07/27/14 2:00pm
07/27/2014 2:00 PM
Nicholas Mazard, director of sales and marketing for Koppert Cress USA, explained that natural fiber is used instead of soil to grow  microgreens, enabling the live plant products to arrive at restaurants without bringing 'dirt into their kitchens.' (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Nicholas Mazard, director of sales and marketing for Koppert Cress USA, explained that natural fiber is used instead of soil to grow microgreens, enabling the live plant products to arrive at restaurants without bringing ‘dirt into their kitchens.’ (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Picture a full garden’s worth of flavors: sweet corn, beets, sweet peas, arugula, fresh basil and even crisp green apples.

Now picture all of those varieties tiny enough to be pressed together in your fingertips.

This is happening right now on the North Fork, where Koppert Cress USA of Cutchogue is producing microgreens. Each one is packed full of fresh flavor and boasts more nutrition than varieties grown full size.  (more…)

07/27/14 8:00am
Young Farmers Camp coordinator Lucy Senesac plants seeds with Rudy Bruer, 10, of Mattituck and Julia Galasso, 12, of Westhampton. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Young Farmers Camp coordinator Lucy Senesac plants seeds with Rudy Bruer, 10, of Mattituck and Julia Galasso, 12, of Westhampton. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

“Eat your vegetables.”

The phrase may generate a certain queasy feeling in your stomach and an innate desire to defy your mother. Uttered sternly by countless moms over the years to kids of all ages, it’s easy to remember that nothing seemed worse than swallowing the last (or first) bite of broccoli or brussels sprouts.

Lucy Senesac of Sang Lee Farms, however, is determined to change that healthy-eating stereotype.

Sang Lee Farms in Peconic is running a Young Farmer’s Camp for 7- to 12-year-olds on Wednesdays through Aug. 13. Ms. Senesac began working at Sang Lee about four years ago and became eager to share her knowledge with kids.

“I wanted to do something to basically teach other people because I’ve learned so much here,” she explained. “And I’ve just found that it’s so important to learn where your food comes from. It affects so much.”KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOVegetables grow in raised beds.

Ms. Senesac eventually wants to offer classes on healthy and organic eating for adults, but for now she’s starting with kids. This is the first year for the camp, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with plenty of fun activities and learning opportunities. Nine children are currently enrolled.

“I wanted to share my passion for good food and eating well with the kids out here because it’s such a great community and there’s so much farming. They just need to be a part of it,” she said.

Camp is complete with hay bales, a chalkboard and garden beds just for the kids. Every week the campers plant and learn about the “vegetables of the week.” In the mornings, they recap what they learned the week before and look to see if anything has sprouted.

Next, Ms. Senesac takes them around Sang Lee to learn about the new vegetables of the week and then they go over an educational topic of the week.

The first week’s topic was “what organic means” the second week’s was bees.

07/11/14 8:00am
07/11/2014 8:00 AM
Aquaculturist Bren Smith of Thimble Island Oyster Company in Connecticut is the first sugar kelp grower to cultivate the sea vegetable from Long Island Sound waters. He is working with food industry insiders, including expert chefs from New York City, and international supermarket chains to help drive market demand for domestically grown kelp products. (Credit: Bren Smith)

Aquaculturist Bren Smith of Thimble Island Oyster Company in Connecticut is the first sugar kelp grower to cultivate the sea vegetable from Long Island Sound waters. He is working with food industry insiders, including expert chefs from New York City, and international supermarket chains to help drive market demand for domestically grown kelp products. (Credit: Bren Smith)

It’s a delicacy Asian cultures have enjoyed for centuries but is more commonly thought of as the slippery — and sometimes slimy — brown stuff that grows naturally in area waters and then washes up on beaches.

And one day, it could be a major moneymaker for the North Fork.  (more…)

07/01/14 12:00pm
07/01/2014 12:00 PM
A field of corn behind Jenn's farmstand on Peconic Bay Boulevard in Aquebogue on Monday. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A field of corn behind Jenn’s farmstand on Peconic Bay Boulevard in Aquebogue on Monday. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

North Fork growers say they are in a race against time and temperature, hoping they will be able to harvest enough local sweet corn to fill farm stand shelves for the busy holiday weekend.

The lasting effects of the cold winter stalled the growth of many area corn crops, putting harvesting behind schedule, according to many local farmers. (more…)

06/22/14 4:00pm
06/22/2014 4:00 PM
Phil Schmitt speaking with industry officials from upstate Wednesday afternoon. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Phil Schmitt speaking with industry officials from upstate Wednesday afternoon. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Phil Schmitt of Schmitt Family Farms in Riverhead welcomed farming support representatives from the New York City watershed region last week to share some of the conservation practices being used every day on the Roanoke Avenue farm.

