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Ann Pellegrino

From left, Legislative Aide Bill Maggi, Hobbs Farm President Larry Corbett, HF Vice President Ann Pellegrino, Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore, Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle and HF Treasurer Cindy Gallo. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) was honored at the Bethel Hobbs Community Farm’s Harvest Fair Oct. 6 for his many years of dedicated support of the farm’s programs. The legislator was recently able to secure a $29,616 grant for the 11-acre Centereach farm, which donates 90 percent of its vegetables to area food pantries.

Children enjoy the farm’s Harvest Fair. Photo by Heidi Sutton

“This is a great place in Centereach — the last remaining farm we have in this area. Legislator Muratore was the one that really turned me on to Hobbs Farm and what was going on here,” Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) said before presenting a plaque to the legislator along with the farm’s President Larry Corbett and Vice President Ann Pellegrino. “He’s been, for years, a huge supporter of this farm, whether it’s been working with me to do the Run the Farm to raise money, to bring in grants, to help out any way possible.”

“I can’t do enough for Hobbs Farm. This is our jewel here in the district. We love this place – it brings so much,” Muratore said, pointing to the families enjoying the festival. “I thank Ann, I thank Hobbs Farm and, most of all, I thank you my community. God bless you.”

Bethel Hobbs Farm's Run the Farm 4-mile challenge kicks off. Photo from Councilman Kevin LaValle's office

By Kyle Barr

For Ann Pellegrino, the founder of Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach which donates 90 percent of its locally grown vegetables to area food pantries, the mission hits close to home.

“Years ago I was a single mother with three kids working two different jobs, and I’ve had to go to food pantries a couple times,” she said. “But when you go to the typical food pantry, you get boxed stuff, stuff that doesn’t have any nutrients, stuff that doesn’t have any vitamins in it, it’s just stuff to fill your belly.”

Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach holds an annual community race to raise money for the farm. Photo by Kyle Barr

Because the mission is so important to her, when government funds ran dry, she needed help.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) stepped in with an idea to host a local race to bring the community together while helping to raise funds for the farm.

LaValle called for help from Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and Hobbs Farms volunteers and the annual Run the Farm Four-Mile Challenge was born.

Now in its third year, more than 200 runners of all strengths and abilities came out on a warm, humid day Aug. 19 to support the farm. In total, more than $7,500 was raised.

“This is the last remaining farm in Centereach — It’s not only a part of our history but an active part of our history,” LaValle said. “You have kids 5, 6 years old, you have college kids, high school kids, seniors that are out there volunteering. It brings so many people together in this community for a great cause.”

The runners lined up at the start in front of the Oxhead Road Elementary School and waited for the horn. Their route took them in a loop that ended on the west side of the farm where they were greeted by cheering family members, friend and volunteers. Tall yellow sunflowers and green vegetables could be seen growing beyond the archway to the farm and a sign saying “Love Grows Here.”

“I was remarried and I was able to step back a little bit because people were there for me,” Pellegrino said. “I wanted to give back to people stuff that wasn’t just packaged.”

The Bethel Hobbs Community Farm’s founder, Ann Pellegrino, donates most of the produce to local food pantries. File photo

The volunteers at Bethel Hobbs farm are often community members, with a handful of student volunteers from Suffolk County Community College and Stony Brook University.

“I live three houses down from here, so I’m always here helping out when I’m not in college, and when I’m not busy during the semester I stop by and do some help inside the community,” said SCCC student Bershell Hall. “I think it’s really great what they do here, because they have health standards, people in the community can come here and pull for their own usage.”

Kraig Rau placed first in the race with a time of 22 minutes, 52 seconds. He strode across the finish line with a body and face streaming with sweat, and he gladly took the water bottle from a volunteer’s outstretched hand. Rau grew up in the community and graduated from Centereach High School.

“It’s my second time here; I was here last year,” he said. “I think it’s a great event, it’s the local community here. I live a mile away so I run here and then I just run home.”

The run was sponsored by several groups, including a few large-scale food chains like Whole Foods and ShopRite. A group of 21 employees from the Selden ShopRite showed up to support the event.

“The farm is vital to the infrastructure of the island and Middle Country, and we’re very fortunate to have it,” said Charles Gallagher, the owner of the Selden ShopRite. “We need to make sure we continue to support it, it’d be a real shame if it went away.”

Volunteers help out in the garden at the Bethel Hobbs Community Farm, located on Oxhead Road in Centereach. File photo

By Jenni Culkin

A small Centereach farm, about 11 acres in size, is reaching out to the community to raise the funds necessary to continue doing its good work.

The farm has been growing vegetables and other crops to donate to food pantries and people in need since 2007, according to Peter Castorano, one of Bethel Hobbs Community Farm’s caretakers, who lives in the sole house on the property.

“Ann started it all,” said Castorano.

That Ann is Ann Pellegrino.

The Centereach woman discovered the farm, which wasn’t too far from her house, after she sought a place to continue gardening and donating the crops to the poor.

Former Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Kathy Walsh and farm Director Ann Pellegrino put their backs into it at Hobbs Farm. File photo
Former Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Kathy Walsh and farm Director Ann Pellegrino put their backs into it at Hobbs Farm. File photo

Alfred Hobbs willed the farm to the Bethel AME Church, its owner since 1955. Pellegrino decided to take over the farm’s maintenance, although it is still owned by Bethel Church. She is now the vice president of the farm, which donates tens of thousands of pounds of crops to those in need each year.

The farm has recently experienced an invasion by wild deer, which are eating some of the farm’s crops. The deer eating the crops has significantly lowered the overall productivity of the farm.

“It costs a lot to maintain the farm,” Pellegrino said.

For this reason, an inaugural 4-mile run, which will take place on Saturday, Aug. 22, at 9 a.m., will help raise money for a higher fence to prevent further invasion by the deer population. Advanced registration is $20. In addition, it will cost $5 for children to participate in the Kids Fun Run. There will be awards for runners, music and raffles at the event.

“It’s a really great cause,” Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) said. “Hobbs farm is a hidden jewel in the area.”

According to LaValle, the run has been made official by USA Track & Field. It will be timed and kept track of like any other official race.

“We would like to make this a yearly event,” Pellegrino said.

The inaugural run is not the only way to make a difference.

There are only approximately eight regular volunteers at the farm, including Dottie Meade, Elaine Gaveglia and Jason Castorano. Castorano finds himself fixing the farm equipment and handling the maintenance of heavy machinery, like the tractor. Meade helps out with a plot of land designated to educating young children and helping them learn and grow.

Meade said regular volunteers included the Green Teens from the Middle Country Public Library, volunteers from Long Island colleges like Suffolk County Community College, Stony Brook University and Adelphi University and the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts.

“We need volunteers, we need sponsors and we need the word out,” Pellegrino said.

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