Tags Posts tagged with "Farm"

Farm

Sign outside Bakewicz Farms. Photo by Kyle Barr

On 11 acres of farmland in Wading River, the cross section between green living and green energy is coming to a head as developers are looking to install a solar energy storage facility.

“There are going to be days when the sun doesn’t shine, and the wind doesn’t blow,” said Rocky Point-based attorney Steve Losquadro, who is representing the developer TradeWind Energy and property owners Manzi Homes East construction company in Rocky Point. “If you’re truly committed to renewable energy you have to have storage. Otherwise, the whole thing doesn’t work.”

The 11-acre Bakewicz Farms property, located along Route 25A in Wading River down the road from Shoreham-Wading River High School, is rented by the Bakewicz family. Justin Bakewicz, who helps run the farm along with his mother, Marianne, said he built the farm up for two years, from selling hanging baskets to now growing crops and raising livestock. It was his dream to live that rural lifestyle since he was a kid spending time on his grandfather’s farm in Southampton.

“I put my blood, sweat and tears into this farm,” Bakewicz said.

“I put my blood, sweat and tears into this farm.”

— Justin Bakewicz

The land is already zoned for residential, and Losquadro said it already has preliminary approval from the Town of Brookhaven for a subdivision of 14 single-family homes. The attorney stressed new homes could lead to more traffic along the often-traveled corridor, along with concerns over nitrogen pollution from cesspools and a tax impact from the potential new students residences bring. This development would also mean the complete elimination of any farm property.

Losquadro said, due to feedback from locals, they are planning to draft up plans of the property that would shield the station from view with trees and accommodate a section of farmland in the front of the property to maintain that rural feel.

“This is the only path they could use to keep the farm,” Losquadro said.

Sid Bail, the president of the Wading River Civic Association, said he has heard from residents who were concerned homes might increase the burden on the Shoreham-Wading River school district. Originally Bail had invited TradeWind to give talks to the civic at its meeting in April, though after listening to more feedback from the community, he said he would withdraw from that meeting and tell the developer to focus on other properties such as the unused site that was once the Shoreham nuclear power plant.

“I’m just getting it’s the wrong location in reaction from other people,” Bail said. “I’ve also had some second thoughts about this.”

For years, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has set lofty goals for New York’s renewable energy production, particularly to have 50 percent of the state’s energy consumed to be renewable energy by 2030. In January, during his State of the State address, the governor announced the adoption of a Green New Deal to promote projects and jobs in the renewable energy economy.

The area has been a focal point for renewable energy under this state initiation. Two solar farms are already soaking up the sun’s rays in neighboring Shoreham: one, a 9.5-megawatt array on a former sod farm along Route 25A, and another 24.9-megawatt array on the former Tallgrass golf course. 

While solar panels have existed for years, renewable energy storage facilities are much less prolific. The closest existing structure currently operates in East Hampton, though that property only has a 5-megawatt capacity whose facility takes up less than one acre. The Wading River facility would have a much larger capacity and need a larger footprint, according to Bail.

Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said the prospective location is close to the area’s power lines and the LIPA electrical substation, which is why the prospective developers are looking closely at the Wading River property. Because the technology is so new, Bonner said TradeWind and the property owner will likely have to work closely with the town, and it might require a zoning change similar to what was done with the solar farms in Shoreham, which maintained residential zoning but received 20-year zone overlays allowing for the arrays.

“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

— Jane Bonner

She has heard from residents on both sides of the issue. Some locals raised concerns about the loss of farmland and potential noise from converters at the facility, while others are all for the idea, especially in the promise of reducing traffic on the often-congested state road.

“People don’t want houses because they don’t want traffic, some say they will miss the farm, but I have gotten complaints about traffic from the farm,” Bonner said. “You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

At a Wading River civic meeting Jan. 24, Bakewicz was asked what his thoughts on the potential facility were. 

“I wish we had another year to stay here,” he said, adding the family is trying to work out a deal to create a farm on some property in Center Moriches, and he would need time to set up that deal. “I threw my hands up and said, ‘I have handcuffs on because my hands are tied.’”

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.”

Rose Andrews gives children a tour of her family’s farm. Photo by Doreen O’Connor

By Erin Dueñas

Nineteen-year-old Rose Andrews has no idea what it means to be bored. Part of the sixth generation of Andrews who work the land at Andrews Family Farm in Wading River, there is work to be done from sunrise till sunset.

