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Southampton Town rejects allowing food trucks at farm stands

Di Jones, co-chef of The Pike food truck,

Di Jones, co-chef of The Pike food truck, takes a break with David Falkowski, owner of the Open Minded Organics farm in Bridgehampton, which houses the food truck. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

A law that would have allowed some Southampton Town farm stands to host food trucks — which farmers said could invigorate their businesses and attract new customers — was rejected by the town board.

The board stopped the proposed law on Tuesday in a 3-2 vote, with councilmen Tommy John Schiavoni and John Bouvier joining Supervisor Jay Schneiderman in voting no. Schneiderman cited concerns that include cooking smells in a residential neighborhood, increased traffic and unfair competition for brick-and-mortar restaurants. 

East End municipalities have struggled with how to address the requests for food trucks as they have become more common, and farms and vineyards see them as a natural complement to their businesses.

“When we set out to do this, we knew it would be a tough [row] to hoe,” Councilwoman Christine Scalera, the bill’s sponsor, said of crafting the legislation.

Southampton Town changed its code in 2015 to allow restaurants to operate accessory food trucks on their premises when the business is closed, but did not address trucks at farms or other businesses.

Southold Town issued several violations last year to wineries that hosted food trucks on their properties, which town officials said was not a permitted use. Town officials are continuing to enforce the code and additional citations have been issued, Town Attorney Bill Duffy said.

The Southampton law would have allowed a third party to operate a food truck at an existing farm stand but would require the ingredients in food served from the vehicle to be 80 percent locally grown and would restrict the operation to weekend lunch hours.

The code change was first requested by Amy Halsey, a 12th-generation farmer and co-owner of The Milk Pail farm stand in Water Mill, which she said has hosted food trucks and live music events in the past.

“Food trucks showcase that [local] food and are in demand by our clients,” Halsey said during a June 11 public hearing. “This is simply another form of adapting to the ever-changing climate in society.”

Several restaurant owners opposed the proposed law, saying food trucks carry less overhead than a restaurant and could siphon away business.

“It is definitely unfair competition on an uneven playing field,” Mike Mannino, owner of World Pie in Bridgehampton, wrote in a letter to the town board.

David Falkowski, of Open Minded Organics, who operates a kitchen and processing facility out of a trailer on the Bridgehampton farm, said the 80 percent local produce figure would be difficult to meet and enforce. He stressed that Long Island farmers can’t rely on wholesale to turn a profit and must innovate to stay relevant.

“That [wholesale] is not the true economic engine of the modern farm on the eastern end of Long Island,” Falkowski said. “What we need to do is drive retail sales.”

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