Vincent Lopez tried to deny that his destiny was farming. He grew up on his grandfather’s 150-acre farm in Guatemala where the major crops were coffee, corn and chickpeas. Since immigrating to the U.S. at age 19, he worked as, among other jobs, a server (at Manhattan’s Tavern on the Green), winery worker (at Riverhead’s Palmer Vineyards) and, most of all, a stone mason before establishing his own construction business, specializing in pools and patios. But a part-time job at D & J Organic Farm in Yaphank starting in 2012 got its hooks in him and wouldn’t let go.
In 2019, Lopez bought the farm from owner David Yen, moved into the farmhouse and re-christened the farm 4E, after his three sons and goddaughter, whose names all begin with "e."
Drive down Yaphank Avenue and you’ll still see the weathered D & J sign. It’s not until you’re at the end of the driveway that you begin to take in the scale of the operation, with 10 enormous greenhouses and almost four acres of tilled fields.
In-the-know customers sometimes drop by the farm, but the retail stand is a work in progress. Lopez’s stocks in trade are his CSA and supplying farmers markets, five of them on Long Island: Babylon, Huntington, Hampton Bays, Three Village (in Setauket, which also has an online ordering system) and Deep Roots (formerly Sea Cliff, now in Glen Cove). He is also one of the few local farms that sells at winter markets since the greenhouses allow him to grow all year long.
Now, the heaters for the greenhouses are turned off and soon, the fabric "roofs" may be rolled back to let in rain and direct sunlight. From Yen, a native of Taiwan, Lopez inherited an appreciation of and knack for Chinese greens: yu choy, Chinese mustard, gai lan, baby bok choy and more. Other spring greens include curly kale, Tuscan kale, chard, spinach (baby and adult), arugula and various lettuces. Outside, potatoes, tomatoes and squash are just starting to sprout. There are also chickens for eggs and plans for a pond for freshwater fish.
Lopez supervises all of this while fielding calls and texts from homeowners all over Long island who need him to construct a wall, extend a driveway, install a pool. At 62, he has no plans to slow down "My grandfather told me, ‘Never stop working or you will rust like any metal. Keep working, teach your children how to work and they will thrive too.’"