Up by 6 a.m., Andrews’ days begin by collecting eggs from the farm’s hens. Throughout the day, she might cut sunflowers to sell at the stand, deliver fresh-picked corn, zucchini or tomatoes to a neighboring farm, help customers or tend to the animals, including goats and rabbits.

“Being bored just doesn’t exist when you farm,” said Andrews. “There’s not much you can do after sundown, but even then you are planning for the next day.”

Working alongside her three older brothers and her parents, the constant work that goes into farm life doesn’t faze the Wading River resident in the least. She currently attends the University of Connecticut, where she studies agriculture and natural resources and agribusiness. Before graduating from Shoreham-Wading River High School in 2015, she said she recalls hearing classmates make weekend plans to hit the mall or the beach. But being in the family business, Andrews knew she would be at the farm instead.

“It’s just always been what my life is — the constant responsibility of the farm,” she said. “Being a farmer, it never stops.”

Rose Andrews works the Andrews Family Farm stand in Wading River. Photo by Erin Dueñas;
Rose Andrews works the Andrews Family Farm stand in Wading River. Photo by Erin Dueñas

According to Andrews, she’s never resented the farm life and constant workflow to maintain it, even while others her age might be out at a party or with friends.

“I’ve always been pretty different and I feel fortunate to be brought up this way,” she said. “I never cared what other people do. This place doesn’t make me feel like I’m missing anything. It’s my favorite place in the world.”

Andrews credits her parents with instilling a strong work ethic in her, calling them the hardest working people she ever met.

“They brought us up that family matters and the farm matters,” Andrews said. “It’s hard work, but at the end of the day, you love what you do.”

Her mother Denise Andrews concedes that there was little downtime for her kids growing up farmers. “There was no such thing as sleeping in past 7 a.m.,” she said. “The kids never had time for video games or television.”

Her children joined her at work on the farm as soon as they were old enough — a playpen was a common sight at the stand when the kids were still babies, and as young children, they pitched in.

Those early days working the land helped inspire Rose Andrews to begin Farm Days with Rose, a tour offered monthly to children interested in seeing how the farm operates.

“I want kids to see the farm as I did — as the best place in the world,” she said. 

But there’s a larger lesson she is trying to spread through the tours. She wants people to know where food comes from and why others should care, especially, she said, because when she talks to children about farming, most don’t know where their food comes from, or even what certain vegetables are.

Andrews added that the kids are fascinated to see that an onion is pulled right from the ground.

“They always love that and it’s something people should know,” she said.

Her mother also tries to educate people any chance she gets about food origins and why buying local is better.

“The food we sell here at the farm traveled 20 feet,” she said. “That should make you feel safe. The stuff from the grocery store could have traveled halfway around the world before you get it. That has such a big environmental impact.”

“Family matters and the farm matters. It’s hard work, but at the end of the day, you love what you do.”

— Rose Andrews

According to the Rose Andrews, sustainability is one of the most important issues facing farmers and consumers alike.

“How can we sustain the environment and still feed a massive population around the world?” she asked. She thinks purchasing local food is one way to do that.

She also noted the benefits of keeping dollars in the local economy, as well as the higher nutrient content of preservative-free produce that is fresh picked. Then there’s the flavor.

“There’s a big difference in taste,” Andrews said. “Farm fresh is just better taste-wise.”

Longtime customer Claudia Schappert of Wading River is a big fan of that taste difference. She said the tomatoes she gets from Andrews Farm are her favorite.

“They are so sweet and delicious — I make fresh sauce from them,” she said. “[The Andrews] are just the best people with incredible produce and flowers.”

Schappert also added that she feels like she has watched Rose Andrews grow up over the years.

“I would describe her as a gentle soul,” she said, noting that her granddaughter has been on one of Rose’s farm tours. “She has become so knowledgeable in her profession and her dedication to eating good food.”

Pony Boy, who was named after a song by the Allman Brothers, waits for a child to pet him at the Smithtown Historical Society last weekend. Photo by Giselle Barkley

He might be under five feet tall but 25-year-old Pony Boy at the Smithtown Historical Society farm has a big presence. For this pony, the farm isn’t just a sanctuary, it is also a place where he can help teach children about animal ownership and farm life.

As the Historical Society’s sole stallion, Pony Boy will extend a helping hoof for the society’s Help a Horse Day events on April 25 and 26.

According to the society’s website, Help a Horse Day is a national campaign started by the ASPCA to raise awareness  of the plight of horses and encourage equine rescue.

