Tag Archive | "Laura Donnelly"

From Farm to Bottle, “Hops and Brews” to Explore Long Island Alcohol

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Hops growing at Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

Hops growing at Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

By Tessa Raebeck

Long Islanders have been enjoying homegrown potatoes for generations, but rarely has the local harvest been in their vodka.

At “Hops and Brews” this Sunday, a farmer, a brewer and a spirit maker will discuss the various manifestations of the rapidly growing alcohol industry on Long Island. Panelists John Condzella of Condzella Farms in Wading River, Duffy Griffiths of Crooked Ladder Brewing Company in Riverhead and Rich Stabile of Long Island Spirits in Baiting Hollow will reflect on the collaboration between local producers and the strength of Long Island’s wide variety of goods.

Duffy Griffiths, head brewer at the Crooked Ladder Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of Crooked Ladder.

Duffy Griffiths, head brewer at the Crooked Ladder Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of Crooked Ladder.

The second installment of the “Conversations With…” lecture series presented by the Peconic Land Trust, “Long Island Grown: Food and Beverage Artisans at Work” will be moderated by Laura Donnelly, a resident of East Hampton, pastry chef, author and the food editor for The East Hampton Star.

“Some Long Island farmers are making really unique or non-traditional products as they strive to meet a growing demand for locally grown and produced items,” said Kathy Kennedy of the Peconic Land Trust, “We’re excited to be able to showcase some of them.”

“I am very excited to have a chance to moderate this panel,” said Ms. Donnelly. “I am a huge fan of craft brewers and love trying local beers and ales.”

With the recent—and fast—growth of craft beer on Long Island, small hops farming has become economically feasible, creating a symbiotic relationship between farmers and brewers. The hops farmer needs the craft breweries to survive and the craft breweries need the supply from their local farms.

Brewers working with wet hops must do so within 24 hours of the harvest, so finding a local source is crucial to a successful wet hop brew. John Condzella, a fourth generation farmer at Condzella Farms, recognized this demand, adding Condzella Hops to his family farm six years ago.

Rich Stabile of Long Island Spirits. Photo courtesy of Rich Stabile.

Rich Stabile of Long Island Spirits. Photo courtesy of Rich Stabile.

“I wanted to grow a unique crop, something that no other farm was doing,” explained Mr. Condzella. “During college I developed a love for craft beer; I know that was an important catalyst for my hops growing endeavors.”

Initially, Mr. Condzella was picking his hops by hand, enlisting the help of family, friends and local volunteers, until a Kickstarter campaign last spring enabled him to purchase a Wolf WHE 170 Hopfen Pflückmaschine, a German machine that picks them for him. In 2013 alone, Mr. Condzella harvested 800 pounds of hops.

“I think demand on Long Island is growing, the industry is very young. Most local brewers aren’t accustomed to using local whole cone hops. Mainstream hops pellets from around the world are their hops of choice,” Mr. Condzella said.

Hops grower John Condzella of Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

Hops grower John Condzella of Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

The demand is indeed growing: Some of that farm-to-growler beer will be available next year at the Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, which opened in July 2013.

Head Brewer Duffy Griffiths said the brewery will start using local hops in September, “when the fresh hops round comes out.” Condzella’s Hops is an option, although Crooked Ladder hasn’t yet chosen its supplier.

“It’s a matter of just using whole hops and supporting your local industry, rather than buying them from the Pacific Northwest or having them imported, so we try to keep everything local,” Mr. Griffiths said. “It helps out the area.”

Keeping everything local is at the core of Long Island Spirits. Founded in 2007, it is Long Island’s first craft distillery since the 1800s. The flagship product, LiV Vodka is made from Long Island potatoes, many of which are grown on the 5,000 acres of farmland surrounding the North Fork distillery.

Supplied by a variety of local farmers, the marcy russet potatoes arrive at Long Island Spirits in one-ton sacks. Three days a week, the distillery goes through roughly eight tons of potatoes. Every 25 pounds of potatoes makes about one liter of LiV Vodka.

The distillery also makes Rough Riders and Pine Barrens whisky and a collection of Sorbettas, liqueurs infused with fresh fruit.

“We’ll use local raspberries or local strawberries,” explained spirits maker Rich Stabile. “We’re using real fruit infused with the vodka that we grow on Long Island, made from Long Island potatoes.”

“We all know Long Island potatoes are the best,” said Ms. Donnelly. “Rich believes it is the sweet, buttery flavor of the potato that makes his LiV vodka so good. I have tried this vodka and it is excellent.”

“Long Island farmland is some of the best agricultural land in the world,” said Mr. Condzella, whose family farm started with dairy in the 1800s and evolved to a potato operation in the 1920s. “Our maritime climate, fertile soils and abundant sunshine are great for growing most crops, and hops are no exception.”

“Hops and Brews” is Sunday, April 6, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Bridge Gardens, 26 Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton. To reserve a seat, call Robin Harris at 283-3195, ext. 19, or email events@peconiclandtrust.org.

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.