A GROWING Industry on Long Island

Please enjoy this previously published article-given the time of year and the recent Harvest Moon, I though it would be an interesting and relevant post.

As you relax in your seat on your way to the East End of the Island, you undoubtedly glance up from your On The Jitney magazine. You might shift a gaze through the window and quietly admire the fresh green fields of sod or cabbage or some other type of agriculture pushing is way through the fertile island soil. The sweet scents of cut flowers as you pass a roadside stand might tease and delight your senses. You might take a deep breath and sigh on exhalation noting a hint of salt in the air. Nature is so beautiful. Something about working with the earth, whether it’s gardening or growing a potted plant indoors, appeals to a deeper sense of connection with Mother Nature and all of her bounty.

For roughly 350 years, Long Island has played host for many generations of farmers orginating from Europe. The native Americans had been tilling this land for roughly 4,000 years prior to the arrival of the Europeans. Richard Vines, son of a farming family as well as a historian and writer was quoted in a Newsday article as saying, “Farming by far was the biggest employer on Long Island for many generations,…the economy of Long Island revolved around the farming industry, I think it remained a key industry…well into the 20th Century.”

Cordwood was actually the first major income-generated crop for Long Island. On the Island in 1945 there were approximately 72,000 acres of potato. According to the American Farm Bureau Foudation for Agriculture, Long Island’s farming history can be categorized into four “developmental periods.”

The first extends from the Native Americans and the early English settlers to the end of the Revolutionary War. This is the time period when Cordwood made its presence known as a major crop.
The second phase started just after the Civil War, with the inventions of irrigation, cast-iron plows and better transportation. Produce such as potatoes, cauliflower and the beloved local strawberry crops grew in great numbers. Exports were on the rise so this industry flourished on Long Island.
Now we come to the end of World War II, and our third phase. Showing an increase in “truck farms” and roadside stands, tourism was on the rise and the stands met the demand for fresh fruits and vegetables of a wide variety.
The fourth phase in the development of Long Island agriculture brings us to the 21st Century. Many believe it to be the final stage. Suffolk County remains New York State’s leading county on gross sales of products grown. The County is also a leader in the United States by passing the first preservation program, the Purchase of Development Rights.

A few years ago a documentary called, ” A Farm Picture” was made to highlight the importance of the preservation of farmland and the business of farming. The American Farm Bureau Foundation as well as the film-makers stressed that preserving this industry on Long Island is preserving its “…historic and rural heritage.”

Today, Long Island farms are the most productive in New York State and account for adding $150 million dollars every year to the economy. (as of original publication)

So you see, it’s not just a sod farm, or a local strawberry field, or small pumpkin patch, it’s a very real and thriving part of our economic survival. All this, on an island 118 miles long and 23 miles wide.

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