By Kathryn G. Menu
On a crisp fall Monday morning at North Sea Farms and Kings Farm Stand in Southampton, Richard King helps Samantha Dosch load 100 pumpkins into the back of a pick-up truck that will be delivered to Catena’s Food Market and then a local school. Behind them, King’s father, Richard “Tate” King – the second of three generations of the King family that have worked the dozen acres off Noyac Road – watches, standing near a small pile of late autumn sweet corn, baby pumpkins and brightly hued squash, laying hens clucking and turkeys honking in the background.
North Sea Farms has been a part of South Fork agriculture since 1945, when King’s grandparents, Stanley and Julia, opened the then dairy and poultry farm on 25-acres. Since 1975, the farm no longer boasts cows, but continues to hold true to its credo, “A Small Farm with a Little Bit of Everything.”
A poultry farm that offers free range, organic chickens, turkeys and eggs, North Sea Farms also offers a variety of produce, herbs, baked goods and local products, a veritable one-stop-shop for East End residents with a craving for food grown locally by a family with generations of experience.
Right now, as the harvest is fast approaching its end, and Halloween just around the corner, King said much of the activity at North Sea Farms is centered around the pumpkins and fall vegetables grown at the farm like broccoli, brussels sprouts, winter squash and gourds.
“We have some very nice kale right now,” said King. “And we grow a lot of lettuces. The sandy, organic soil, likes the lettuce.”
With the approach of Thanksgiving and Christmas, King is also focused on his turkeys and chickens, which combined with egg sales, make up a hefty amount of the fall business at North Sea Farms.
King, who began his career at the farm as a small child boxing eggs for his parents with his siblings and later earned degrees in agriculture and animal sciences from Alfred University and Cornell University, raises his poultry free range, without the use of hormones or antibiotics.
On Monday morning, some turkeys were found roaming around their outdoor pen, while the rest of the rafter were inside a light-filled barn, eating feed made from local corn in East Moriches. Similarly, further up the hill on the farm, chickens of various sizes move around their pen freely, feeding, bathing, while the King family goat, Gilbert, waits patiently to be petted in the next outdoor pen.
According to King, the farm raises about 700 turkeys each year, ranging in size from 12-pounds to 25-pounds by the time they are sold.
North Sea Farms sells out of turkeys every Thanksgiving and is one of the only farms on the South Fork that carries locally raised turkeys for the holiday season.
King noted that in the last 10 years, in particular, there has been more of a market for organic products and locally grown produce and raised poultry. Not a new trend at North Sea Farms, King proudly displayed the mound of compost overlooking his fields – compost made of vegetable scraps, eggshells and various manures that is turned into his soil each year creating a more sustainable, and successful, agricultural operation at the farm.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “The snap dragons popped right up this year without needing any extra fertilizer. Everything we put in there, on some level, contains nutrients.”
That is evident when looking at the lush lettuce heads, abundant Brussels sprout stalks, broccoli and cauliflower grown at the farm and displayed inside the country market. Walking into the small, one-story wood building, one is greeted by small pots displaying an assortment of herbs — tarragon, sage, oregano, lemon balm, chervil, marjoram — lovingly displayed with handwritten, cursive tags detailing their aromatic qualities. Local potatoes, from the Falkowski’s Bridgehampton farm, line one side of the store, which ends up feeling like a celebration of local East End food. Milk Pail apples in bags decorate one table, the Milk Pail cider found in the refrigerator next to cartons of North Sea Farms eggs, Mecox Bay Dairy and Catapano Dairy Farm cheeses.
According to King, the farm sells on average 300 dozen eggs a week, many to families that have become regular clients at the farm.
Dosch, who graduated with distinction from the Suffolk County Community College with a degree in culinary arts in 2010, has worked at the farm since she was 14 years old. She bakes apple crisps, makes local apple sauce, as well as spice and apple butters to sell in the market during the holiday season.
Naturally, the store also features the celebrated baked goods of King’s sister, Kathleen King, the creator of Tate’s Bake Shop — named for her father. Her cookies and pies sit next to freshly baked bread from Blue Duck Bakery.
Kathleen, said King, is largely in charge of the Thanksgiving dinner at their household, which usually features a corn bread and sausage stuffing, and of course, a turkey from North Sea Farms.
North Sea Farms and King’s Farm Stand are located at 1060 Noyac Road in Southampton. For more information, call 283-0735 or visit their page on Facebook.