Working through the winter
Is anyone else bored of winter? Daydreaming of feeling the sun on your back, trips to Fire Island and fresh Long Island produce?
You don’t have to wait until spring for that last part. This Saturday, Deer Run Farms in Brookhaven hamlet will reopen for their first-ever Winter Market. After taking the month of January off for a well-deserved break, the Nolan family was back to work last week, gearing up with selections of both fresh and preserved local produce.
Owner Bob Nolan announced in September that the farm stand would be staying open year-round. Though farms typically slow down in the winter, many farmers, especially on Long Island, work through the winter to keep up with high production costs. Offering options for the surrounding community to eat fresh, Nolan said, is another plus. “We’re here, we don’t go away in the winter, so we may as well be open,” Nolan said, laughing. “It’s a good excuse to get out of the house.”
His wife Janet and daughter Valerie work in the farm stand and can attest that customers have long desired for the stand to stay open in the winter months. “They really do like coming here — they always say, ‘we’re going to miss you until June,’” Valerie said. Janet agreed and added that with more and more people looking to source their food locally, this may make it a bit easier. “Our main reason is to promote Long Island agriculture 12 months out of the year,” she added.
The Winter Market will offer fresh greens, from lettuce to Asian salad greens, heirloom tomatoes, and fresh herbs sourced from a pair of greenhouse growers on the North Fork, as well as hardier winter veggies like potatoes, carrots, parsnips and squash, all perfect for roasting, in soups and stews.
“A lot of what we have in the summer is preserved, so it can be enjoyed even in the winter,” Valerie said, pointing to a selection of pickled goodies including beets, corn relish, bread and butter pickles made with local Kirby cucumbers, and a delicious passed-down family recipe for braised red cabbage — an underrated delicacy. Different varieties of pesto, including cilantro, arugula, spinach, walnut and traditional basil, are also available. Valerie’s favorite part? Offering new recipe ideas to customers sick of steaming and roasting.
Despite New Year’s resolutions, bread is a winter staple, and fresh baked loaves and pies from Blue Duck Bakery will also be available during the Winter Market. Fresh mozzarella from Giacalone’s pork store in Shirley, available at the farm, makes the perfect accoutrement for the fresh heirloom tomatoes and basil if you’re craving a light, summer-inspired meal.
The mother and daughter also craft homemade farm gifts, like notecard packs with photos taken around the farm, for sale as well.
Nolan, 55, says that farming is a family affair, with both kids involved. When she isn’t working the farm stand, Valerie, 22, works at the Farmers Kitchen in Riverhead, a processing kitchen for local produce. His son, Samuel, 26, recently graduated from SUNY Cobleskill and works on the farm, too. Bob Nolan loves the industry despite its challenges. “I love growing good stuff. Then you see it in here, how beautiful it is ... it’s just a good feeling.”
He said that in recent years, he’s watched trends change and busy people opting for the convenience of store-bought produce. “There’s no comparison between fresh lettuce and bagged lettuce that’s washed in chlorine,” he said.
The 30-acre, fifth-generation farm is known for their many varieties of homegrown lettuce and cabbage. Nolan’s great-grandfather started the farm in Middle Village, Queens at the turn of the century on three acres. Eventually, they sold and moved out to Valley Stream, then Bethpage, and continually east until settling in Brookhaven hamlet in 1953. Nolan took over farm operations in 2001. He says that the cool breeze off the shore and sandy soil offer great growing conditions for lettuce varieties, such as green Batavian, red Batavian and French iceberg, which he said can be “finicky” to grow.
“I grew up on the farm. I went to Farmingdale State and learned a few things, but this is where you really learn,” he said, pointing to the fields behind him.
The Winter Market will also be a learning experience for the Nolans, who are looking forward to this new feat. Deer Run Farms, located at 282 South Country Road in Brookhaven, reopens for the Winter Market this Saturday, Feb. 3 at 9 a.m. The market will run Saturdays and Sundays until May, when the farm stand kicks into high gear seven days a week.
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