A local family farm is staying pastoral and in the family.
The Bakewicz family announced the purchase of their small 11-acre farm on Route 25A in Wading River Dec. 15. For more than three years, Justin Bakewicz and his mother Marianne have cultivated vegetables as well as a big following among North Shore locals. Justin said they closed on the property Monday, Dec. 14.
“Everybody’s superexcited,” he added. “I’m just stoked.”
The 26-year-old farmer has been working the land for the last few years. The property, that borders the thin two-lane stretch of Route 25A in Wading River is surrounded by residential homes. Over the last few years, the Bakewicz family has gained renown for their kid-focused activities, from corn mazes full of cutout pop culture characters to barrel train and farm animals. Many of those animals, including two calves, Woody and Buzz, were rescued and brought to Long Island by Strong Island Rescue’s Frankie Floridia after they were slated to be killed at a farm upstate.
Rescuing animals is also how he met his then-girlfriend and now-fiancée Anna Montauredes, a fellow agriculturally minded person from Smithtown. She helps Justin with the hard work of keeping the farm running.
In early 2019, the owners of the property, Rocky Point-based Manzi Homes East construction company, announced there were proposals from TradeWind Energy to build solar batteries on the property. Previously the owners had put in proposals to the Town of Brookhaven to build a new residential section on that land.
The Wading River Civic Association pulled their support for that energy project, and Justin Bakewicz said the proposal did not get far with the town.
Rocky Point-based attorney Steven Losquadro, who represents the Manzi family, said that his client is “very pleased with the result and specifically made great concessions to allow this to happen,” adding that the developers had other offers with much bigger dollar signs.
“They decided to forego many other more significant offers and also decided to forego the money they would earn from building homes on the parcel in order to keep this as a farm for the community,” Losquadro said. The Manzis are “from the area, and they have lived here forever. They wanted it to stay a farm, so it’s a great result for everyone, and most importantly the community’s happy.”
Bakewicz said they are selling the development rights off the property so it can be served as a farm from now onward, though they are keeping 1 acre in the back available for some future development. That solar battery project was originally pitched as just two solar batteries along the north side of the property, leaving the rest as a farm. He said newer proposals showed such a project would effectively have left only the farming family with their parking lot and playground.
Bakewicz is now fully committed to being in that community, even potentially buying a home next door to the farm. He said he is looking forward to the next few years, where he has big plans. He is working on acquiring a liquor license to put a bar inside a corn silo. He also plans to expand the playground area and potentially build a horse barn, adding that he’s talking with some in the community who have kids with autism to allow them to ride horses.
“We’re just telling people to support the local farms,” he said. “Like, it’s not just for me, but it’s down the road. People are going to the grocery store [and you watch] them load up with all this garbage produce picked weeks ago.” From a local farm, he said, “for just a few cents more, you know where it came from.”