Brookhaven is putting the “farm” back in Farmingville.
Officials said they are hoping to promote Long Island agriculture by turning part of the sprawling parking lot at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville into a weekly farmers market, where local growers sell fruits, vegetables, wine, shellfish, seafood and decorative plants.
“It adds value to our products,” said Karl Novak, president of the Long Island Farm Bureau. “It gives more people an opportunity to buy freshly harvested products directly from the producer.”
The market — open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Thursday through Oct. 25 — debuted June 7 with produce from four farms. Town officials said they hope to add more choices in the coming months.
Brookhaven once was dominated by farms that raised ducks, potatoes, a host of other produce, and sod. But development in the decades after World War II left only a few farms in the easternmost part of town.
Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said he hopes the farmers market will help to boost sales at the town’s remaining farms. The town is making the parking lot available to the market for no charge, to help local customers discover “the bounty that Long Island has to offer,” he said.
“We’re big supporters of agriculture,” Romaine said. “We’re not getting any financial remuneration. We’re hoping to help agriculture in Brookhaven.”
Suffolk County, which led the state in agriculture production a few years ago, has dropped to third as upstate dairy farms benefit from increased milk sales to yogurt manufacturers, Novak said.
Novak, who operates Half Hollow Nursery in Laurel and Dix Hills, said Long Island is a great place to grow because of its nearly ideal climate and rich soil. But he said Long Island farmers face high costs for labor, land and property taxes.
Many farms have stayed afloat thanks to interest in “farm-to-table” and organic products, and craft beers, which use locally grown grains, said Farm Bureau vice president Bill Zalakar, who operates Kurt Weiss Greenhouses in Center Moriches,
“It’s strong but it’s struggling,” he said. “With development and land costs, agriculture has to diversify.”
Bob Nolan, owner of Deer Run Farms in Brookhaven hamlet, said selling produce locally is far less expensive than shipping fruits and vegetables off Long Island given the costs of trucking and tolls.
Nolan and his wife Janet, whose son Samuel, 26, and daughter Valerie, 22, are the fifth generation helping to run the family farm, said markets such as the one at town hall help them find new customers right in their own backyard.
“The movement to buy local is very, very helpful to farming,” Janet Nolan said.
Farms participating in the weekly farmers market at Brookhaven Town Hall
- Deer Run Farms, Brookhaven hamlet: Lettuce, cabbage, carrots, radishes, sunflowers, herbs, spinach, pickled vegetables, pies and jams, pesto, bunched beets and berries, honey, cheese.
- Waterdrinker Family Farm, Manorville: Indoor and outdoor seasonal plants
- Bakewicz Farms, Wading River: Fruits and vegetables such as pumpkins, corn and tomatoes, and chrysanthemums and other decorative plants.
- Sannino Vineyard, Peconic: Wine