By Aramis Khosronejad
At the historic Bethel Hobbs Community Farm, the last standing farm in Centereach, the 9th annual 4-mile Run the Farm event was held Saturday, Aug. 12.
The run, initially created to help support the farm and its mission of supplying organic food to food pantries, has become an eclectic event for the local area, featuring participants who are competitive runners to casual strollers.
Ann Pellegrino, president of the community farm, took pride in the success of the farm and the run. “The more hands we have, the more mouths we can feed,” she said. “It’s a community effort. Every year we’re just growing and growing.”
The run was originally an idea introduced by Brookhaven Town Clerk Kevin LaValle (R), who represented the area in District 3 on the Town Board from 2013 to 2023. Amid some financial struggles nine years ago, LaValle proposed organizing a run to raise money and introduced it to Pellegrino.
The farm “isn’t just something to remember our history by, but also something the community can rally behind and the mission of Hobbs Farm,” LaValle said.
As a native of the hamlet, LaValle referred to Hobbs Farm as “the centerpiece of Centereach.” The run has been growing in popularity with each passing year. Now, it’s become a local staple.
“The run brings more awareness,” Pellegrino said. “It helps spread the word of what we’re doing, and people get interested.”
Town Councilman Neil Manzella (R-Selden) added to this sentiment. He attended the family-friendly event with his two children, who participated in the fun-run race. “For me, it’s about showing my kids what a community should be,” he said.
The event was replete with food stands and other activities. Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy (R) and his wife, county Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), also joined the fun.
“We’ve attended many of the runs and also been here for some of the other events they host,” John Kennedy said, noting how much he and his family appreciate community events such as the run. He added that Hobbs Farm represents a “hidden jewel here in Centereach.”
Since 2008, Peter Castorano has been a member of Hobbs Farm as a volunteer, caretaker and tenant. Pellegrino considers him part of the farm family.
“To work with Ann is great,” Castorano said. “She’s a superwoman, always doing something.”
While reminiscing over how Hobbs Farm started, they began talking of the Rev. Gregory Leonard. While trying to persuade the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which owns the property, to let her use the land for farming, Pellegrino got help from Leonard.
“We all just became family,” Pellegrino remembered. She said she became very close with him and his late wife, Sandra Leonard.
The Rev. Leonard retired in 2021 from the Bethel AME Church in Setauket. He remarked on what Hobbs Farm symbolizes for him. “It’s the church and the community working together to create something,” he said.
Bethel Hobbs Farm holds a rich history. The previous owner was Alfred Hobbs, and the farm had been passed down through his family for generations. According to Leonard, who knew Hobbs passingly, he was “a man involved with his community.”
Castorano spoke of Hobbs’ passion for his family land and how defiant he was against the farm being sold. As a result, the farmland lay dormant and unused for a few years until Pellegrino began her mission.
“Years ago, I was a single mom with three kids,” Pellegrino explained, reflecting upon her incentives for beginning this project. “I was working two jobs. … There were times when I had to go to food pantries to feed my kids.”
Now, Hobbs Farm itself supports and supplies over 15 food pantries with nutritious and organic produce, feeding local families in need.