(more…)

06/20/14 8:00am
06/20/2014 8:00 AM
In the Southold Elementary School garden, students not only learn about science; they put their math skills into practice by measuring and planning the garden’s layout. Since they also harvest and sell their produce, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone says he’d like to see similar programs implemented in other county schools. From left: second-graders Mae Dominy, Grace Zehil, Alyvia Apparu and Skylar Valderrama. (Credit: Carrie Miller photos)

In the Southold Elementary School garden, students not only learn about science; they put their math skills into practice by measuring and planning the garden’s layout. Since they also harvest and sell their produce, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone says he’d like to see similar programs implemented in other county schools. From left: second-graders Mae Dominy, Grace Zehil, Alyvia Apparu and Skylar Valderrama. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone wants more young people to know that, among doctor, lawyer, firefighter or police officer, “farmer” is also a viable career, and an attainable and realistic life goal.

(more…)

06/05/14 1:08pm
06/05/2014 1:08 PM
That deal would requires approval from both county legislators and county taxpayers in November. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

That deal would requires approval from both county legislators and county taxpayers in November. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

After environmentalists sued Suffolk County earlier this year for “raiding” more than $30 million dollars from the county’s Drinking Water Protection Program, environmentalists and county leaders announced an agreement that will replace the funds and safeguard the reserve in the future.

County Executive Steven Bellone and members of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and Group for the East End announced the deal — which  still needs approval from county legislators, as well as a voter referendum in November — on Wednesday.

Under the proposed settlement, the county could still dip into the fund until 2018, in order to fulfill its long term financial needs, however any money diverted would be paid back in full, according to the agreement. The agreement would ban the use of Drinking Water Protection Program funds for alternate purposes beyond 2018 without voter approval.

“This is a good faith effort on the part of the County Executive and County Legislature to right a wrong,” said Mr. Amper. “It was initiated by the County Executive. He called me and said this is contradictory to what we are trying to do. Lets fix it.

The Drinking Water Protection Program is funded by a self-imposed tax that county residents voted to levy upon themselves several times since 1987. It is intended to protect groundwater through several specific uses, such as open space purchases and a fund dedicated to stabilizing sewer rates for residents. It would not otherwise come up for a vote again until 2030.

In 2011, and again in 2014, the county dipped into the fund, using it to help plug budget gaps which environmentalists say violates the terms under which voters agreed to tax themselves, making it illegal.

Under the proposed settlement, the county could still dip into the fund until 2018, in order to fulfill it’s long-term financial needs, however any money diverted would be paid back in full, according to the agreement.

Environmental advocates, led by Pine Barren’s champion Richard Amper, sued the county — twice — challenging that the funds raised through the program could not be diverted to other uses without a referendum voted on “by the taxpayers who created it.”

The Bellone administration has aggressively been targeting a goal of improving the county’s long term water quality, an effort the county exec has dubbed the ‘Reclaim Our Water’ initiative. Mr. Bellone has announced support for extending sewers on the west side of the county and fast-tracking the approval of denitrification systems. On the North Fork, the county threw its support behind a study exploring the use of such systems in Orient, spending $60,000 to see if the group systems would work in the un-sewered hamlet.

Mr. Amper said on Thursday that, “it would be inconsistent to say [the county is] fighting to improve water quality, while at the same time taking away money from the fund.”

Urging the legislature to follow suit and vote on the deal, Mr. Bellone agreed.

“It’s a simple principle: voters created the drinking water protection program, they voted to reauthorize it, and therefore, we should go to the voters when we seek to amend it,” he said.

The 2014 budget used $32.8 million from the program, specifically the county’s sewer stabilization fund. Under former County Executive Steve Levy’s administration, the county used about $20 million.

“The 2011 raids were conduced by the Levy administration, and they were not understanding or cooperative at all,” Mr. Amper said. “Bellone’s is taking a much more productive view.”

The settlement puts to rest a petition campaign initiated in February seeking a similar outcome.

Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, who helped hammer out the fund restoration deal said, “every resident of Suffolk County should feel good about this settlement,” adding that government can be “moved by an organized, mobilized citizenry that acts with purpose, passion and persistence.”

Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who voted against the 2014 budget which included dipping into the fund, said “I am certainly encouraged that there is an agreement, and I think we all need to work together on achieving water quality goals. I have to look at the details to say definitively whether I will support it.”

Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) stressed that the deal still needs to be approved by the county legislature.

“I think it’s a very complicated settlement that a lot of people are taking a careful look at,” he explained. “If it serves the taxpayers and help to give us a little more environmental protection, I will support it.”

cmiller@timesreview.com