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Malverne residents look for farm's return

A view of Grossmann's Farm which is being

A view of Grossmann's Farm which is being developed and managed by the Nassau Land Trust. (Feb. 27, 2011) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Sow optimism and you might harvest tomatoes, lettuce and squash, not to mention a hands-on education in farming.

That was the message from members of the Nassau Land Trust as they asked Malverne residents for patience and support in getting the former Grossmann's farm running again.

About 75 people Sunday packed into the Joseph L. Landers Memorial Restoration House down the street from the farm for an event hosted by the Malverne Historical and Preservation Society.

"This is clearly the most exciting project we're involved in," said Lloyd Zuckerberg, president of the Nassau Land Trust, the nonprofit group. "Locally grown food is really something everyone is talking about."

The 5.8-acre parcel between Ocean and Hempstead avenues had lain barren since 2007, when the Grossmann family closed its doors after running the farm since 1895. Nassau County paid the family $6.5 million in 2009. The Grossmann family retained 0.2 acres, with the original house on the property, and the village was given an 0.4-acre parcel.

Residents - some skeptical and others enthusiastic - brought their questions and offers to volunteer to work on the farm.

Bill Walsh, the head farmer, said he expects to have flowers to sell by late April. The farm will yield organic vegetables and fruits; Walsh began sowing seeds this week, he said.

"I am amazed by how many people want to be a part of this farm," Walsh said.

Susan Hennessy, 68, a 30-year resident of Malverne, had fond memories of the farm when it was operated by the Grossmann family. Everyone went there for the hanging plants, flowers, and fresh vegetables and pies for Thanksgiving, she said.

"That's why a lot of us are thrilled it's going to be what it's going to be again," she said.

Some, however, voiced concern that there wasn't enough communication about volunteering at the farm.

Larry Hoppenhaure, 60, a travel agent who grew up in the village, said he supported the new farm venture but wondered if the Nassau Land Trust was overly ambitious.

"They want to open a farm in a month but they don't know for sure what they're going to have yet," he said.

The county has purchased or blocked development of two other farms, under the 2004 and 2006 Environmental Bond Acts. The others are Fruggie's Farm in East Meadow and Meyer's Farm in Woodbury.

The event seemed bittersweet for members of the Grossmann family.

Barbara Grossmann Kutcher began to tear up when she talked about the difficult decision to sell the family farm.

"This is very personal for me, so I just hope the farm will be up to the caliber it was when we had it," said Kutcher, who lives across the street. To volunteer at the farm, call 888-547-5757.

How the farm was sold

2004: George Grossmann dies at 81. His sister Barbara dies at 91. Descendants consider selling the farm.

2007: Family harvests its last crop.

2008/2009: Family talks to developer who plans to build town houses on the lot. The housing market and community opposition kill the deal.

Sept. 2009: Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi plans to use money from the county's 2006 Environmental Bond Act to purchase Grossmann's farm for $6.5 million.

Dec. 2010: The county and the Nassau Land Trust sign a 10-year contract for the trust to operate the space as a farm.

To volunteer at the farm, go to NassauLandTrust.org or call 888-547-5757.

- Candice Ferrette

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