“I was within a few hours of listing my tractors on eBay,” said Sam Lester of Pantigo Farm Co., in regards to the sale of his family’s farmland on Skimhampton Road in East Hampton. “But I remember waking up Sunday and thinking, ‘I’m not going to go out like that.’ ”
Mr. Lester began his farming venture in 2011 and operated a stand off of the Lester family land, which had been in the family since 1851. He had been helping out at the family farm stand for most of his life, but was unable to purchase the land from his family, and it was sold to another buyer in the spring.
“I was pretty upset with the farm leaving the hands of our family . . . but I didn’t want to give up farming because of circumstances beyond my control,” he said.
Mr. Lester turned to the community for help, and another local farmer came up with the idea of leasing land in Sagaponack. He found an acre parcel of farmland near Wolffer Estate Vineyard, but it had not been plowed for 10 years. He only began planting at the beginning of June, “extremely late in the season by farmers’ standards,” he said. He counts himself lucky to be open for the summer at all.
When Mr. Lester farmed off Skimhampton Road, everything was in one area — the farm, the chickens, and the kitchen. Now he has had to rent out kitchen space to make his famous beach plum jelly and has had to relocate the chickens to new coops.
But despite all this change, he is still selling the same array of products as he did last summer. His stand in Sagaponack is laden with zucchini, eggplant, radishes, corn, onions, blueberries, and tomatoes. He also sells jams, jellies, sunflowers, and eggs. Mr. Lester uses organic practices to grow his produce, and almost all of what is sold at his stand is either made or grown locally. New this season are baked goods made by Carissa Waechter of Carissa’s Breads. Ms. Waechter uses organic wheat grown by Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett and mills it by hand.
Although moving has been “bittersweet,” as Mr. Lester put it, there are some advantages to the new location. Being that the stand is right off Montauk Highway, he is sure to reap the benefits of Sunday vacationers stuck in traffic on the way back to Manhattan. The soil is also good Sagaponack loam of “top notch quality,” he said.
Mr. Lester is grateful to all his “loyal customers, friends, and family who have been there for me and who have helped me in my new endeavors.” As a close friend of his said to him, “When one door is closing, it’s opening on the other side.”
Pantigo Farm Co. will be open for the rest of the summer, Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The stand is on the north side of the road, just west of the Allstate insurance office.