February farming at MarGene Farms

At MarGene Farms in Mattituck, you could say the food cycle is bedroom to farm to table.

Farmer Gene Krupski plants artichokes, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables right on his kitchen counter. He begins the process in January and February, when he fills plant cells with soil and seeds and then places the plastic dome-covered cells in his light-filled bedroom.

After the seedlings sprout, they’re moved from the bedroom’s large windows to Mr. Krupski’s en suite bathroom. The fledging plants love the moisture and warmth the shower provides, he said.

“It’s crazy,” Mr. Krupski, who owns his farm with his wife, Maryann, said of the jungle-like conditions in his sleeping quarters. “You can’t even get out of bed. I have plants surrounding us.”

Mr. Krupski, who spent 25 years working in the finance sector of the insurance industry, said using his bedroom as a greenhouse has been a cost-effective move. He and his wife installed two approximately 3,000-square-foot, 12-foot-high tunnels, also known as hot houses, in 2015, but admit they could use additional space.

The structures, which Mr. Krupski said can carry a sticker price of up to $25,000, help the farmers extend their season through the winter. They don’t sell produce to customers this time of year, but Long Island chefs are more than happy to purchase their greens, root vegetables and eggs wholesale.

Thomas Gloster, chef and partner at Rustic Root Kitchen in Woodbury, said this is the first time he has been able to source locally grown produce in February.

“You can taste the difference with the vegetables when they come in and they’re covered in dirt. There is a certain satisfaction and connection you feel as a chef,” Mr. Gloster said. “Comparing commodity Swiss chard to what we get from them, it’s night and day.”

Last Wednesday, Mr. Krupski still had rows of plants producing inside the tunnels, including turmeric, ginger, Swiss chard, arugula, spinach, carrots and lettuce. The temperature hovered at 70 degrees inside the hothouse — easily 25 degrees above conditions outdoors.

MarGene Farm

Swiss chard grows in a high tunnel at MarGene Farms in Mattituck on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. The temperature hovered around 70 degrees in the tunnel, while it was about 40 degrees outside. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Outside, in his five-acre field, Mr. Krupski pulled pounds of salsify and artichokes from the ground. They’ll be served to diners at top Long Island restaurants like Jema in Huntington and Southold’s North Fork Table and Inn.

Mr. Krupski farms the land once owned by his late father, Joseph, a potato farmer. Tilling is in his blood; a third-generation farmer, he paid for his college education by farming and was able to make a down payment on his first home at age 25 because of it.

“I probably negotiated my first deal with a broker at the age of 12 on what price I should get for my product,” he said.

But much has changed since Mr. Krupski was a boy.

For one thing, MarGene Farms is now certified organic. The Krupskis don’t use pesticides and they give their chickens expensive organic feed. They also don’t limit themselves to traditional Long Island crops and have expanded to niche products like fairy tale eggplant and turmeric, the latter of which is now in demand for its reported anti-inflammatory properties.

And Mr. Krupski’s father certainly didn’t turn his bedroom into a makeshift growing operation.

Although the arrangement is unusual, Ms. Krupski said she’s happy to share her bedroom with the young plants.

“I don’t think I’d like to get a greenhouse because I just love watching my husband when I wake up in the morning,” she said. “He’s so excited, he’s digging in each one. He loves to see them growing. He lights up like a kid on Christmas.”

On Saturday, Ms. Krupski sent a reporter an email with a photo of the first sign of green in 2017. The bedroom artichokes had sprouted.

MarGene Farms

Maryann and Gene Krupski inside their master bathroom which has been filled with artichoke seedlings. (Credit: Vera Chinese)