1146 Main Road
Hours: Thursday, 2-6 p.m.
Friday and Sunday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
By Lorna Luniewski ~ Visiting a farm is not a usual assignment for a dining review. More unusual however, is how two Manhattan residents, who have had a home in Seaview for the past 15 years, ended up with a 55-acre farm in Jamesport on the North Fork of Long Island that now supplies produce to Seaview Market. Owners Kim Frank and Jeff Brown said I should let them know if I figure it out.
Curiosity was a driving factor, as Kim who likes to cook and Jeff who likes to bake were always seeking “clean, nutritious, beautiful food,” Kim said. “We saw a lack … from our own personal perspectives. We want great produce. Where can we go to get it? How can we create that relationship where we know it’s a reliable source? We wanted to demonstrate to ourselves that it’s not just us that are crazy about getting clean food … lots of people are interested in finding clear access to a wonderful producer, a wonderful farm. It’s not easy.”
The pair began attending The Young Farmers Conference each year, held at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Westchester County. There they learned about soil techniques, sustainability and how to create a working farm model that can deliver quality produce and be profitable at the same time.
So the next logical step? They “bought the farm” (Jeff said I could use that line) in 2014, and spent the next five years preparing. While there were two wells on the property already, they needed to have an irrigation system put in place, bring in electricity, put up deer fencing around 20 acres and apply for and receive organic certification. They met with The Peconic Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that works to protect Long Island’s working farms, natural lands, and heritage, according to its website.
During this time, they continued their education and met Ryan Lertora (through Peconic Land Trust), a Northport native who had been running a farm in Maine for five years and was looking to relocate back home. The timing was perfect as Jamesport Farmstead was ready for planting and Ryan began his job as farm manager in 2019. By 2020, the beds were ready for planting.
Opening a business during a pandemic can be a challenge to say the least, but fortunately it worked out for the new team as people seemed to be thinking more about the foods they were eating. Added to that is the ease in which getting fresh fruits and vegetables became with online ordering and curbside pick-up, a new way of shopping for many.
“In our little patch of garden at the beach we got very spoiled and very excited about going downstairs and cutting the lettuce a few minutes before we were going to eat it,” Jeff said. “You can’t go backwards after you taste that.”
That’s where the local aspect comes in, Kim explained. “Yes, if it’s organic it has less chemicals but it’s not as if you grow organically you’re going to have delicious stuff. If it’s coming from California, and it’s on the truck, and going through a distribution warehouse, gets to the grocer and then to your plate, it just doesn’t taste the same.”
“People will appreciate the difference and keep coming back,” Jeff said. “And they also understand seasonal growing. They know that this wonderful lettuce they just had, you can’t get that in February. So it’s an education for us, an education for our friends and our customers.” Word of mouth is the best advertisement, Jeff continued. “When something tastes like you never thought it would, you can’t stop talking about it.”
Jamesport Farmstead is “plant positive, not pest negative,” Ryan said. There is no use of herbicides, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. He explained that they currently plant 10 acres, a small amount of land that yields a variety of items. By diversifying like this, if they have a problem with one crop, there are still several others to harvest. This is no-till farming, no big machines here, which means little disturbance of the soil and thus a healthier soil. Ryan describes it as a “small country garden.”
The last piece of the pie is how the North Fork farm became affiliated with Seaview Market. Well, the same friends and neighbors who benefited from Kim and Jeff’s small sandy soil garden began buying fruits and vegetables once the Farmstead was up and running. They started getting more and more requests, and would be carting boxes over on the ferry each weekend, so they approached the Market owner with two business options. One, let residents shop online, choose what they wanted specifically and then have it delivered to Seaview Market for pickup (order Tuesday by 8 p.m. and have it delivered on Thursday); the second was for the Market to buy available produce from the farm wholesale, and sell it. And so a successful relationship was established.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, cut flowers and herbs are available, along with eggs from chickens that are pasture-rotated every seven days to enjoy new grass, bugs and worms. Beneficial flowers surround the farm, drawing bees, butterflies and other insects that create a healthy garden. There are two Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) buying programs: Full CSA allows you to buy a share that contains eight-14 items each week, dependent on availability and quantity of the season, and come on your pick-up day; Member’s Choice CSA allows flexibility in choosing your produce and how and when you pick it up using credits online or at the farm stand.
Now in their second season, the farm is gaining more traction. “All of our customer’s make a point of commenting about how they just love it,” Kim stated. “It’s like their farm. They can come here, they know Ryan and the rest of the team members, and they can see what’s being harvested as we go along the season.”
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