Lewis Oliver Farm volunteer Allison Whiffen brushes Annabelle the cow...

Lewis Oliver Farm volunteer Allison Whiffen brushes Annabelle the cow as Big the goat watches. Credit: Rick Kopstein

A nonprofit that manages the Lewis Oliver Farm in Northport is seeking paid help from Suffolk County and Huntington Town to boost its all-volunteer staff to run the farm, but county and town officials say while they will make sure the animal sanctuary continues to operate, hiring permanent paid staff is not likely.

Friends of the Farm, which has been operating the farm under a 2007 agreement with the town, reiterated its need for permanent paid staff after Suffolk County Legis. Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) said last week the county approved the hiring of two summer interns at $16 an hour to help around the farm.

Lorene Eriksen, a Farm board member who's managed the farm for 18 years, said the farm would like the county or the town to hire two full-time employees or four part-time workers to help run the 134-year-old facility. Eriksen said relying on volunteers to come in consistently to care for mostly elderly animals while also trying to raise money is "just overwhelming and we need help." 

The nonprofit says it also needs help with researching grant applications while it tries to meet its annual $100,000 fundraising goal.

Lewis Oliver Farm

  • The nonprofit Friends of the Farm, which oversees Lewis Oliver Farm in Northport, says it needs paid help to run the animal sanctuary.
  • A neighborhood fixture for more than 130 years, the farm was once used to farm cabbage and cauliflower and was later a dairy farm.
  • It was saved from development in 2007.

“There really will be no future here unless you have a permanent employment structure,” Eriksen said Tuesday. 

County and town officials said Eriksen asked for paid help last year citing the workload at the farm. Huntington provided two part-time summer workers in 2023, town officials said.

Bontempi said the county interns who will work this summer are being paid through a New York State youth summer employment grant. 

Eriksen said while she appreciates the summer help, it's temporary and serves only as a "Band-Aid."

The county is not likely to fund permanent positions for the farm as it has other critical hiring needs, Bontempi said. “That is usually why municipalities partner with organizations that can provide the necessary workers and staffers.” 

The farm, nestled on 2 1/2 acres on Burt Avenue in a residential community, is home to about 33 animals including a cow, three alpacas and 22 chickens. It was purchased in 2007 by the Town of Huntington and Suffolk County to preserve a "historic community landmark dating back to the mid-1800s," according to the farm's website. Friends of the Farm is responsible for the animal care, gardens and educational programs, and it oversees the "day-to-day operations and fundraising," the website says.

Eriksen said she, along with nearly 15 volunteers, help feed and care for the animals and clean the facility. She did not provide the number of volunteers the farm has used over the years, saying volunteer help is cyclical. Eriksen said she works at least 30 hours a week tending to the farm's day-to-day operations. 

The Town of Huntington and the Village of Northport offer services such as plowing the parking lot, fixing fences and other small repairs through their general services departments. 

The farm is open to the public on Saturdays and Mondays during limited hours and plans to extend hours later in the spring and summer, Eriksen said. 

Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth said Friends of the Farm has been a good steward of the farm, but if managing the facility is too much, he would consider all options, “including finding another entity that can manage the farm without town or county help.” 

In 2007, the town and county split the $1.6 million cost of buying the farm to save it from development. Northport Village agreed to help manage the facility.

Northport Village Deputy Mayor Meghan Dolan said Tuesday the village is also committed to making sure the farm continues operating and that it has "unlimited potential for more impact for the community so seeing it succeed is everyone's goal."

Friends of the Farm, which is registered as a 501(c)(3) in New York, relies on grants and donations to pay for animal care, including veterinary expenses, feed and bedding, Eriksen said. The nonprofit's main fundraiser is held in connection with the The Great Cow Harbor Race held annually in Northport Village, Eriksen said. 

According to the nonprofit’s 2022 tax filing, the most recent available, it recorded a total revenue of $93,840.

Eriksen said they have not taken in any animals in six years to focus on the ones already in their care.

Maya Kolb, 2, visits the chicken coop at Northport's Lewis Oliver...

Maya Kolb, 2, visits the chicken coop at Northport's Lewis Oliver Farm with her mom, Dana Kolb, Tuesday. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Whenever possible Dana Kolb takes her daughter Maya, 2, to the farm, which is within walking distance from their home.

Maya checks in on Annabelle the cow, Ezra the alpaca, and Blaze the goat and the other animals that have lived at the sanctuary for more than a decade. 

"It's a great place for kids,” Kolb said.

Correction: An earlier version of the story misstated the number of staffing the farm operator requested that Suffolk County and Huntington Town provide the nonprofit.

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