05/30/14 8:00am
05/30/2014 8:00 AM
Farmer Debbie Schmitt at her new semi-mobile farmstand that she had built toward the end of 2013 on Sound Avenue in Riverhead. (Credit: BARBARAELLEN KOCH )

Farmer Debbie Schmitt at her new semi-mobile farmstand that she had built toward the end of 2013 on Sound Avenue in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

As production costs for Suffolk County’s farmers rise, the return they receive on that investment is going down, painting a “gloomy” picture for the future of Long Island’s farm operations, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  (more…)

04/02/14 7:46pm
04/02/2014 7:46 PM


Opponents — and supporters — of a deer cull being carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture are still waiting, and will continue to wait, for court proceedings to resume after a court date scheduled for last Friday was indefinitely delayed by a state judge, who sought more time to read up on the facts on the case before hearing both sides.


03/21/14 1:40pm
03/21/2014 1:40 PM


Anatomy of a deer cull author and former U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooter Joseph Albanese chatted live with Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review readers from 2 to 3 p.m. Friday.

Mr. Albanese answered questions based on his experiences participating in culls and other work with the USDA.

Click the button on the box below to replay the online forum.

03/07/14 11:41am
03/07/2014 11:41 AM
(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

As the old saying goes: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

And so it went for opponents of a federal operation to cull deer across the East End — to a degree.

A state Supreme Court judge ruled yesterday that the Department of Environmental Conservation can no longer issue any deer damage permits in relation to the program, at least until March 28, limiting the number of deer that will be killed.

However, permits and deer tags that have been issued can be filled under the existing permits, the judge ruled.


03/07/14 6:00am
(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)


Over the last six months, a plan to hire federal sharpshooters to thin the white-tailed deer herd across the East End has divided many in our communities — and has unexpectedly united hunters with those who hope to protect the deer.

The letters in this newspaper probably illustrate those divisions better than anything else.  (more…)

03/05/14 3:20pm
03/05/2014 3:20 PM
USDA sharpshooters reportedly started culling the deer herd on private land early last week. (Credit: Mike Tessitore/Hunters for Deer)

USDA sharpshooters reportedly started culling the deer herd on private land early last week. (Credit: Mike Tessitore/Hunters for Deer)

After recent litigation against Southold Town was dismissed, opponents of a plan to cull deer on the East End using U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters — a plan that’s already underway — now intend to take the state Department of Environmental Conservation to court for allowing the program to move forward.  (more…)

02/28/14 3:05pm
02/28/2014 3:05 PM


After months of debate and a failed lawsuit filed by opponents of the plan, a deer cull kicked off this week across multiple private properties on eastern Long Island, as parcels in Southold, Riverhead and Southampton have received state approval for the hunt.

A source familiar with the operation said the sharpshooters started working Riverhead Monday.


02/25/14 8:00am
02/25/2014 8:00 AM
wading river hops for microbreweries

John Condzella of of Condzella Farms in Wading River is one of a few young farmers that recently entered into the agriculture industry. (File photo by Barbaraellen Koch)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its most recent report outlining the health of agricultural markets nationwide based on data from 2012. And while the number of overall farm operators are on the decline in New York State, the younger crop of farmers seems to be growing fast, numbers show.

The annual report, known as the USDA Census of Agriculture, presents national data collected from growers. The 100-page preliminary report was released online Thursday, with a full report expected to be released in late spring. Information is split up by state, and compares data between a five year period — in this case comparing 2012 and 2007.

According to the report, farmers under the age of 35 in New York State grew 14.4 percent over the five-year period, far above the modest national increase of 1.1 percent. In 2012, nearly 2,150 farmers under age 35 were running farms, including 185 under the age of 25. That compares to 159 farmers age 24 and below in 2007, and another 1,720 aged 25 to 34.

On the whole, the number of farm operators nationwide fell 4.3 percent, while New York State saw a decline of 2.2 percent.

Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said the sparked interest amongst young farmers is evident locally, however the high costs associated with farming on Long Island still stands in their way.

“Land is expensive, and access of land has been identified as one of the biggest challenges for young people wanting to start-up on Long Island,” he said, adding that the spike farms being operated by latino populations, another growing cohort statewide, has not been seen here — yet.

Statewide, the number of farms being operated by Spanish, Hispanic or Latino origins increased by 27 percent, from 220 farms in 2007 to 281 in 2012.

“Nationally, it’s probably true because there is a big latino population. Over time I think we’ll probably realize some of them in our community as well,” he said.

According to the report, land being used for farm operations in New York has increased from 7,174,743 acres in 2007 to 7,183,579 in 2012 — a .12 percent increase. Across the nation, a drop of 0.8 percent in farmland was reported.

That farmland growth in New York State correlated to a $1 billion increase in market value for agricultural products sold — an 18 percent increase in the five-year period.

Mr. Gergela said the increase in farmland has been seen locally, as a number of small farm operations have popped up since 2011.

“There’s been a movement since [2011] that has really heightened interest in not only the production side, but in nutrition general,” he said. “I think part of it is particularly families that have children are really interested in nutrition and the wholeness of their kids food. I think there is heightened awareness about food in general.”

He added that an increase in the products’ market value may not necessarily be a positive thing, as it is likely associated with overall spikes in the the costs of food nationally — which can make it more difficult to feed one’s family.

Subsidies for New York farmers over that period increased by 18 percent from $62,652 to $74,511 in that time.

In a statement regarding the newly released data, USDA agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said “the preliminary data provides a snapshot of a strong rural America that has remained stable during difficult economic times…The data confirm that farm income is at a record high.”

“A bright spot in the data is the slight increase in young farmers and the stable number of small farms and large-scale farms. This reflects our work to grow both local and regional food systems and exports, but we must do more for mid-sized operations,” he said.

Mr. Vilsack added that the the recent passage of the farm bill will also help start-up operations.

Scroll below to view the full preliminary report, and to see how New York farm operations stack up nationally.

Census of Agriculture 2012 Preliminary Report