Nassau County Spurs New Organic Farm to Bring Local Produce to Residents
“Restoration Farm” Will Be Privately Run at Old Bethpage Village Restoration
Old Bethpage, NY, July 5, 2007 To bring healthy, locally grown produce to its residents and to restore a piece of its vanishing farmland, Nassau County signed a contract for the creation of “Restoration Farm,” a privately run, economically viable organic vegetable farm at Old Bethpage Village Restoration.
The county signed a six-year use and occupancy permit contract with Restoration Farmers, LLC, a new company formed by Daniel Holmes and Caroline Fanning, two young but experienced Long Island farmers. Under the agreement, Restoration Farm will sell its produce to the public through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and at a farm stand, and it will abide by the organic principles outlined in the Farmer’s Pledge of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York. For use of the land, Restoration Farm will pay a percentage of its revenue to Nassau County.
Creation of the farm was initiated by Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi as part of “Healthy Nassau,” his campaign to make Nassau the healthiest county in the nation. The campaign builds upon existing initiatives and adds new ones to sustain a healthy environment and encourage healthy living.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to re-introduce farming at Old Bethpage Village Restoration, which gives visitors a glimpse into our past, so it’s a perfect site for the county’s organic farm,” Suozzi said. “After all, before synthetic and toxic chemicals were introduced into agriculture, all farms were organic.”
Said Holmes today, “Organic is going mainstream, and as that happens, many people are becoming skeptical of its standards. There’s just no way of knowing the truth about an organic apple shipped from thousands of miles away. Buying locally grown food allows you to talk to the farmer and even visit the farm. You can see what’s actually going on. That’s why farmers markets and CSAs have become so popular.”
Members of CSA farm programs pay at the start of a growing season for weekly shares of produce. While Nassau County has several farmers markets and CSA pickup sites, development pressures have pushed farms within the county to virtual extinction. Most of the food now sold at those markets and CSA pickup sites is brought in from eastern Long Island or upstate. Restoration Farm is one of the few places where Nassau residents can buy locally grown produce.
Though many CSAs operate as nonprofits and rely on grant funding to supplement their budgets, Holmes and Fanning chose to incorporate as a limited liability company. “We knew that if we wanted to make a career of farming, we’d have to make it sustainable financially as well as environmentally,” says Fanning. “Does that mean we’d turn down a grant if it was offered to us? Of course not. We just wouldn’t want the farm’s success to depend on it.”
The farm encompasses 7 non-contiguous acres at the southern tip of Nassau County’s Old Bethpage Village Restoration, which is modeled on a 19th-century village. Restoration Farm will be a separate operation using modern organic methods and technology. The larger fields will be planted with annual vegetables, while the smaller, irregular pieces will be reserved for perennial gardens, greenhouses, tool sheds, and compost. “I think the presence of a modern farm will enhance the Old Bethpage experience,” says Fanning. “It will help people remember that farming is not just a thing of the past.”
Upon learning in mid May that they had won the county’s bid competition for the farm, Holmes and Fanning began extensive planning and preparation efforts for the new venture, as they ironed out permit details with the county.
Now, with the signed permit and official go-ahead secured halfway through the growing season, Holmes and Fanning will spend the remainder of 2007 preparing their fields for 2008, when farm operations begin full force. They are also planting a small garden for a limited 2007 harvest to help build momentum for the farm.
Restoration Farm is now accepting members for its 2008 CSA. From June through November, members will receive weekly shares of produce at the farm. Full shares, which are picked up every week, are recommended for families of 4-6. Half shares, which are picked up every other week, are recommended for families of 2-3. Those who sign up before October 1 will receive a complimentary basket of summer vegetables from this year’s garden.
About the Farmers
Daniel Holmes, born and raised in nearby Bay Shore, NY, has been farming since 1999. He got his start at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, a 7-acre organic CSA on the grounds of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. In 2003, he returned to Long Island to become the head grower of Sophia Garden, a 1.5-acre organic CSA in Amityville. “At Sophia Garden, the CSA always had a waiting list,” he explains. “I’m sure we’ll find a market for our produce here at Restoration Farm. The challenge will be to make a living at it, but that’s the opportunity we’ve been waiting for.”
Caroline Fanning grew up in neighboring Amityville, NY, and was introduced to organic farming in the Hudson Valley. While attending Vassar College, she interned at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project in Poughkeepsie, the Common Ground Farm in Wappingers Falls, and the Creed Ankony Farm in Rhinebeck. After graduating in 2004, she worked for World Hunger Year, a New York City nonprofit addressing food and hunger issues. She joined Dan Holmes at Sophia Garden in Amityville in 2006.
For Holmes and Fanning, running a successful farm means resourcefulness, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time. “Back in March, we were ready to either give up or move to Nebraska, that’s how dismal our chances at running a sustainable farm on Long Island seemed,” says Holmes. “But then this opportunity came along, and we jumped at it.”
About Healthy Nassau
Healthy Nassau, County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi’s campaign to make Nassau the healthiest county in the nation, builds upon existing initiatives and adds new ones in order to sustain a healthy environment (focusing on air, land and water), while encouraging healthy living (tending to bodies, minds and spirits). Along with the new organic farm at Old Bethpage Village Restoration, Healthy Nassau initiatives include requesting the Health Department to consider banning trans fats and putting calorie counts on menus; surveying behavioral risk factors among county residents through the Health Department; working with other large municipalities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and explore mass transit options; continuing to preserve the County’s remaining open space; and seeking a state-authorized increased cigarette tax to discourage smoking.
About Old Bethpage Village Restoration
Old Bethpage Village Restoration provides visitors with a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience a mid-19th-century American village. The 209-acre village includes an assortment of homes, farms, and businesses. Each fall, the village hosts the Long Island Fair, a traditional county agricultural fair that draws tens of thousands of visitors, and through most of the year has a steady series of family-friendly events and exhibits, including old-time baseball tournaments.
Old Bethpage Village Restoration came into existence in 1963, when Nassau County acquired the Powell property, a 165-acre farm located on the Nassau-Suffolk border. The acquisition of the land and the plan to develop a historic restoration were timely, as development on Long Island had taken its toll on the area's landmarks. In 1963, Plainview's historic Manetto Hill Methodist Church was the first structure to be saved and moved to the Powell property. Today, there are 51 historic buildings and seven reconstructions there.