Kris Melvin-Denenberg, director of Development and Public Relations at the society said Pony Boy and his companion, a female donkey named Jenni Henrietta, were purchased 14 years ago from a farm that closed in Huntington around that time. The director added that it’s possible the small horse was abused in the past. When Pony Boy first arrived on the farm, he didn’t like any male volunteers to approach him from his left side, which is where people typically approach when greeting a horse or pony.

Pony Boy’s best friend, Peter the sheep, lays in the sun after resting inside the barn. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Pony Boy’s best friend, Peter the sheep, lays in the sun after resting inside the barn. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“He’s a prime example of what a good foster [process] we do,” Melvin-Denenberg said. “Over time he became more and more accepting of men and now there are guys who can put a halter on him, which we could never do before.”

Despite his initial timid disposition Melvin-Denenberg said their pony is always gentle when interacting with children.

Pony Boy didn’t only get used to men or being in the spotlight when kids are near, but he also made a new friend while living at the farm. When Jenni Henrietta passed away several years ago, the stallion gravitated to Peter, a blind sheep living on the farm. Before Peter developed cataracts, the duo bonded. Pony Boy now helps Peter when he needs a farm friend to lean on.

While members of the historical society’s farm animals usually call out to members of their group if they are separated, Melvin-Denenberg said Pony Boy and Peter will sit in close proximity to one another and communicate. She added that horses can form a bond with any animal with whom they share their home.

“They’re herd animals,” she said about horses. “So they are very social and they get very upset if their companions … get separated. They do have concerns — they do worry and look out for each other.”

But the animals aren’t the only ones looking out for each other. Melvin-Denenberg said programs like the Help a Horse Day event teach children how to care for an animal. It also helps them understand the benefits of having a horse on a farm. In the past, horses provided transportation, plowed the crop fields and provided fresh manure for the farmer’s crops. In return, the farmer would care for the horse.

The society doesn’t just want to show families how animals like horses helped on the farm, they also want to encourage people to familiarize themselves with the needs of the animal they wish to adopt. They hope to do so through their programs.

The main difference between ponies like Pony Boy and horses is the animals’ heights. Photo by Giselle Barkley
The main difference between ponies like Pony Boy and horses is the animals’ heights. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“We want [children] to learn about the responsibilities of adopting an animal whether it be a horse, a sheep or a fish. You need to do your research,” Melvin-Denenberg said. “Find out everything you can about the animal. Learn how to properly groom the animal [and] what their veterinary needs are.”

Families can learn more about farm animals like Pony Boy  and horses overall on Monday, April 25, at the Frank Brush Barn, 211 Middle Country Road, Smithtown, at 7 p.m. as Town Historian and Board President Brad Harris presents a lecture titled Famous Horses of Smithtown. Admission is free.

As part of the society’s Spring Break programs, children ages 6 to 12 can come meet Pony Boy, learn  about animal care and how horses helped farmers, and create horse-related crafts on Tuesday, April 26, from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the Frank Brush Barn. Cost is $25 and $22.50 for members and includes a snack and a beverage. Registration is required by calling 631-265-6768.

Finally, children ages 3 to 5 can take part in a child and caregiver horse-themed reading adventure at a program titled Tales for Tots: Horses! on April 26 at the society’s Roseneath Cottage at 239 Main Street, Smithtown, from 11 a.m. to noon. This event is free but registration is required by calling the Smithtown Library at 631-360-2480.

Minnie the cow. File photo

An East Setauket farm’s way of life has been under attack, and its owners are fighting back.

An online petition with more than 2,000 digital signatures spurred protestors to take to Benner’s Farm in East Setauket this week with hopes of convincing its ownership to save 2-year-old Minnie the cow from slaughter to feed the Benner family, which has lived there for 40 years. But Bob Benner said the outcry was misled and not in-step with the sentiments of those actually living in the Three Village community.

“There have been literally thousands of people who have supported us and a majority of them live right here in the community,” he said. “The people that are trying to impose their values on us do not live here. We’re talking about a national group of people who have a direction — they’re trying to tell us how to live.”

The group Benner mentioned included names from all over the United States that made up the online petition calling for Benner’s to keep Minnie as a pet. A private Facebook page, “Save Minnie from Slaughter,” was also launched and collected more than 700 followers within days.

