Farm stands in Laurel, Jamesport and Aquebogue can seem more like mini-marts or theme parks, at least compared to the roadside offerings farther east, but there’s lots of local stuff to be found and often in large quantities at good prices. It’s true that some of these stands carry nonlocal produce, prepared foods and rooster-motif gift items, as the law in Riverhead Township allows. For example, one stand sells great John Deere models, and why not? As soon as my son saw the biggest, greenest toy tractor ever, he launched a noisy campaign to acquire it. He was, however, successfully distracted by a blue frozen beverage, also conveniently available at this stand.
Yet the roots in the soil are deep and strong, and in season, Riverhead’s great variety of traditional row crops, including some of the best sweet corn around, can be found here—right next to quirky, hand-painted signs urging customers to stock up on mint for mojitos or peaches to top late-night ice cream servings.. The families that own these stands all still farm and offer their own produce as well as produce from different growers in the area. Riverhead is a huge patchwork of farmland owned and leased by a complicated network of longtime farming families: Hallock, Reeves, Schmitt and Wells, to name a few. And unless you’re part of the family, it’s impossible to understand the who’s related to whom—as well as their alliances and feuds—so don’t even try. If you ask, “Where is the farm for this stand?” you might be told something like, “Well, it starts behind here, going back to those trees, but there’s another piece down the road, and we also rent land from Uncle Joe….” And if you try the direct route by asking the stand worker outright “Who owns this farm stand?” you might be told something like, “Well, John Jr. does, I guess, but he’s not here.” Then the worker turns out to be the family matriarch, and you’re left to speculate on the status of the old man sitting right there behind the beets with a sleeping cat on his lap, declining to share his thoughts on the issue.
First, though, a quick stop at Wickham’s in Cutchogue, which, while not in Riverhead, is the largest farm stand between Peconic and Laurel.
Wickham’s Fruit Farm, Cutchogue
Wickham’s stand, small, white and unassuming, is the place to get some of the hands-down best berries and tree fruits on the East End. But I have to add, one of the most wonderful things is the fresh donuts. The smell at Wickham’s in the morning when the donuts are still warm is incredible.
The Wickham family has been farming this 300-acre piece of land that stretches from the Main Road to the sparkling Peconic Bay for more than 300 years; it’s currently farmed by former town supervisor and councilman Tom Wickham and his wife, Gekee. The season at Wickham’s starts early with fat asparagus and rhubarb, and then launches into cherries and then raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, apricots, plums, peaches and nectarines; greenhouse tomatoes kick off early. Taking the kids berry picking is great fun—all U-pick is by membership, though, and runs $20 per family per year. In the fall, when the apples and pears come in, Tom gives hayrides around the farm on Saturdays. Wickham’s has the oldest operating cider press on Long Island, a great big old thing built in 1902 that presses cider exclusively from its own apples. Wickham’s also sells baked goods and has a number of hives that supply honey. Tour booking, produce calendar and U-pick memberships are available on the Web site, wickhamsfruitfarm.com. Monday–Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m., May–November. 28700 Route 25, Cutchogue; 631.734.6441
Schmitt’s Farm Country Fresh
The Schmitt family has been farming in these parts for more than 150 years. This charming, tidy little stand sells its own greens and veggies, as well as eggs and fresh, locally made mozzarella. Schmitt’s farm also has its own extensive line of pies and muffins, which can be slathered with their amazing preserves that include vanilla peaches, apple butter and strawberry jam. Pickled vegetables like asparagus and onions, and salad dressings like Burgundy poppy seed round out a meal. Affordable flowers abound here, including impatiens and geraniums, and there are hundreds of hanging baskets. I bought large tomato plants already laden with flowers and ripening tomatoes, because the tomato plants in my garden so far appear to be merely decorative. Roasted sweet corn is for sale in the summer, and a large corn maze is set up in the fall. Daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m., May–November. Route 25, Laurel, opposite the post office; 631.298.1991, schmittsfarmcountryfresh.com
Hallock’s Cider Mill
Owner and manager Wayne Hallock is also the baker of the many varieties of old-fashioned pies in the elegant, curved wooden display cases salvaged from a pizza parlor. The peach pie is to die for, as are the coconut custard and strawberry rhubarb. Among the fresh-baked cookies, the ginger snaps are some of my favorites. Wayne can usually be found in the commercial kitchen on the premises, where he also makes delicious Manhattan and New England clam chowders from scratch—this is the place to pick up a quart for a quick meal instead of succumbing to takeout. The eponymous cider mill, which once operated every fall for years, sourcing apples from Long Island and upstate, was shut down
