While its location on New Suffolk Road has made it visible to passersby for more than 200 years, the aptly named Salt Air Farm — a 125-acre Cutchogue property situated near Peconic Bay and two creeks — is remarkably sequestered.
“We’re really a private business over here,” said Prudence Heston, who lives on the working flower and fruit farm with her husband, Dan, and their 12-year-old daughter, Sadie. “You’ll notice there’s no farm stand.”
On Saturday afternoon, the Mattituck-Laurel Historical Society provided visitors the rare opportunity to tour the historic property, which hosts up to six weddings per year and specializes in floral arrangements.
The following is a glimpse of what they encountered:
‘FREDDY’S HOUSE’ AND the ‘LITTLE HOUSE’
The Hestons have dubbed the property’s four-bedroom homestead “Freddy’s House” in honor of Freddy Tuthill, a former owner.
The house was built in 1798 by David Tuthill. During its construction, he lived with his family in a nearby one-room structure now referred to as the “Little House.”
Despite being no larger than a shed, Ms. Heston has found a practical use for the 16-by-12-foot space, which features original bricks and hand-hewed wood beams.
“I use it for flower arranging, but I also use it for honey extraction,” she said.
In addition to the homestead and Little House, the property features an original outhouse. Its inventive construction includes three wooden holes shaped to accommodate body types of all sizes — small, medium and large.
LAWN AND FLAGPOLE
Mowing the expansive lawn at Salt Air Farm is a family affair.
“We all do our part,” Ms. Heston said. “Sadie helps a lot with the mowing.”
If a wedding is being hosted at the property, the Hestons take advantage of all the greenery by using a lawnmower to carve out an impromptu croquet course and bocce court.
Since last year, the Hestons have also raised an American flag on the lawn’s 46-foot flagpole, which was donated to them by Southold resident Mark Baxter.
FIELDS OF FLOWERS AND FRUIT
It would be difficult to put a firm number on the different types of flowers that grow at Salt Air Farm, which include hydrangeas, roses and peonies in nearly every color imaginable.
In addition to flowers, the farm grows apples, nectarines, peaches, blackberries and even kiwis. Fruit is often incorporated into floral arrangements.
“If somebody wants a real English garden party kind of feel, I’ll mix the blackberries in with the arrangement,” Ms. Heston said.
All those flowers and fruit trees are pollinated in large part by the farm’s honeybees.
“I’ve always been interested in bees,” said Ms. Heston, who estimated the many large hives near a row of hydrangeas each contain around 80,000 honeybees, while the smaller hives that house about 40,000 apiece. “I think they’re really important in terms of farming.”
The Hestons use the honey their bees produce to craft unique wedding favors. For the past decade, they’ve also hosted an “Introduction to Beekeeping” camp, which runs from March to September.
“It gives people the opportunity to keep their own hive and learn the process of a beekeeper’s year,” Ms. Heston said.
THE DOVE LOFT
Salt Air Farm is home to around 30 doves. The friendly birds, a cross between white rock doves and racing pigeons, are highly trainable and can easily find their way home from long distances. This is important, Ms. Heston said, since groups of 10 are often released during wedding ceremonies to add a symbolic flourish.
“Other farms do chickens,” she said. “We do doves.”
The Hestons purchased the birds, which are fed a diet of whole grains twice a day, around two years ago.
“It was my husband’s idea,” Ms. Heston said. “He had talked about it for a while, did a lot of research and decided, ‘Yeah, that works with our business model.’<\!q>”