Congratulations are in order for Tom and Gekee Wickham, owners of Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue, as they’ve been named the first Suffolk County farm to win New York State’s Agricultural Environmental Management Award.
Additionally, they are the first fruit farm to receive the accolade, which was first awarded in 2002, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
The honor, considered to be the state’s top agricultural environmental award, highlights “the outstanding efforts of a New York State farm to protect and preserve soil and water quality,” according to a press release.
The Wickhams’ historic bicentennial farm, which spans 200 acres, became one of the first 50 farms to receive an Agricultural Environmental Management comprehensive farm plan in 1999. The plan is a voluntary program that helps farmers balance cost-effective and environmentally conscious decisions.
“The Wickhams’ have made good environmental practices a part of their daily life on the farm and we congratulate them on their innovation and commitment to protect and conserve the quality of our soil and water,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball.
Some of the farm’s green initiatives include replacing fuel tanks to lessen the risk of soil contamination, focusing on reducing the usage of nitrogen-rich fertilizer, and incorporating a micro-irrigation system to more efficiently water crops.
Mr. Wickham credited numerous agencies — including the NYS Departments of Agriculture and Markets and Environmental Conservation, Cornell University, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District — with helping the farm embrace environmentally sound practices.
“They have all provided great help and guidance in implementing projects that protect our land and the health of our community while improving our operation,” he said.