Featured Story

Farm stands bringing freshness to Island 

The roadsides are blooming with summer’s bounty 

The farm stands of Shelter Island have sprung to life.

In the wake of a spring that seemed determined to hold back the summer season, with frequent and heavy rains curtailing outdoor human activities, they were also soaking into the ground, benefiting some crops while inhibiting others. By last weekend, the stalls at the Havens Farmers Market on the Shelter Island Historical Society’s grounds were filled with flowers and plump vegetables, in contrast to the sparse supplies when they opened on Memorial Day weekend. 

Cris DiOrio, who manages the Havens Market, was busy at his own Island Time stand there. Floral bouquets had been set aside for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members, who were happily picking up their shares last Saturday. Other bundles of flowers were for sale, with phlox, dahlias, Queen Anne’s Lace and others ready to grace Island tables. A bee was having a field day among the flowers, imbibing their nectar and distributing their pollen.

As heads of lettuce and sugar snap peas were scooped up, Mr. DiOrio’s partner Kelci McIntosh proudly declared that they were “all grown on Shelter Island. They’re hyper-local,” she added, borrowing a phrase from the TV News 12 weather forecasters. Their flowers and produce are also sold at their Island Time roadside stand on Route 114, south of White Oak Gardens, in a spot that long housed a farm stand in decades past.

And speaking of flowers, in Hay Beach, Marianne DiOrio has just installed a flower stand at her home on Dinah Rock Road. The flowers are grown in her organic garden and sold in arrangements in vases hand-decorated by Ms. DiOrio. Husband James Wojcik designed and built the stand.

Allergy relief

Elsewhere at the Havens Market, Sarah Shepherd was selling her homegrown honey and lavender, as well as some pollinating plants. When she’s not at the Market, customers find Ms. Shepherd at her Burns Road home. Allergy sufferers know that ingesting local honey is a great remedy, not only soothing irritated throats, but also acclimating the body to the local plants and pollens that are part of the honey. Over time, the immune system sees these substances as less of a threat, and the over-the-top responses that cause such misery tend to lessen.

Pete’s, Sep’s, cheese

The summer season farm stand next to Bob’s Fish Market has reopened. It can be found under a sign that says “Pete’s” but is operated by Sep’s, an East Marion farm. Radishes in hues of orange and red, cucumbers that don’t need peeling, perfect red and green leaf lettuces share the counter with fresh sprigs of mint and basil. Tomatoes, potatoes, squash and eggs are among the offerings.

A new portable farm stand has just appeared next to Sep’s, looking like a small Conestoga wagon. Branded King Andrew Cheese, it’s operated by Jessie King and Reeve Andrew. This past weekend, they offered tastes of a smorgasbord of cheeses, ranging from a salty Spanish blue to a Hudson Flower cheese that was brined in hops and has flowers from the Hudson Valley in its rind. An Italian cheese aged in a cylinder underground was clean and firm on the palate, while a French brie had the subtlest notes from its fermentation that suggested Brussels sprouts. 

“I assure you there are no Brussels sprouts in it,” said Mr. Andrew. “But it makes you feel like you’re eating your vegetables.” 

Similarly, he explained that a cheese from Croatia, where sheep graze on fields of fennel, has a mild licorice taste. And Ms. King proffered an American ham that is similar to prosciutto and sliced in the same careful way; it has a gentle sweetness.

Continuing traditions

Earlier this summer, the Kilbs’ stand on Route 114 had gorgeous peonies. The stand, which has stood for decades, originally sold honey, and continues to do so today. Strawberries from East Marion are for sale, taking the place of a limited crop on Shelter Island, along with local green beans, zucchini, cucumbers and early corn. Bouquets of statice and snapdragon bouquets as well as sunflowers are available. Before driving away from Kilbs’, make note of the firewood they will have on hand to get through the next winter.

Over at Sylvester Manor, the centuries-old agricultural tradition has been coaxed back to life over the last few years, involving Islanders in the effort. Seedlings are for sale, as are eggs and vegetables grown on the educational farm. 

Other locally grown and made products are for sale at the Manor stand, including vinegar infused with pineapple sage and basil, and olive oil with rosemary and sundried tomatoes. Herbal misters are offered in scents of beach rose, lavender and lemon verbena, as well as one to repel insects.

Shares in the Sylvester Manor CSA are sold on a pre-paid basis. Each week, there are approximately six to eight vegetables or fruits available to each subscriber, including heirloom tomatoes, radishes, zucchini, kale, summer squash, cucumbers, lettuces, beets, carrots, greens, leeks, garlic, beans and herbs. Last weekend, a Manor CSA member gave her share to our family. The kitchen counter was covered with Swiss Chard, along with radishes so big they resembled turnips.

In 2010, using lightning-struck pines from the property, a timber frame farm stand was designed and built near the Manor’s Windmill Field, largely with volunteer labor. The farm stand now makes the farm’s products available to customers who want to buy vegetables on a day-by-day basis rather than shares. 

Over the last few years, the farm has evolved to meet the interests of the community, growing more than 50 vegetable crops, blackberries, herbs and flowers and experimenting with honeybees and small-breed livestock such as chickens, pigs and sheep. The stand’s sign posting “sustainable pork” products for sale, from chops to nitrate-free bacon, stirred memories of the farm’s pigs escaping this past winter, in a vain effort to remain sustainable.