after Suffolk County required cider be pasteurized and the family decided against the investment. Also available is a small repertoire of fresh vegetables. In business for 35 years, its down-to-earth atmosphere and rustic decor are totally authentic. Daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m., 7 p.m. on weekends and in summer, through the end of December. 1960 Route 25, Laurel; 631.298.1140
Bayview Market and Farms
This is a big place distinguished at the roadside by a large pink tractor and a truck sporting an enormous cob of corn, or whatever fruit or vegetable best represents the season. The quantity and variety of wares is amazing, even a little overwhelming. If you are a farm-stand junkie, it’s easy to convince yourself you absolutely must have a whole bushel of snap peas and an entire flat of
berries. Bayview is one-stop shopping when it comes to dinner. You can pick up oysters (from various growers) and Crescent Farm ducklings, which makes life much easier than driving another five miles to Riverhead proper for the main course. Local and nonlocal produce is side-by-side and clearly labeled by large blackboard signs. The bakery section sports batards, boules and basil focaccia rolls. There’s even fresh pasta. Discounts apply to quantity, so it’s great for canning and jamming projects. And here’s a tip—behind the farm stand is a sitting area with wooden play sets, a pretty view of the fields and vineyards, a resident flock of ruffled chickens and a couple of Porta Potties. Daily 8 a.m.–7 p.m., May–December. 891 Main Road (Route 25), Aquebogue; 631.722.3077
On Sound Avenue, Ben Gatz’s Northville Farm bills itself as “The North Fork’s Best Kept Little Secret.” The focus at this no-frills stand is squarely on local produce. There’s a cornucopia of vegetables and fruit here, nearly 50 varieties are available throughout the season, including many kinds of heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, beans, squashes and melons, as well as rutabagas, purple cauliflower, shallots and lima beans. Daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m., May–Thanksgiving weekend. 5333 Sound Avenue (Route 48), north of Jamesport; 631.722.3229
Ty Llwyd Farm
It’s pronounced tee clewed and means “brown house” in Welsh, the homeland of Elizabeth Wines, wife to lifelong farmer David Wines, whose family has owned the land since 1870. It doesn’t look like a lot from the road, but don’t be shy about turning right into the drive. The Wines sell vegetables, hay and potatoes, all grown on the farm. Their eggs come from a flock of about 900 Dekalb hens that roam free, scratching under the trees. This is the place for absolutely fresh potatoes with about 14 acres of Yukon gold, red Norland, red chieftain, superior, russet Burbank, green mountains, reba, Swedish peanut, rosa and Eva potatoes available from late June through winter. Often, huge 20-pound burlap bags of the spuds are on sale on the roadside at a great price. Monday–Saturday 8 a.m.–6 p.m. 5793 Sound Avenue, Northville; 631.722.4241, tyllwyd.wordpress.com
Harbes Farm and Vineyard
The Harbes empire is a wonder. The family figured out long ago that many visitors to the East End want to be entertained while shopping. Ed Harbes, a 12th-generation farmer who inherited a farm of potatoes and cabbage, and his wife, Monica, saw the opportunity to not just help preserve the region’s agricultural heritage, but to make that heritage a business model. In 1989, Ed put in a variety of super sweet corn that quickly became a hit. The Harbes business grew large and successful, and their three locations are now destinations in their own right. Frankly, they get my vote because they do an awesome job of keeping kids busy. In 2003 Harbes planted vinifera vines and now has his own wine label, so grownups can hang out, taste wine and relax.
Harbesfamilyfarm.com lists and compares each location and its attractions. Harvest time is the busiest, and people make a day out of choosing a pumpkin, or a wheelbarrow-load of pumpkins, as the case now seems to be. There are hayrides, pony rides, a big corn maze and of course lots of treats at the farm stands. Admission charges vary. harbesfamilyfarm.com
Mattituck: Barnyard Adventure, with pedal carts, pig races, bees, chicks, bunnies and the wine tasting barn. Daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m. 715 Sound Avenue; 631.298.0800. Jamesport: Wild West Adventure, with a mini train ride, straw fortress and more. Beautiful and old-fashioned, this is the place to stop for roasted corn. 9 a.m.–6 p.m., July–October 31. 1223 Route 25; 631.722.2022. Riverhead: Night Maze, too scary for little ones but not gory! Weekends mid-September–October 31, 9 a.m.–6 p.m., Night Maze 7–10 p.m. 5698 Sound Avenue, Riverhead
At this rustic 14-acre farm, farmer Phil Barbato grows all organic, NOFA-NY-certified produce, including salad greens, sweet and hot peppers, herbs, pumpkins, sorrel, many varieties of tomatoes, squash, kale, broccoli, melons, sweet potatoes and more. In-season produce is available at the farm stand on Manor Lane and at the Westhampton Beach and Port Jefferson farmers markets. CSA memberships available. Hours vary. 211 Manor Lane, Jamesport; 516.769.9732