The entire debate started on April 2, when Jean Benner was taking a birthday party group on a common educational tour around Benner’s Farm, answering questions about what it is like to live on a farm. One mother, Kimberly Sherriton of Commack, asked about the fate of the cow, and was told it would be used to feed the Benner family. Sherriton offered to help Minnie find sanctuary where she can live out her life.

“Jean tried to explain the difference between an animal on a farm and a pet, explaining that our farm was a homestead where we raise animals for meat, as it has been since 1751,” Bob Benner said. “We grow and produce food for our family on our property.”

The next day, Sherriton and Bob Benner continued the conversation via telephone, ending in disagreement, the farmer said. Since then, the Benner family has been “inundated and harassed with phone calls, Facebook posts, bad reviews and threats all aiming to change our mind,” Bob Benner said.

“She is used as the face of the farm for all their educational programs, birthday parties and festivals…the events are too numerous to name,” the Change.org petition said. “She is quite personable and has been a wonderful animal ambassador for the ‘farm.’ The public was led to believe that this was a resident cow.”

Protestors with signs setup at the farm over the weekend, drawing attention to the East Setauket spot more commonly known for its peaceful landscape. But the Benner family said that while it was saddened by the public outcry, it was also touched by the support coming from Three Village natives.

“They understand that we care for the animals we raise, and also understand that some of them are being raised for meat,” Bob Benner said. “In part because of our farm, the families who spend time with us are able to have this connection to where food comes from. We are sympathetic that many people today do not have a direct connection to their food source. We get it. There is a disconnect for people, and that is hard. But we are farmers, and we do have that connection to our food.”

The community roamed around Benner’s Farm in Setauket in search of sweets on Saturday, Feb. 20, during its annual Maple Sugaring Day. Families learned the history of maple sugaring, how to tap trees, turn sap into syrup and how to make sugar candies. Participants also enjoyed freshly made pancakes with farm-made syrup. Maple syrup, sugar candies and jams were also sold during the event.

In between eating pancakes, learning about maple sugaring and sampling sap from a tree, families roamed the farm to visit the animals and treat some to a leftover pancake. Children played on the Big Swing up in the woods and visited with the resident barn cats, Lightning, Thunder and Storm. A sweet time was had by all!

Kelan Benner boils down the sap over a wood fire in a previous year. File photo

February is always sweet at Benner’s Farm in Setauket.

The farm, located at 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, will hold its annual Maple Sugaring Day on Saturday, Feb. 20, from noon to 4 p.m. Although the Benners tapped their Norway maple trees last month, the community can come down to learn about the sugaring process from how to tap the trees to boiling down the sap.

Those who wish to attend the event will see the Benners collect and boil the sap down to syrup, see how to make maple sugar candies and enjoy fresh flapjacks drizzled with the syrup collected earlier that day. Owner Bob Benner will also teach residents about the history of maple sugaring and its ties to Native Americans.

While sticky sweet syrup is the main focus of the farm’s Maple Sugaring Day, families can sip hot chocolate and visit Benner’s farm animals during the event. Maple syrup, sugar candies and other maple-based products will also be available for sale.

The Benners started maple sugaring shortly after establishing the farm 39 years ago. The family started its annual maple sugaring event when they opened the event to the public around 1978.

“The event came after we started maple sugaring … we had been tapping our trees [and] as we have lived on the farm. More and more things we share with the public because they’re interested,” said Benner.

According to Benner around 100 people attended the event in the first few years alone. While the sugaring process has changed over the years, the Benners stick to boiling down their sap over a wood fire. Benner said the smoke from the wood enhances the syrup’s flavor.

While sugar maple trees are traditionally used for sugaring events, Benner said people can collect sap from a variety of trees. The farm produces around two to three gallons of syrup annually, but this year may be a little different. The warmer weather earlier this winter gave the trees more time to produce and store more sap, which helps the tree blossom during the spring.

“This is really the beginning of spring because the trees are making sugar [to have enough energy to blossom], Benner said. “Most plants do something like that but maple makes a lot.”

Scouts and small groups can register separately for the farm’s Maple Sugaring tours on Feb. 19 to the 21. Admission for these tours is $10 per person.

Admission for the public event on Saturday, Feb. 20, from noon to 4 p.m. is $8 for adults and $6 for senior citizens and children under 12 years old. Proceeds benefit Homestead Arts, a non-for-profit organization that was established to increase interest in homesteading, folklore and agricultural arts. For more information, call 631-689-8172 or visit the farm’s website at www.bennersfarm.com.

