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Strawberry Festival at Benner's Farm is old-time fun

Jean and Robert Benner, a husband and wife

Jean and Robert Benner, a husband and wife team and farmers on their farm, Benner's Farm in East Setauket, a fifteen-acre working farm. May 16, 2015. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Take a right off the modern madness highway of everyday life onto a throwback dirt lane to simpler times.

In the midst of an East Setauket suburban neighborhood there's a 15-acre homestead where chickens roam free and roosters crow in the middle of the afternoon.

Ducks and geese swim in Devil's Pond, a clay hole near the barnyard. Baby goats and sheep romp inside large pens. And some of the 70 chickens come and go from their wired enclosure with the gate ajar, pecking at feed left behind by schoolchildren.


It was an overgrown patch of land when Bob and Jean Benner saw the East Setauket property in the mid-1970s. "It was Sleeping Beauty's farm," says Bob Benner. With no real knowledge on the workings of a farm, "we began to read about how to be a farmer."

Schoolteachers from Northport Village, the couple decided to take it on, turning the dilapidated property, farmed since 1751, back into a farm.

"We became literally self-sufficient," he says. "We produced our own food, produced our own heat, we produced our own clothing . . . entertainment. . . . The first chicken to pot took us three hours. Now we can do it in 10 minutes."

Still, the family needed a way to make money. So they dipped their toes into the waters of "agritainment," a term used when legitimate farms use their property for entertainment and retail sales, creating events around growing seasons, whether it be strawberries or pumpkins.

"Farms make you think about the cycles of things," says Benner.


One of the big events of the summer is this weekend's Strawberry Festival.

The Benners pick all the strawberries and sell them along with homemade jams, chocolate-covered strawberries and shortcake. They also will have strawberry ice-cream-making demonstrations. "We sell almost all the strawberries on those two days," Benner says.

Visitors can join in some old-time fun similar to what would be found at country farm fairs in the 1900s: Listen to bands play, join in an "old-time" baseball game, compete in sack and spoon races and vie for champion status in the bubblegum-blowing contests.

The farm's animals will be out, including a very large cow named Minnie, Elsa the goat and Shrek the baby pig. All the animals born this spring, in fact, are named after Disney characters.

Later in the summer, Benner's Farm brings back its Friday night concert series, featuring local musicians playing behind the historic barn. Bring a blanket or chair to sit on.


WHEN|WHERE Noon-4 p.m. June 6-7, Saturday and Sunday, 56 Gnarled Hollow Rd., corner of Old Town Road, East Setauket

INFO 631-689-8172,

ADMISSION $8($6 younger than 12)


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