Seventy years after his grandfather founded his family’s Eastport duck farm, Paul Massey will next week start the process of raising the farm’s last set of ducks.
About 3,000 eggs will be put in an incubator Thursday for four weeks until they are ready to be hatched. Then, in the last week of November or first week of December when they have grown, they will be sold for slaughter and eventual distribution.
“I’ll probably keep breeders until the end of the year and then I’ll get rid of them and that will be it,” said Massey, 56, who runs Chester Massey & Sons with his brother Kurt, 48.
The duo took over the farm from their father, Chester, 83, who still lives on the property.
Paul Massey said he needs to shutter the operation because of costs associated with new New York State Department of Conservation regulations that would have required him to move his free-range ducks indoors, along with rising taxes and higher feed and utility costs.
In the 1970s, Chester Massey & Sons hatched and raised more than 250,000 ducks a year. At its peak, it hatched 500,000 ducks a year, until a farm that it was working with went out of business. This year, it will wind up hatching and raising about 100,000 ducks, Massey said.
“It’s harder and harder to make a living at it, unfortunately,” he said.
The DEC responded in an e-mail stating the agency "has made efforts to work cooperatively with Mr. Massey of Chester Massey & Sons Farms Duck farm regarding the necessary requirements to operate the duck farm under the Environmental Conservation Law and regulations. DEC has relayed the multiple options for compliance with state Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations regulations.
"Ducks can be kept outdoors but it must be done in a manner that protects water quality. It is certainly possible for this farm to get permit coverage and to develop and implement a comprehensive nutrient management plan that includes pasturing / access to the outdoors."
Eastern Long Island was once home to more than 70 ducks farms, with Eastport serving as a hub. When the Massey barn doors close, there will be no duck farms left in Eastport. The closure will also leave only one duck farm on Long Island — Crescent Duck Farm in Aqueboque.
Massey, who isn’t sure what he’ll do after closing the farm, said he regrets that his grandchildren will not get to have the experience of growing up on the farm like he did.
“I’ve been running around here since I’m a little kid. It’s shame that some of the heritage on Long Island is being lost,” Massey said. “I guess that’s a fact of economics of today.”