunity to try a new fertilizer this season designed to better protect groundwater and the Long Island Sound, according to a press release from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

The controlled-release nitrogen fertilizer is designed to break down over time according to the plant’s need for nutrients as opposed to regular fertilizer which dissolves from heavy rain, the release states. Suffolk County’s sandy soil, especially during spring rain, is susceptible to leaching of nitrogen from conventional nitrogen fertilizer.

Suffolk farmers can experiment with the new product at no risk to losing money.

The collaborative project involving Cornell, Agflex and American Fundland Trust is part of the grant-funded BMP Challenge system, which reimburses farmers who experience any reduction in their harvest after implementing the new product.

“The BMP Challenge protects the investment for farmers so they don’t have to ‘bet the farm’ on new techniques,” said Dr. Tom Green, president of Agflex.

Participating farmers will set up a side-by-side comparison with at least 8-planted rows wide running the full length of the field.

“This project will help demonstrate that it is possible to reduce the fertilizers while maintaining profitability,” said David Haight of American Farmland Trust.

Suffolk County farms sold over $300 million in farm products, more than any other county in New York, according to the 2010 U.S. Census of Agriculture, officials said.

Non-point sources of nitrogen, such as fertilizer, accounted for an estimated 72-82 percent of the total nitrogen from Suffolk County into the Sound, according to a model developed by the county with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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