I am proud to have been born and raised on a farm in Orient, right here on the North Fork. When my real estate customers find out about my upbringing, the first question they typically ask is: “How have things changed?” Only recently, during a conversation with my sister about the chickens on the North Road, did I realize the North Fork has come full circle and back to the agricultural farming roots it once had.
Years ago, the North Fork was nothing but potato fields – potatoes were by
far the largest crop on the North Fork. Potato farming was our family business;
including both of my grandfathers, both of my parents and my uncle. Growing
up, some of my fondest memories came from the family potato farm. As a kid, my job was to walk through the fields, with small brown bags, picking the potato
bugs off of the plants. I remember having our potato barn filled to the roof
with potatoes, climbing to the top and sliding down. We would get in a lot of
trouble and I can still hear my father yelling at us, “You’re bruising the
One year, the entire potato crop in the barn rotted; that was the last year potatoes were our largest crop. We switched gears and began raising vegetables for wholesale/resale. We created one of the largest roadside stands on the North Fork, SEPS, which is still in operation today. You can pick through cases of vegetables to find the perfect shape and size you want. In addition to the retail stand, each day we would harvest enough cucumbers, peppers and cabbage to load two tractor trailers for wholesale to Hunts Point Market in the Bronx.
As time went on, Greenhouses were added to the farm stands. Greenhouses
quickly became a large industry; the capability to “farm” year round was
intriguing. Before we knew it we were raising everything from seedlings in
January to Poinsettias in December. We quickly had over five acres of
Much like we do today, we had such a sense of community on the East End.
With these changes, it seemed the old traditional farmer was starting to become
a dying breed, but it was what we knew and what we did well. It was inevitable,
more change was coming. Vineyards began replacing the North Forks traditional
farms. I’ve always felt vineyards were good for the North Fork. This change
was the beginning of a long term investment which in turn was preserving our
land. Today there are close to 50 vineyards on the North Fork.
And change we did again! In 1999, “land preservation” became a significant
buzz word in my conversations, both on the farm and in the North Fork Real
Estate community. The Community Preservation Tax, or more fondly, the 2 percent tax, was born. This fund was created to collect money at the time of real estate transfers to then buy the development rights on larger tracts of land. The
objective was and is to preserve land while providing the farmers with
additional cash flow to reinvest in their farms.
In 2001, my father passed away and my brother took over the farm. It was
again time for a change. Tomatoes and corn became the big crops at SEPS. We
have since added several acres of berry bushes.
Before we knew it, CSA’s and organic farms started popping up. The community
is starting to embrace the land in a new way, hands on. About five years ago, 17
acres of farmland in East Marion were turned into Lavender farms — A beautiful sea of lavender can be seen when it’s in bloom, not to
mention their charming store that’s sells everything lavender. And we have
since seen the long island potato turn into the
Who can forget the potato vodka that is being produced! Our local
strawberries and raspberries have also been infused into the vodka. In recent
news, we have heard of the sale of 15 acres of farmland in Southold that will
become a Blueberry Farm. Berries are a long term commitment, digging in deep to preserve our farming heritage.
Don’t be surprised if you start to see hops being grown. Yes, hops for beer.
There are already a few plantings on the North Road in Peconic and rumor has it
more to come in Southold.
And now Chickens in Southold. On the corner of Horton’s Lane in Southold and
Route 48 there are chicken coops/wagons. One has to expect fresh eggs and
It does my heart good to see the land being used again for my heritage.
Whether it’s on a small scale or large, we have some of the most beautiful and
bountiful farmland in the country. It’s good to see it being used for just
-Kristen Rishe, North Fork Real Estate Inc.