Long Island used to be the country escape from the city’s five boroughs and Nassau County. Suffolk County, eastern Long Island, was so far away from everything else. When my grandparents moved to Suffolk County in 1957, they lived down the block from a potato farm. That farm later became the land for my elementary school, but my grandfather continued to tell stories of walking down the street to pick potatoes. For all of my life, I’ve seen Long Island expand with continuous development, and I have known the farms to be “out east” (that is past Riverhead on the map). But, mostly I didn’t see farms. I imagined that they were quickly disappearing, especially when I saw old strawberry farms developed into strip malls. It always makes me sad.
Last week my dad informed us that one of the remaining farm stands by us would be going out of business after this summer season. The owner said that it is just too difficult to compete with the grocery stores and the bulk stores. People do not take separate trips to get produce, at least not around here. When we needed flowers for a party, my mom suggested that I check the farm stand. The owner said she could easily get me fresh cut flowers, but suggested that I go to the actual farm where she would buy them, as I’d probably get a better price and I could see them before buying (which is important for an engagement party).
Vinny and I headed out to Andrews Family Farm on Sound Avenue in Wading River, NY and the woman taking care of the greenhouses was extremely helpful even though they happened to be closed at the time. Still, she showed us bouquets of fresh cut flowers and the sunflower field. Everything was beautiful. We placed an order and picked up the flowers a few days later. We felt so good buying flowers from a local Long Island Farm and the flowers were more beautiful and much more affordable than anything from a florist. As I was standing in line to pay I noticed brochures for the Long Island Farm Bureau and the website, Grown on Long Island.
I suppose I’d never thought about it, but the farm bureau is working hard to promote local Long Island farm produce and flowers and landscaping businesses. The Long Island supermarket, King Kullen, partners with Long Island farmers to sell produce and flowers in the store. Farmers markets can still be found and the website offers suggestions on how to eat locally and why buying locally benefits Long Island.
Despite my usual negativity toward Long Island’s “progress,” finding the flowers and these websites made my day. It’s always nice to see that some of the countryside my grandparents and my mother remember.