Off the beaten path North Fork farm stands and garden centers

JB Browder helps his mom and dad, Holly and Chris Browder, oversee the chickens on the Mattituck farm. (Credit: David Benthal)

Chart a course to the North Fork of Long Island and you’ll end up on one of two main roads flanked by farmland and vineyards. Each is a predominantly two-lane road dotted with farm stands come summertime. U-pick berries, hot sweet corn and barnyard animals are among the top attractions at the larger, more well-known roadside farms that everyone drives past on their way through town. 

But if you turn a corner or two, you’ll find a handful of other farm stands and garden centers tucked away off the main drag. They offer bountiful homegrown goodness that is well worth the detour. 

These out-of-the-way stands offer everything from fresh tomatoes and flowers to poultry and artisanal goods. Don’t let these hidden gems pass you by. 

Browder’s Birds

4050 Soundview Ave., Mattituck; browdersbirds.com

Open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Chris and Holly Browder at their Mattituck farm. (Credit: David Benthal)

Browder’s Birds is a low-key, one-stop shop for your post-beach summer barbecue. Round up the beach towels and chairs and take a leisurely drive along scenic Soundview Avenue to the farm stand to stock up on fresh, organic chicken wings, thighs and breasts along with a variety of Browder’s homemade rubs and sauces. 

“We are very busy come 4 or 5 o’clock on summer Saturdays,” said owner Holly Browder. “We’re a small farm stand, but we pack a lot into it.”

The 16-acre livestock farm is home to thousands of chickens along with ducks, turkeys and heritage Cotswold sheep. It is also a homestead for Holly, her husband, Chris, and their 3-year-old son, JB. 

The Browders, who founded the farm in 2010, sell organic chicken and duck eggs, pastured chicken (fresh and frozen), lamb and mutton in the spring and turkeys for the Thanksgiving season, as well as other products made from farm-sourced ingredients, including quiche, chicken stock, gravies, wool sweaters and, for the first time this summer, potpies. 

“We don’t want to waste anything,” Browder said. “We’re always trying to come up with new ways to use what we have.” 

The chickens and sheep, who roam the property freely, are often the first to greet you, but the Browders or a staff member are close by to help you navigate both the goods at the stand and the rest of the farm. 

Visitors are welcome to walk around the property to check out the animals, including the baby chicks in the indoor brooders. 

Golden Earthworm Organic Farm

652 Peconic Bay Blvd., Jamesport; goldenearthworm.com

Open Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Memorial Day through the weekend before Thanksgiving

Maggie Wood and her two sons Galen and Zinn at Golden Earthworm Organic Farm in Jamesport. (Credit: David Benthal)

Matthew Kurek and Maggie Wood were champions of organic farming before the term became part of popular lexicon. Kurek — a former natural foods chef in Manhattan — began farming on a modest half-acre plot in Southold 25 years ago. Today, their operation has grown into Golden Earthworm Organic Farm, which has since moved to Jamesport and cultivates roughly 70 to 80 acres of certified organic farmland annually on three parcels in the Town of Riverhead. 

Freshly picked cauliflower, strawberries, zucchini, Swiss chard and tomatoes, as well as raw honey and flowers, are among the provisions the couple harvests and sells at their farm shop on scenic Peconic Bay Boulevard. 

“We really like being off the beaten path,” Wood said. “Not only are we not on a main road, but you really have to want to come to our stand, because we’re only open one day a week. Many people happen to find themselves down Peconic Bay Boulevard and pull over when they do spot us from the road because it is a secluded, magical place.”

Golden Earthworm Organic Farm also sells at select farmers markets and to local restaurants, but is sustained through its popular Community Supported Agriculture program, which launched in 1998. 

CSAs, available at many North Fork farms, ensure that members receive the freshest local produce directly from the farmer and help to sustain the growing operation during the offseason. Golden Earthworm serves about 2,000 CSA members across Long Island.

“We have one of the largest organic CSA programs in the Northeast through our subscription program,” Wood said. “We are working with nature to grow our food. If we weren’t growing organic, we wouldn’t be growing. It is good for the people who eat the food, and it is good for the environment. It is a win-win.”

Garden Fusion 

540 Rocky Point Road, East Marion; thegardenfusion.com

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through July 

Chris and Angela Gaipas at Garden Fusion in East Marion. (Credit: David Benthal)

Garden Fusion is more than just a certified organic flower, herb and vegetable farm. It is a multifaceted family-run business that got its start more than 30 years ago, when Walter and Linell Gaipa started growing herb plants.

Today, the three-acre farm boasts 40,000 square feet of greenhouse space, housing 300 varieties of USDA Certified Organic herb and vegetable plants, which are sold at the Garden Fusion retail farm stand in the spring and summer months. 

The Gaipas’ son Chris and his wife, Angela, expanded the businesses with the launch of Organic Harvest in 2014, shipping organic herbs and vegetable plants nationwide.

“Our slogan is: What better way to eat local and organic than from your own backyard?” said Angela, who also manages the Garden Fusion farm stand. “We want people to eat healthy, and growing organic herbs and vegetables at home provides that at a discounted cost.”

Organic Harvest not only ships to customers, but allows them to order online and pick it up at the farm stand, where they can chat with Angela one-on-one about growing techniques. 

“We like to work with customers,” she said. “A lot of our clientele from the city or Nassau make a day of it. We have a great following and they feel it is worth the trip.”

The farm also specializes in growing deer-resistant plants, especially important for gardening on the East End. 

“It is a big part of what we do because of the area we live in,” Angela said. “We center a lot of our perennials around that. We understand that deer have to eat, too, but we can help focus them away from our gardens.” 

Sylvester Manor Farm Stand 

Windmill Field, 21 Manwaring Road, Shelter Island

May 11-June 23: Open Saturday & Sunday only, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

June 27-Sept. 3: Open Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesday), 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

See sylvestermanor.org for fall farm stand hours.

Sylvester Manor Farm Stand on Shelter Island is a one-stop shop for farm-to-table meals. (Credit: David Benthal)

What’s more off the beaten path than Shelter Island?

The historic Sylvester Manor Educational Farm is not only rich with agricultural history, but also has everything you’ll need to make a fresh, home-cooked meal.

Sylvester Manor’s farmers cultivate five acres, using sustainable practices to grow a variety of vegetables and herbs. They also raise organically fed chickens and pigs for freshly laid eggs and pork. 

Along with just-picked produce and colorful bouquets of flowers, the stand features products from other East End and New York State farms, such as grass-fed beef from Acabonac Farms in Amagansett, dairy products from Catapano Dairy Farm in Peconic and seasonal fruits from Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue, along with other provisions like Hudson Valley maple syrup. 

“We bring in a lot of products to Shelter Island that are normally not available here,” said farm stand manager Carrie Wood. “People would usually have to leave the island to find all these types of products in one place. The goal is to have enough selection where you can come here to buy all the ingredients for a whole meal.” 

Sylvester Manor also partners with purveyors, including Ali Katz Kitchen in Mattituck, to use its abundance of fruits and veggies to make pestos, pies, breads and spreads, which are also sold on-site. 

Artisan soaps, body lotions, pottery and other items are stocked, too. Who needs a grocery store?