If approved, BQ Energy would have to manage leftover debris at the solar farm site. Photo by Jared Cantor

A renewable energy company has its sights set on a former landfill in Kings Park to build a solar farm, but residents living nearby and conducting business there are not seeing the light.

The Smithtown Town Board considered a special exception request at its last meeting on Nov. 19 that would make way for roughly 18,000 solar panels on about 27 acres along Old Northport Road, according to Kings Park Solar LLC — a subsidiary group of the Poughkeepsie-based BQ Energy. The proposal was met with disdain, however, when residents voiced opposition on the grounds of potential health hazards and negative business consequences for a separate sport complex approved nearby.

A spokeswoman for Kings Park Solar said it would sell the electricity the panels produce to the utility company PSEG, similarly done at other solar and wind farms built throughout the state. If completed, the spokeswoman said the plan could offset more than 1,700 metric tons of carbon monoxide from the region.

Paul Curran, managing director of BQ Energy, said the project was designed like several other solar farms in Suffolk County and would pose no negative health effects because it would be a stationary system build on top of what used to be a landfill.

He said his group would work in compliance with the state Department of Environmental Conservation by consolidating two piles of waste left behind on the property and capping them before construction. Those piles would also be monitored by BQ Energy, he said.

“We look forward to working with our neighbors in the community,” Curran said at the meeting before several residents approached the dais to oppose the plan. “It is a very compatible use and we can fit in very well in the town of Smithtown and we look forward to that.”

But residents in the area were not convinced the proposal would not be a detriment to their health. Neil Rosenberg, president of the homeowners association for condominiums just north of the area in question, said the proposal was not compatible with the best interests of his neighbors. He requested that the board require BQ Energy to work with a neutral third party in drafting an environmental impact study on the solar farm plan.

“What I’ve learned tonight is that the people who are proposing it have said there is no radiation, no noise, nothing coming off this,” he said. “But there’s literature that says contrary. There’s too many unknowns in our opinion.”

And aside from health risks, residents argued that the solar farm would negatively affect a multimillion-dollar sports complex that was approved for construction over the summer on an adjacent lot in Kings Park. Kenny Henderson, a member of Prospect Sports Partners LLC, said that while he was not against solar power or clean energy, he was certain that a solar farm in that location would deter tenants from doing business with his group.

He said ignoring his concerns would be a detriment to the town, as Prospect Sports is poised to produce more than 400 jobs and generate roughly $38.5 million in annual spending in Smithtown.

“We are really struggling now to keep our head above water,” Henderson said. “We started this dream about six years ago, working side by side with the town to make this a reality. But we are 100 percent uncertain if we can build this now, because nobody wants to come do business behind the solar panels.”

The Smithtown Town Board said it would review the special exception request with those concerns in mind before determining environmental effects.

Tilden Lane Farm in Greenlawn. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Huntington Town Board is considering partnering with Suffolk County to buy the development rights of a Greenlawn Christmas tree farm.

The board held a public hearing on Tuesday to discuss a plan to buy a conservation easement and the development rights of the Tilden Lane Farm on Wyckoff Street in Greenlawn. The Tilden family has operated the farm for generations, and the property has been recognized as a National Bicentennial Farm for its more than 200 years of continuous farm use.

The town would use money from its Environmental Open Space and Park Fund and would split the cost with Suffolk County, according to a Town Board resolution.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said the legislator supports the move: “Few and far between are there opportunities in this district to have open space preservation, so he is in support of this.”

Tilden Lane Farm in Greenlawn. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Tilden Lane Farm in Greenlawn. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), who sponsored the measure, said he brought it forward because it was a “win-win” in that it offers the possibility to preserve the land, but also allows the Christmas tree operation to continue. Cuthbertson said he’s frequented the farm on occasions.

“It costs us less to outright purchase and allows something that’s a very compatible use to continue,” he said.

Asked how much the development rights would cost, Cuthbertson said the town is at the “beginning stages” of that process.

At this week’s public hearing, members of the Tilden family urged the board to move forward with the acquisition of the development rights, which would preserve the property as farmland forever. Six years ago, the town and county made an offer to buy the rights, and an appraisal of the property was done, but the farm’s owner at the time turned the offer down, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter.

The opportunity came up again when the current heirs became interested in selling the land.

“We’re trying to keep our Christmas tree operation going,” Bruce Tilden said. “We’re thankful the town is supporting this endeavor and we’re looking forward to keep it going.”

