Tag Archive | "agriculture"

Local Farmers Discuss Trials, Innovation of East End Agriculture at “Small Bites”

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Pete Ludlow of the Mecox Bay Dairy Farm with "Cinnamon," one of his milking cows, on February 24. Photo by Michael Heller.

Pete Ludlow of the Mecox Bay Dairy Farm with “Cinnamon,” one of his milking cows, on February 24. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

For over 225 years, the farm on the northeast shore of Mecox Bay grew potatoes. Today, Pete Ludlow, the fifth generation of his family to farm the land, is creating an experimental cheddar/blue cheese hybrid and selling raw milk.

The evolution of East End farms from crops like potatoes, corn and melons to new and innovative products will be discussed by Mr. Ludlow and others this Sunday at “Small Bites,” the first panel discussion in a lecture series presented by the Peconic Land Trust. The series, “Long Island Grown: Food and Beverage Artisans at Work,” is bringing food, wine and beer experts to Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton throughout March and April. Local author, pastry chef, and food editor for The East Hampton Star Laura Donnelly will moderate the discussions.

“All of the people who are on the panels,” said Ms. Donnelly, “they’re really the most important people in our community when it comes to food and wine and fishing and everything. They’re all idols of mine, so I’m very excited that I get to do it.”

On Sunday, panelists David Falkowski of Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton and Fred Lee of Sang Lee Farms in Peconic will join Mr. Ludlow in a discussion focused on the expansion of Long Island agriculture from potatoes and cauliflower to exotic greens, mushrooms, artisanal cheese and other products.

From the time Mr. Ludlow’s family started the farm in 1875, the focus at Mecox Bay was always potatoes. “I was born out here on the potato farm,” Mr. Ludlow said. In 2001, the Ludlows decided to diversify—and remain in business—by switching to dairy and, specifically, to making cheese.

Cheese, Mr. Ludlow said, “is a way for a small farm to stay profitable.” In transforming the farm into Mecox Bay Dairy, the Ludlow family made every effort to use the equipment and facilities they already had, converting an old potato barn into a space for cheese making and cow milking.

By focusing on cheese first, which has more value than other dairy products, the Ludlows were able to buy time to develop other products. The farm recently received a permit to sell raw milk and hopes to experiment with ice cream and yogurt production. The Ludlows are also looking to develop a retail business to sell their products, which include pork and beef, on the farm.

On the North Fork, Sang Lee Farms cultivates Asian greens, vegetables, herbs and flowers, dressings and condiments. The family owned and operated certified-organic farm grows over 100 varieties of specialty vegetables and herbs. They produce two kinds of bok choy, edamame, kale and 16 varieties of tomatoes, to name a few.

“He’s a second generation farmer,” Ms. Donnelly said of Mr. Lee, “and he has all kinds of degrees—he’s studied clinical psychology and business. He’s probably doing the hardest thing he could possibly do, but with people’s interest in good food and exotic greens, I’d like to think Sang Lee Farms Is doing well. But they rely on climate and the economy and the weather and, you know, disease outbreak could come along and destroy crops—so it’s not easy.”

In addition to the standard struggles experienced on any farm, East End farmers have another obstacle to contend with when they try to expand their business—the ever-shrinking availability of farmland.

Open Minded Organics started as a small business in David Falkowski’s backyard. Now in his 11th year, Mr. Falkowski is growing over 200 varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs, as well as raising chickens, on his 5-acre farm in Bridgehampton. After finding success in mushrooms, Mr. Falkowski diversified the farm about five years ago and continues adding more products every year—but his expansion is limited by the lack of available farmland.

“I’m at that crux right now and land is very difficult to find. Forget the expense part, which is part of it, but even finding it is very difficult,” said Mr. Falkowski. “What’s happening is these lands that are preserved for low crops or agricultural reserve very often—and I would say more often than not—are no longer producing food.”

Although local governments can’t correct past mistakes that turned historic farmland into scenic vistas on private estates and horse farms, Mr. Falkowski is hopeful they will make better decisions moving forward.

Ms. Donnelly, in turn, is hopeful Mr. Falkowski’s political take on the state of local agriculture—and his proposed solution—will come up during Sunday’s discussion.

“By all means say what you want, it makes it more interesting,” Ms. Donnelly said she told Mr. Falkowski in a pre-interview, adding, “You don’t want people sitting around for an hour and a half saying, ‘I agree, I agree, I agree,’ so I’m hoping there will be some sparks.”

