Farm Bureau suggests agriculture at EPCAL

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Long Island Farm Bureau president Frank Beyrodt, left, and farmer Lyle Wells asked the Riverhead Town Board Thursday to consider renting land at EPCAL to farmers as a way of making money until a suitable buyer is found.

The Long Island Farm Bureau is suggesting Riverhead Town lease a portion of  town-owned land at the former Northrop Grumman property in Calverton — land which is commonly referred to as EPCAL — to farmers as a way to make money while it searches for a potential buyer.

“For years, we’ve wondered why agriculture was not being considered for EPCAL,” said Aquebogue farmer Lyle Wells. “The best way to hold land, we’ve found, is to keep farming it.”

Mr. Wells and LIFB president Frank Beyrodt discussed that possibility during a Town Board work session Thursday. The town recently ended two contracts with companies looking to purchase large swaths of acreage at the site.

The nearby Stony Brook University-owned Calverton Business Incubator will soon expand to include a new agriculture consumer science center and the farm bureau said it would make sense to have adjacent land available for farming.
“There would be no carbon footprint,” Mr. Beyrodt said of leasing the land to farmers. Trucks and trains would not be needed to transport the farm products, he said.

Mr. Wells said one problem farming faces on Long Island is a shortage of land.

Councilman George Gabrielsen, who supports the idea, said there is probably about 1,000 acres at EPCAL that could be used for farming. Mr. Wells said farmers would need a lease of between three to five years.

Councilman John Dunleavy and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio also expressed support for the idea.

Councilman Jim Wooten said zoning could be a problem, since he doesn’t believe agriculture is permitted at EPCAL under current law.

The land was given to the town by the federal government to be used for economic development.

“This is very preliminary,” Mr. Wells said. If the Town Board shows that it is committed to the idea, the Farm Bureau will then go back to its members to see how many farmers are interested in farming at EPCAL.

“This has been on the drawing board for a while, but everything always seemed to be pending at EPCAL,” Mr. Beyrodt said. “Now, nothing is pending.”

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