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Senator Brooks Tours Long Island Agricultural Sites

Farming Industry Important to Long Island: Employs More than 10,000; Agri-Business also generates billions of dollars more for LI’s largest industry: tourism/ travel/ hospitality.

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Left, Senator John E. Brooks; right: Juniper Hill Greenhouses owner/operator Fred Hammele.

Photo by: Office of Senator John E. Brooks.

Long Island, NY - October 10, 2017 - Senator John E. Brooks, the ranking member of the New York State Senate Standing Committee for Agriculture met with some of Long Island’s most innovative agricultural producers and businesses on a tour with the Long Island Farm Bureau October 4th. Senator Brooks spoke with owners, operators and employees of vineyards, nurseries, greenhouses, farms and winemaking operations.
Farming and other agribusinesses employ well over 10,000 people in the Long Island region, and generate jobs for tens of thousands more in other industries ranging from food processing to trucking and travel. Long Island agriculture is a billion dollar a year industry and generates billions of dollars more for the Island’s largest industry, tourism and hospitality. 
Senator Brooks said, “We need to do all we can to make sure New York and Long Island farmers can successfully continue their family businesses and provide employment for their employees and themselves. We must support an environment that provides abundant, healthy and fresh vegetables, fruits, poultry, livestock, wine and seafood to our residents and beyond.”
Senator Brooks met with Premium Wine Group managing partner Russell Hearn and Juan Micieli-Martinez of Martha Clara Vineyards. Premium’s operations are an example of local winemaking businesses using technology and working cooperatively to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Their operation allows twenty different vineyards to process, barrel and bottle at one location.
On the tour of Juniper Hill Greenhouses, a mid-sized bedding plant-greenhouse operation, owner/operator Fred Hammele demonstrated operational efficiencies that enable multiple growing seasons throughout the year and discussed methods of monitoring and avoiding soil contamination.
At all the enterprises, Senator Brooks discussed the nature and challenges of each of the farms and the unique segments of the agricultural marketplace they occupy. Many of the individuals he spoke with have long family histories in farming, some for hundreds of years, but all shared a goal of responsible stewardship of the land and the environment.
Their use of technology and dedication to protect the environment to maximize product yields also helps preserve wildlife habitats and enhance the natural beauty of Long Island, which in turn draw visitors who sustain the area’s profitable tourism industry and related employment.
Senator Brooks was given a tour of Half Hollow Nursery, a 600-acre tree farm located on the Riverhead Southold border by Karl Novak, the general manager of Half Hollow Nursery and the president of the Long Island Farm Bureau. The Senator also toured the Philip Schmitt & Son Farm, an approximately 150-acre farm that grows mixed vegetables. The tour ended with a stop at DeLea Sod Farm with Frank Beyrodt, Jr.  At all of these locations, Senator Brooks was impressed with their professionalism and vast knowledge. The operations have mastered exceptionally efficient use of water and fertilizer, and maximum efficiency of land use.
Senator Brooks added, “I am committed to further improving agricultural operations by assisting in the development and passage of any needed legislation, and working pro-actively to keep Long Island’s agricultural community growing and thriving. Like the farmers, we must nurture and nourish our agricultural industry if we wish to see it continue to thrive and grow.”
Juan Micieli-Martinez said, “Long Island has a rich agricultural history and the East End really is the last frontier. It is important that elected officials like Senator Brooks make the visits and understand agriculture and its continued importance. As an agricultural community we need support from patrons and elected officials alike to help ensure that agriculture will remain on Long Island for future generations to come.”
Robert Carpenter, Administrative Director, Long Island Farm Bureau, said, “Not many people realize that Long Island is one of the largest agricultural areas in New York in terms of gross sales of product. We have a diversity of crops and operation not readily found in most areas of New York - or the United States for that matter.  Farming in suburbia is not easy for our agricultural community and we face many challenges.  It is imperative that our elected leaders such as Senator Brooks, and residents understand those challenges and work towards supporting agriculture so we can have a fresh local food supply for today and many generations to come.”