The Chickens Come Home to Roost on Long Island’s North Fork

The Chickens Come Home to Roost on Long Island’s North Fork

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Mr. Browder is a fugitive from a 20-year banking career. The Browders sell the poultry and eggs at their farm and at other farmstands, stores and restaurants. The sheep are kept for their wool, which supplies the $250 hand-knit sweaters in their store.

A more exotic population of poultry is in the care of Abra Morawiec at Feisty Acres Farm in Jamesport on the fallow fields of the Biophilia Organic Farm, where she also works part time. She nurtures hundreds of bobwhite and Japanese quail, fluffy Chinese black-skinned Silkie chickens, guinea hens, partridge and heritage breed turkeys. The Browders cannot help her harvest most of these birds because they are considered game, not poultry, so she trucks them out of state for processing.

She got into farming with a degree in English literature after a stint in the Peace Corps in Mali, where she worked on a farm. She sells some of her birds at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays. Some of her bobwhite quail, which were once native to the area, are being released into the wild, where they eat ticks.

Hal Goodale, who returned 10 years ago to the 40 acres at the eastern edge of Riverhead that had been in his family since the 1800s, is making cheese and raising livestock. “I didn’t want to get into farming just to raise cabbages, cauliflower and potatoes like they were doing years ago,” he said. “But I saw that there was no local meat or dairy.”

He started with four goats and two cows, and now has 200 goats and 50 cows as well as chickens, sheep and pigs. There’s a store at the farm stocked mostly with dairy products, including fresh cheeses like ricotta, and ice cream, along with pork products like bacon. Most of what Mr. Goodale produces is sold through a C.S.A. “We’re the personal farmers for about 200 families,” he said.

The towns and hamlets where these farmers are located have accepted the livestock as their neighbors. But less than 30 miles away, in Orient, the easternmost part of the North Fork, the community is holding a petitioning campaign over a 34.5-acre farm that a New York restaurant chain, Fresh&co, is establishing on bayside land to raise vegetables and animals to supply its kitchens. All but five acres is preserved farmland.

Abra Morawiec with a partridge at Feisty Acres in Jamesport

Credit
Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

Troy Gustavson, the former publisher of The Suffolk Times newspaper and an Orient resident for the last 40 years, said the chief objections involve raising pigs on acreage that is part wetland. “It’s a protected bay area, and we’re concerned about the manure and the runoff,” Mr. Gustavson said. “This is farmland and they want to farm. We’re not anti-agriculture, but the quality of the groundwater and the bay has to be taken into account.” Some of the wetlands are shellfish breeding grounds.

Another issue is what is called agritainment, concerns over crowds and traffic on country roads as the Fresh&co property becomes a tourist attraction with various festivities. On weekends, the North Fork’s roads are already choked with crowds visiting wineries for weddings and other celebrations, not just to sample the latest bottlings.

“Their application did not mention events and festivals, but their website does,” Mr. Gustavson said. Fresh&co has also announced plans to build a 9,000-square-foot barn on the property.

The petition opposing the Fresh&co plans has been signed by more than 900 people so far, The Suffolk Times has reported. The Town of Southold Planning Department (which has jurisdiction over Orient) and the State Department of Environmental Conservation are reviewing Fresh&co’s proposal. A spokeswoman for Fresh&co said the company declined to comment.

North Fork Farms to Visit

These North Fork farms welcome visitors. Call ahead to check hours and availability of products.

BROWDER’S BIRDS, 4050 Soundview Avenue, Mattituck, browdersbirds.com, 631-599-3394.

DEEP ROOTS FARM, 57685 Route 25, Southold, 631-745-7928.

8 HANDS FARM, 4735 Cox Lane, Cutchogue, 8handsfarm.com, 631-533-2768.

FEISTY ACRES, 211 Manor Lane, Jamesport, feistyacres.com.

GOODALE FARMS, 250 Main Road, Riverhead, goodalefarms.com, 631-901-5975.

MCCALL WINES, 22600 Main Road, Cutchogue, mccallwines.com, 631-734-5764.

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