East of Riverhead

I find it seriously exciting to go to farm stands. All that fresh-grown produce is so invigorating; it inspires visions of nourishing meals for the children, of industrious bustling about in the kitchen, of sticking it to Big Ag, that sort of thing. Also, the whole point of being on the North Fork is to eat asparagus in the spring, sweet corn and tomatoes in the summer and spaghetti squash in the fall—along with going to the beaches and the vineyards, and all the seafood, that is. Last year, we had tomatoes till the end of October. Amazing.

Of course, I always buy way too much; it never looks like such a lot until I try to fit it into my fridge. Then reality kicks in, and I have to follow through with the actual preparing and eating part, which is fine, but can be a challenge. We have a very well-fed pet rabbit. But when I’m in the moment, foraging at a farm stand, dreaming up a new eat-local adventure—grilled radishes? ratatouille? jars of homemade pesto to bring the summer sun into winter?—anything seems possible.

In Southold Township, that is, everything east of the town line in Laurel, farm stands still have to be three-sided structures under a certain square-footage and can sell only a small percentage of outsourced stuff. These are true farm stands. Yet there’s great variety: traditional stands that belong to the old farming families; new ventures by first-generation farmers, and a fresh crop of tiny roadside pop-ups every year. Each stand has its own specialty, its own strengths.

Here’s a little bit about some farm stands in the easternmost part of the North Fork. It’s not a comprehensive list, as there are so many, but these ones stand out. Hopefully, you will be inspired to visit them all this season.

Oysterponds Farm, Orient

Using organic methods and no synthetic pesticides, this 10-acre farm is a favorite source for top area restaurants including North Fork Table & Inn, and Luce & Hawkins, and chef/owners often handpick the best for themselves. Everything is grown on site. Oysterponds specializes in raspberries, white raspberries and strawberries of the highest quality and is worth a visit just to see how huge and juicy a blackberry can get. Much of the produce is grown under plastic hoop houses, which were torn to shreds by last summer’s hurricane, but repairs have been made and everything’s up and running again this year, farmer Tom Stevenson reports.

Oysterponds Farm is a great example of a positive movement in agriculture today, with young people not from ag backgrounds choosing farming as a lifestyle. It got its start in 2003, when Tom and Jill Stevenson, Tom’s brother Kevin, and Jill’s family joined forces to purchase the land, build a multifamily house and start planting. Stevenson, a graduate of Cornell University, brought the agriculture expertise to the operation. He has also managed local vineyards before the farm turned into a full-time job. Oysterponds Farm also offers tomatoes, carrots and other veggies, and homemade jams. Monday–Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m., June–October 31. Route 25, east of Orient Village; 631.323.2463; oysterpondsfarm.com

Latham’s Farm Stands, Orient and Greenport

Generations of the Latham family have farmed in Orient, and this rustic, painted wooden farm stand has been here forever and never seems to change. It overlooks a wide field sloping down to Orient Harbor, and is hands down one of the most picturesque stands in the area. The Lathams grow classic row and root crops, and also partner with other farms to add variety. In season, Latham’s overflows with conventional local produce, including Schmitt’s sweet corn from Riverhead, which local corn connoisseurs consider among the best—sweet yet with a strong corn flavor and a great crunch. Freshly dug potatoes are also on hand and have a delicate taste far superior to supermarket potatoes that have been hanging around a while turning into starch. Latham’s also carries some imported produce, such as peaches, avocados and lemons, which can actually be pretty handy if, say, the need for guacamole arises. Daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., May to November. Route 25, just west of Orient Village, with a satellite stand by the IGA in Greenport Village; 631.323.3701

Sep’s Farm Stand, East Marion

Sep’s carries a large variety of conventional local produce, including zinnias and other beautiful flowers cut fresh from the colorful field adjacent to the stand. It’s best known for tomatoes and sweet corn, good for buying in quantity for cooking and canning. Homemade baked goods and preserves are also available. This farm stand is the most convenient one for residents of Greenport Village popping out to buy something for dinner, because it’s right up the road at the intersection of Route 48 and Rocky Point Road, just a bit east of the blinking light at the intersection of Routes 25 and 48. Sep’s is owned by the Sepenoski Farms family.
Daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., 6 p.m. on weekends, May–November. 7395 East Marion, north side of Route 25; 631.477.1583

KK’s The Farm

Slow down as you head east out of downtown Southold or you’ll miss this stand in a shady spot under the trees, opposite The Old Field Vineyards. Handmade signs advertise the day’s fare, and in season, there’s always a bucket or two of beautiful zinnias, sunflowers or wildflowers to choose from. This unique operation is worth seeking out if you are curious about biodynamic farming, as it’s the only local source for all-organic, biodynamic fruits and vegetables.

If you see a tall, slim woman in a big straw hat, that’s KK Haspel. Her husband, Ira Haspel, is usually around, too. Because they’re so passionate about what they’re doing at their farm, they’re always happy to chat and explain that, for them, biodynamic farming is all about finding balance and harmony with nature. “Biodynamics … it’s the only thing that will really heal the earth,” KK said in a recent video interview. “It’s actually way beyond organics. It’s like a holistic approach to organics.” Key to biodynamic farming are nine preparations made of natural materials such as ground-up quartz, and a planting and harvesting schedule in tune with cosmic calendars, according to the teachings of early-20th-century agricultural spiritualist Rudolph Steiner. And while they are great just because they are amazingly sweet, perhaps KK’s cherry tomatoes really do put one in tune with the universe—if only briefly, because when we buy a pint, it’s gone in about five minutes.