“Small Bites” is Sunday, March 2, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Bridge Gardens, 36 Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton. Reservations are required and refreshments will follow. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members. Tickets for the entire lecture series are $70 for members and $90 for non-members. For reservations, call 283-3195, ext. 19 or email events@peconiclandtrust.org.

Oh Deer! East End Wildlife Groups Plan “No Cull” Rally for Saturday

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deer

By Tessa Raebeck

Plans to unleash federal sharpshooters on the East End deer population have been met with bureaucratic setbacks and vocal opposition, but are moving forward nonetheless.

In coordination with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Long Island Farm Bureau (LIFB) plans to hire USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) sharpshooters to kill deer with high-powered rifles to cull the local herds.

In addition to carrying tick-borne illnesses, causing car accidents and adversely affecting other animal habitats, deer destroy an estimated $3 to $5 million worth of crops annually on the East End, according to Joe Gergela, LIFB executive director.

Gergela said the cull, which will be largely funded by a $200,000 state grant, aims to kill 1,500 to 2,000 deer. All processed meat will go to Island Harvest to feed the hungry on Long Island.

“We felt whatever we did with the grant should be for community as well as farming benefit,” Gergela said Wednesday, adding a cull is crucial to having a successful agricultural industry.

LIFB has asked that villages and towns who want the sharpshooters sign onto the program by committing $15,000 or $25,000, respectively.

The DEC has yet to reveal whether it will require a single permit for the program or make each municipality signing onto the program file individually. Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said Tuesday although many municipalities have expressed interest in joining the program, they don’t want the legal liability of having the permit in their name.

So far, East Hampton Village, Southold Town and the eastern part of Brookhaven Town have signed on.

North Haven Village opted out, but is pursuing its own organized cull.

Sagaponack Village’s participation is contingent on the participation of both East Hampton and Southampton towns.

Southampton Town has thus far stayed mute on the subject — which has been under public discussion since September. Calls to Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst were not returned as of press time.

The East Hampton Town Board, under the previous administration, adopted a deer management plan that included plans for a cull. On Tuesday, however, newly elected Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he was unsure if the town would, in fact, join the LIFB in this initiative.

“At the moment, it’s up in the air,” Cantwell said, adding he would like to see culling on a limited basis and there are advantages to participating, but the town’s decision will be based primarily on the opinions of its residents.

“To some extent,” said Cantwell, “this is happening fairly quickly in terms of building a community consensus moving forward.”

The East Hampton Group for the Wildlife, the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons and 13 individuals have filed suit against East Hampton Town, East Hampton Village and the East Hampton Town Trustees.

The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order against the town’s deer management plan and specifically, any proposal that calls for an organized cull.

“The lawsuit,” Cantwell said, “is certainly a factor in the decision-making process about this.”

Critics contend little information has been provided to show the cull is truly necessary.

“Killing other beings as a way of solving the problem is abhorrent, unethical and monstrous to me,” said East Hampton Group for the Wildlife President Bill Crain. “These are living beings with families and social lives and emotions, so to kill them just seems like a moral outrage.”

“It’s not about animal cruelty and all the nonsense that the Bambi lovers are spouting,” Gergela said. “If they would sit down and listen to people, they would realize there are no practical solutions other than to hunt or to cull.”

A petition on change.org to stop the “stealth plan to brutally slaughter 5,000 East End deer” had garnered over 10,600 signatures as of press time. In addition to local residents, activists from as far away as Belgium have signed the petition, which calls for the “unethical, ‘quick-fix,’ non-science-based plan” to “immediately cease and desist.”

A rally in protest of the cull will be held Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. at the Hook Mill in East Hampton.

Gergela dismissed the opposition as a “vocal minority” of non-locals with “no vested interest other than they enjoy animals and they enjoy their peaceful weekend on Long Island.”

“That’s very nice,” he added, “but for those of us that live here, whether you’re a farmer or a general citizen that’s had an accident, that has Lyme Disease or whatever, everybody says to me, ‘You’re doing a great thing.’”

Local hunters have also expressed their opposition to the cull, arguing if state and local governments lessened hunting restrictions, they themselves could thin the deer population.

Terry Crowley, a lifelong Sagaponack resident whose family has been hunting on the East End for generations, called the cull “a little ridiculous.”

“They should just change a few laws so more deer can be killed,” Crowley said Tuesday.

Thiele is working on legislation that would implement the state deer management plan, which has a number of recommendations to increase hunting opportunities, including expanding the January season to include weekends and allow bow and arrow hunting.

Cantwell voiced his support of such legislation.

“I certainly want to work with the local hunters who want to take deer,” the supervisor said Tuesday, “because I do think that removing some deer from the population on an ongoing basis is necessary to control the population.”