Chef-turned-farmer Matthew Kurek started this 80-acre organic farm in 1996 and grows more than 100 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs. He now runs it with wife, Maggie Wood, and fellow farmer James Russo. The farm offers CSA shares for about 1,500 families on Long Island and in Queens, sells at farmers markets and has a small farm stand on-site which, because the farm is on a back road in Jamesport, is a rural surprise. Heritage breeds of pigs, sheep and goats share the space. CSA shares sell out quickly, so plan now if you want next summer’s produce. The Web site has links to teach kids about earthworms, the site also lists, with recipes, what is in the CSA box each week. Hours vary. 652 Peconic Bay Boulevard, Jamesport; 631.722.3302, goldenearthworm.com
Garden of Eve
Eve and Chris Kaplan-Walbrecht are environmental activists who followed their dream to have an organic farm. Since its start in 2001, the 50-acre Garden of Eve has expanded to include a great variety of fresh produce including excellent fresh garlic, farm-grown herbs and plants—all certified organic—as well as pickles and preserves, baked goods, a small general store that offers all-natural items from laundry soap to bottled kombucha, and a café that serves sandwiches, quiches, soups and salads, again with a focus on natural and organic. They also raise milk goats, about a thousand laying chickens and Border Leicester sheep. Definitely a top pick for parents: there is a play area, outdoor picnic tables, kids’ cooking classes and morning play sessions. The Garden of Eve CSA is very popular, with a dozen pick-up points on Long Island and in the city. The fall Garlic Festival is great fun. Daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m., April 1–Thanksgiving, 4558 Sound Avenue, Riverhead, by intersection with Northville Turnpike; 631.722.8777, gardenofevefarm.com
The must-stop for pies for good reason—they have flaky crusts and are jam-packed with fruit, most grown on the land surrounding this busy stand. Fascinating history here: the farm was started by a Cornell entomologist in 1901; Life Magazine photographer Leonard McCombe and wife Gertrude took over in 1961. Be aware that delicate premium pies like lemon meringue and chocolate cream are only available Thursday through Sunday, and if you stop late in the day, you may face a limited selection. Definitely reserve for Thanksgiving. Briermere also does about 30 preserves, including hard-to-find specialties like gooseberry, elderberry and crabapple. Cut flowers and a variety of local and nonlocal produce also available. Daily 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. 4414 Sound Avenue, Riverhead, by the intersection with Route 105; 631.722.3931, briermere.com
Anderson’s Farm Stand
In Riverhead proper, across from Wendy’s, this old stand in a small grove of trees is now surrounded by Route 58 box-store development. Anderson’s is a holdout from the days when the farms stretched that far south. The current farm is on Roanoke Avenue, where they have pick-your-own strawberries in early summer, but their land used to include the acres where Target is now. A limited variety of sweet corn, veggies, local honey, gourds and pumpkins. Weekdays 9 a.m.–6 p.m., weekends 8 a.m., June–October. 1170 Route 58, Riverhead; 631.727.1129
Andrews Family Farm
This cheerful, pretty stand surrounded by flower fields is a great place for fresh bunches of greens like rainbow kale. They also have bedding and vegetable plants, annuals, hanging baskets, herbs, salad greens, vegetables and cut flowers grown in 30 greenhouses on 65 acres. A corn maze, pumpkins and field-grown mums are on offer in the fall, and come winter, there are wreaths and swags of evergreens, red and white poinsettias and Christmas trees. “Farming isn’t a six-month-a-year job anymore,” says Bob Andrews Jr., who grew up on this farm, which his parents started about 50 years ago. “We just keep expanding and thinking of new things.” Their products can also be found at the Port Jefferson Farmers Market. Daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m. 1038 Sound Avenue, Wading River, east of the intersection with Hulse Landing Road; 631.929.5963,
Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm
Rottkamp’s has been going since 1967 and has “a little of everything,” says Lolly Rottkamp, who farms about 250 acres with her son, Jeff. They sell what they grow, a lot of sweet corn, sunflowers and pumpkins, and also supply other stands with produce. Pick-your-own strawberries and pumpkins in season. In the fall, there is a small, two-by-two acre corn maze that is family friendly; no scary actors popping out of this one. 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m., 4 p.m. Sunday, closed Wednesdays, June 1–October 31. 143 Sound Avenue, Calverton; 631.727.1786
This is a huge warehouse selling Lewin’s own produce from 1,100 acres, plus everything from all over, including onions from California and tropical fruits from Mexico. The competitive pricing and off-the-LIE location attract a multicultural clientele. Families day-tripping from points west flock to the U-pick fields nearby, where sales are cash-only. Crowds line up for peach season. Lewin’s grows apples, broad beans, sweet corn, eggplant, pumpkins, summer squash, winter squash, strawberries, tomatoes and more. Serious pick-your-own types, canners and jam-makers will like the variety, quantity and prices. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. for pick-your-own, 6 p.m. for the store. Closed Tuesdays. 812 Sound Avenue,
Wading River; 631.727.3346, lewinfarm.com