In the spring the Farm offers nursery plants, including heirloom tomatoes, vegetables and herbs. Heirloom tomatoes are a bit of a specialty, as many varieties are grown including Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra and Brandywine. There’s also bright, beautiful rainbow Swiss chard, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, peppers, herbs, Asian greens, green beans, garlic, berries and fruits, including tiny strawberries, currants and figs. KK’s also offers its own homemade pickles and tomato sauces, and has a custom CSA program with produce picked each Wednesday morning for pickup that day. Thursday through Saturday from  9 a.m. to 5 p.m., May through November. 59945 Route 25, east of Southold Village; 516.398.8731; kkthefarm.com

Sang Lee Farms

This is one of my favorite stands because there’s so much variety and, along with all the vegetable workhorses like tomatoes and peppers, there’s a lot of new and unusual stuff to try. The bagged mixed salad greens are amazing, so fresh they stay good in the fridge longer than any salad greens I’ve come across. Kids love the purple carrots and potatoes, and the candy-striped Chioggia beets. And every year, I have to buy one of those potted pepper plants with the tiny, multicolored peppers.

The area’s largest certified-organic vegetable farm, Sang Lee specializes in mixed mesclun, Asian greens, beets, more than 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, many types of eggplant and many other varieties of vegetables and herbs. Their on-site shop also carries vegetable plants and prepared goods, including a full line of delicious salad dressings, sauces and more. I had Sang Lee’s CSA for a few years and have been happy with it, although you do have to be a fan of stir-frying, as it’s the best way to really enjoy the unusual Asian greens. Karen Lee educates her customers with innovative ways to use veggies in dozens of imaginative recipes. This is a CSA for slightly adventurous types who have a bit of time to cook. Summer and winter CSAs are available. Also, organic meats and meats grassfed from selected upstate New York farms are available in limited quantities.

Sang Lee is a second-generation farm originally started by the Lee family in the 1940s, originally growing Asian greens for New York City and East Coast markets. The son of one of the founders, Fred Lee moved the farm to Peconic in the late 1980s, and it has since grown in size and production. Now, Fred and Karen’s three kids, Jennifer, Will and Michael, are involved as well.

Lastly, Sang Lee’s Web site is worth a visit; it is large and informative and contains Fred Lee’s interesting Grower’s Notes, recipes, a list of all the fruits and vegetables, an online store and a calendar of events showing when organic tastings and other special events are held.
Daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., 6 p.m. in summer, except Sunday 5 p.m. 25180 Route 48, Peconic, east of Peconic Lane; 631.734.7001; sangleefarms.com

Krupski’s Vegetable and Pumpkin Farm

If you’ve got kids in tow, Krupski’s is the place to go. There’s a big hay-pit for them to tumble into and a large field to run around in. There’s also a chicken house to check out. This family-friendly farm carries a large variety of produce and locally made prepared goods; super-sweet, delicate Silver Queen sweet corn is a specialty in high summer. A new project at Krupski’s is pasture-raised poultry, but quantity is extremely limited and getting a bird is a hit-or-miss proposition. Farmer Al Krupski Jr. says that he’s hoping to offer more poultry for sale this year, but as this is a new venture, he wants to keep production low while he learns about the best ways to raise and process the chickens.

Krupski’s really comes into its own in the fall, when the farm is transformed into a pumpkin wonderland, and children from all over come to visit for a morning or an afternoon. There’s a whole field of traditional orange pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, and carts piled high with decorative gourds, edible squashes—like gooseneck squash, acorn and butternut, and colorful, lumpy Turk’s Turbans—and unusual pumpkins like the white ghost pumpkins. Quarts of local, fresh-pressed apple cider are also available at this time of the year. Father-and-son farmers, Al Krupski Sr. and Al Jr. spook visitors in the haunted barn and offer tractor-drawn hayrides. The haunted corn maze is appropriate for bigger kids and adults, but is a little too scary for little ones. Krupski’s is committed to sustainable practices, and much of the produce is unsprayed.
Daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., 6 p.m. on weekends, April–October. 38030 Route 25 Peconic, opposite Lenz Winery; 631.734.6847

Farmer Mike’s

This small stand isn’t always open, but it’s worth stopping by if you see the shutters up. Lifelong farmer Mike Konarski passed away a couple of years ago, but his wife, Dorothy, who is sweet but a bit shy, still runs the stand when there’s produce to sell. If you see shallots, snap them up, because for some reason shallots are scarce in these parts. Farmer Mike’s is also good for washed, bagged lettuces, cucumbers and other basic salad stuff, nothing too fancy. But the best time to shop Farmer Mike’s is at the height of the season, when the glut of peppers and tomatoes means overflowing bushels at the kind of prices that one hasn’t seen since back in the days when, in most households, vegetables were more of an afterthought lying alongside large hunks of meat. Here’s where the visions of a day spent canning tomato sauce start to kick in. Also look for large bunches of dill, cilantro and basil for pesto. Hours/days vary, May–November. Route 25, Peconic, opposite Pindar; 631.734.6956