Neighbor Jane Irving also urged the board to move forward with the purchase, noting that the Tilden family “has always been good neighbors.”

“Isn’t it wonderful that the Town of Huntington has a working tree farm within the town borders?”

Spencer’s spokesperson said the development rights purchase would be reviewed by the county’s farmland committee on Sept. 15.

Camp counselors and young campers yank on a rope in a tug-of-war exhibition at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Michaela Pawluk

By Susan Risoli

Benner’s Farm doesn’t slow down for the summer.

Dave Benner gives some of the farm guests a ride across the property. Photo by Susan Risoli
Dave Benner gives some of the farm guests a ride across the property. Photo by Susan Risoli

Since 1751, this working farm in Setauket has been an oasis for anyone who cares about a way of life that surprises as much as it teaches. Bob and Jean Benner bought the 15-acre property in 1977. They still run the place, but now their sons Dave, Sam and Ben handle much of the outdoor work, while daughter Kirsten, who used to teach in the farm’s community education program, now lives in New England.

The Benners host a summer camp for children, toddlers to teens, including a full-day showing of how to care for the animals and the gardens. Times Beacon Record Newspapers spent a day at the farm for a firsthand look at life as a Benner.

7:50 a.m. The Benners and their staff of counselors are getting ready for the campers. Some of the children have seen farm animals up close.

“They have backyard chickens and such,” Bob Benner says.

Most, however, have never been at a place like this, and Benner calls it “amazing, to see how quickly they warm up to it.” Today, the children will do farm chores and help feed the animals.

Pancake the chicken and her baby, Waffle, go by. This chicken has flown the coop, preferring to hang out with the cow. She’s actively raising her chick.

This is unusual behavior, Benner says, as modern chickens have been bred to spend more time laying eggs for profit and less time nurturing babies.

Pancake walks briskly, clucking constantly to Waffle, who runs on teeny legs to keep up.

“She’s showing the chick how to eat and how to be,” Benner says.

There are always some chickens that forsake the safety of the coop for an independent life in the open, says Benner. And when they do, “they have to live by their wits.”

8:30 a.m. The lambs are getting antsy.

“Their stomachs are talkin’,” says Sam Benner.

Camp counselors and young campers yank on a rope in a tug-of-war exhibition at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Michaela Pawluk
Camp counselors and young campers yank on a rope in a tug-of-war exhibition at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Michaela Pawluk

One runs to the fence and makes a tentative baa. Soon, three others follow. Now the group is singing a loud, indignant chorus of appeal for their breakfast. Benner tells them they have to wait until the campers get there.

Farm life is satisfying, says Dave Benner, but the hours are long. When it’s time for “spring baby-watch,” he says, “any time the animals go into labor, we have to be there to help ‘em, for as long as it takes.”

Each animal has a distinct personality. Take Shrek, the little pig born in April. “Shrek is a handful,” Benner says, looking over at the piglet that, in the span of about a minute, has pushed his nose through the fence, run around his pen, rooted in the dirt and enthusiastically munched a snack.

10 a.m. The campers are here. Some are gathering hay from the barn. The littlest ones sit on counselor Michaela Pawluk’s lap, as she teaches them how to milk Zoe the goat. The milk is used to feed baby animals, Pawluk says, or is made into cheese.

Other kids wield rakes and shovels. Counselor Nick Mancuso is helping them make a feng shui-themed rock garden.

All the children have a multitude of questions. Nine-year-old Teppei says the animals “are funny sometimes. The chickens look like they’re playing running bases, because they’re running back and forth.” Teppei says he was surprised “at how big cows can get, at a really small human age.” He drew that conclusion after meeting Minnie, the Benners’ massive two-year-old cow.

2:30 p.m. Afternoon on the farm is a time for noticing — the feel of the strong sun, the sound of water rushing out of a garden hose into the goats’ drinking basin, the fragrance of oregano as a breeze blows across the herb garden.

Grown goats and sheep are out of the barn, grazing on the grass. Their babies rest in the shade, leaning on each other with their eyes closed. Minnie the cow is like a big puppy, licking the arms of any human she can reach, her soulful brown eyes trusting and calm.

7 p.m. Campers are long gone, and grown-ups are gathering on the farm for an outdoor bluegrass concert in the pasture. The sheep are starting to hunker down in groups.

Minnie and Shrek are beside themselves with joy as people gather to admire them. But soon, even they will settle down for the night. Tomorrow will be another busy day.

Social

9,389FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,154FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe