The Food Pantry Farm on Long Lane in East Hampton, created in response to a growing need among South Fork residents, has found a way to increase what it is able to provide to the less fortunate. Its keepers have taken over a stand just steps from where the farm grows tons of food for thousands of those in need.
Now in its fourth year on its three acres, the nonprofit farm has signed a one-year lease on the stand with the East End Cooperative Organic Farm, which it hopes to renew when the year is up.
While sticking with the farm’s original mission to regularly deliver organically produced food to five food pantries between Southampton and Montauk and a women’s shelter, the stand now also offers the public the Food Pantry Farm’s nutritious produce, including carrots, salad greens, summer and winter squash, melons, strawberries, peaches, sweet potatoes, okra, beets, turnips, kale, collards, Swiss chard, and herbs.
Local honey will also be sold there, from bees kept nearby on the farm. And there will be pretzel breads and baguettes, local pies, jams, jellies, and pickles. Paul Muller, who donates his proceeds to Lucia’s Angels, a charity for those dealing with cancer, will sell cookies and brownies there.
This month, the stand’s indoor refrigerator is filled with such things as kale pesto, garlic confit, and strawberry vinaigrette prepared by Darcy Hutzenlaub. It opened on Memorial Day weekend and, starting today, will be open Thursdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Ms. Hutzenlaub will take over as farm manager at the end of July, and Peter Garnham, who started the Food Pantry Farm four years ago, will leave to pursue his interests in season extension and soil microbiology. Having been intimately involved with EECO Farm for quite a few years, he is familiar with earlier concerns about arsenic levels in the soil, which was farmed using conventional methods for many years until the land was purchased by the town and leased to EECO Farm. Since earlier tests showing elevated arsenic levels were conducted, Mr. Garnham said, hundreds of tons of organic compost has been added to the soil, and now, he said, “the arsenic levels in our soils are way below even the most stringent levels put out by the E.P.A. and state health departments.”
Arsenic is naturally occurring in healthy soils, along with things such as iron, copper, manganese, and molybdenum, Mr. Garnham explained. Food Pantry Farm’s biodynamic farming methods go far beyond organic, he said, and “arsenic is no longer — if it ever was — a health concern.”
Joining him and Ms. Hutzenlaub at the farm are Kristopher Bell, who grew up in Springs and was brought to the farm via community service. After fulfilling his mandated duties, Mr. Bell kept on volunteering. The farm management liked his work ethic and felt he was a good fit, said John Malafronte, one of the farm’s founders, adding that Mr. Bell is now an indispensable part of the team.
“It is definitely had work,” Mr. Bell said last week, “but it is amazing and rewarding.”
In addition to his work on the farm, Mr. Bell has designed and printed T-shirts sold at the stand to benefit the cause. One shirt on display there reads “Who’s Your Farmer?” a message that he hopes will make people think about where their food comes from in a non-confrontational manner.
Jack Castoro, another East Hampton High School alumnus, has also joined the team, bringing his carpentry skills to the operation.
“The young help carry the weight,” said Mr. Malafronte, a retired Wall Street executive turned agricultural philanthropist. He added that he hopes they will carry it forward, too, taking the skills they learn as lessons for both life and in business.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy took a toll on the farm last year, including some significant damage to the farm’s new greenhouse.
Despite setbacks, “We have made money over the last five weeks to plow back into the farm,” Mr. Malafronte said last Saturday.
The farm’s neighbors have been generous. “Iacono Farm across the street is super supportive,” Mr. Malafronte said. They helped to market the stand with signs and have allowed the use of their refrigerator, for example.
Other farms in the community, such as Balsam and Bonac Farms, have helped fill holes in inventory, and Buckley’s farm donated flowers, which the Food Pantry Farm also grows and delivers to pantries as a pick-me-up.
Schenck Fuels delivered a free, seven-foot-high, $13,000 Traulson double refrigerator and freezer that the farm uses for much needed cold storage. But as a nonprofit, Food Pantry Farm is always in search of donations for its physical plant, staff, and machinery. They can be sent to Food Pantry Farm, P.O. Box 181 East Hampton 11937. Inquiries can also be made via e-mail to email@example.com.