Coolest northforker stories of 2016: Wickham’s Fruit Farm recognized by state

Wickham's Fruit Farm in Cutchogue. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

This year brought accolades to Wickham’s Fruit Farm, which became the first farm in Suffolk County to win New York State’s Agricultural Environmental Management Award.

The Cutchogue farm also became the first fruit grower to receive the honor, which was first given in 2002, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Considered the state’s top agricultural environmental award, it highlights farms that work to protect and preserve soil and water quality. Owner Tom Wickham’s green initiatives include replacing fuel tanks to reduce the risk of soil contamination, reducing usage of nitrogen-rich fertilizer and incorporating a micro-irrigation system to more effectively water crops.

The historic Wickham farm, which spans 200 acres, was one of the first 50 farms to receive an Agricultural Environmental Management comprehensive farm plan in 1999. This is a voluntary program that helps farmers balance cost-effective and environmentally conscious decisions.

Mr. Wickham credited numerous agencies — including the state’s Agriculture and Markets and Environmental Conservation departments, Cornell University, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District — with helping his 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.