On an overcast Tuesday morning, a pair of employees sorted fruit into baskets at Davis Peach Farm in Wading River, waiting for customers to purchase the last of the property’s produce.
“We don’t want to throw out all this stuff,” said Faye Mosquea, who has worked at the Hulse Landing Road farm stand for more than a decade. “We’ll stay open a couple more days until it’s sold.”
Operator Christine Davis announced Sunday that Davis Peach Farm was going out of business. A real estate broker has since confirmed the 62-acre property is under contract.
The news comes about 14 months after a severe thunderstorm wiped out much of the farm’s crops, Ms. Davis said.
“We had a terrible season,” she said. “We lost about 2,000 trees and then we had a late frost, so there were days and days on end that we didn’t really have anything. I know customers were disappointed this year.”
Ms. Davis said her ex-husband, David, owns the farm and listed it for sale earlier this year.
“[He is] 83 1/2 and can’t do it anymore, so he is selling the property and we are out of business,” she said.
Syma Gerard, an East End real estate broker handling the sale, said the farm “sold fairly quickly when it got on the market.”
The property’s development rights were sold years ago, Ms. Gerard added, ensuring it will be preserved for agricultural use in perpetuity. Ms. Gerard said she expects the sale to close sometime in October, but declined to disclose the purchase price. An online listing states an asking price of $1.2 million.
The Davis family has farmed for more than 100 years and operated a farm stand in Mount Sinai for decades. In 1988, Mr. Davis sold that property and purchased the Wading River farm, which was once a potato farm.
The Mount Sinai property was later developed with housing that critics claimed irrevocably changed the rural character of the neighborhood and caused an influx of students to the local school district, according to Newsday.
David Peach Farm’s Wading River farm stand launched in 1992. In a 2015 Newsday interview, however, Mr. Davis — who couldn’t be reached for comment before presstime — said the farm hadn’t been profitable for years.
Rob Carpenter, administrative director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said he’s relieved the property is protected.
“From the perspective that the land is staying in agriculture, to me, is a good thing,” he said. “That shows that the purchase of development rights program … is actually working, because that land could very easily have been sold for development.”
Mr. Carpenter called Mr. Davis a “great member of the farm community for quite a long time” and fondly recalled the family’s previous farmstead.
“I’m very glad that he’s found somebody to purchase the land,” Mr. Carpenter said, adding that the sale of farmland for development is a “major concern” because farmers need a “critical mass” of available land.
If too many of the East End’s 35,000 acres of farmland are sold, he explained, supporting industries like repair shops, canning and bottling facilities and parts salespeople will leave for greener pastures. This can create a snowball effect that makes it even tougher for farms to stay afloat, he said.
These difficulties are nothing new for farmers, Mr. Carpenter said. They already face challenges in finding labor, dealing with regulations and taxes, managing the rising prices of goods and convincing young people to join the profession.
“It’s a major struggle out here and agriculture is definitely caught in that whole web,” he said.
Last year’s severe thunderstorm ruined about 15 days’ worth of harvestable produce, Davis Peach Farm operators said at the time. Hundreds of peach, apricot and cherry trees were knocked down by high winds.
Following the destruction, Ms. Davis launched an online fundraiser with a goal of collecting $75,000 to keep the operation going. As of this week, $6,500 had been donated, which she said was used to help pay her employees and some “outstanding bills.”
“[The GoFundMe page] wasn’t very successful, but I appreciate everything everyone did,” she said.
In addition to a vastly depleted peach crop, Ms. Davis — who said she has been running the farm for the past three decades — estimated the property lost 90 percent of its plum crop this year. She wasn’t able to harvest any apricots, either.
Despite this, she said the farm still has some peaches, nectarines and apples for sale. Apple cider and sangria, made with a blend of different fruits, are also available.
Ms. Davis, who worked at the farm as a teenager, called the closure “the end of an era.” She said she hopes to one day open another farm stand and wants to thank loyal customers for their business.
“I want to be able to personally tell them I appreciate it,” she said. “It’s very hard to be loyal to a mom-and-pop business these days, and my customers have been. I don’t want them to think it has gone unnoticed.”
Photos: (Top) On Monday, the gates outside Davis Peach Farm in Wading River were locked. The farm is due to close this week and is under contract to be sold to a new owner, according to the property’s operator and its real estate broker. (Middle) The last remaining peaches and other fruit sit in baskets at the farm, waiting to be sold. (Credit: Paul Squire photos)