David Falkowski is, without a doubt, one of the new wave of farmers on Eastern Long Island. Born into a family who tilled the land since the end of World War II, Falkowski admits that “agriculture is a tough business to maintain on Long Island. With every piece of vacant land being snatched up by developers, farmers are being pushed out. It can be hard to compete unless you change with the times and develop a niche.”
Falkowski has done just that. In 2003, he took a course in permaculture design and was given the use of a few acres of the family farm in Bridgehampton to try out what he learned. He used the design principles to develop a natural ecosystem from which he is able to produce fully organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, and his signature mushrooms.
His Open Minded Organics shop on Butter Lane is adorned with photos of his family working the farm shortly after World War II. This proud display includes a special one, Falkowski points out. “That’s my grandmother. It was taken when she was working in the field picking potatoes. She loved the farm,” he said.
Growing up, Falkowski never really gave farming much thought although his grandparents, father, and uncles were tillers of the land. His grandfather bought a farm in Sagaponack and then built a homestead in Bridgehampton.
“My grandmother Regina was an avid bowler. She was a shark! They had team names like the ‘Beatniks.’ Her league photos are still hanging on the walls in Polish Hall in Riverhead,” he noted. He paused for a moment then added, “She recently passed away. She was 93. It was a big loss to our family but also to the community.”
Falkowski’s father and uncle are both owners of the farm on Butter Lane where he developed several acres into the natural ecosystem that now yields the organic produce he offers in his store today. His father moved upstate and raises livestock on his farm, Long View Farms. Falkowski offers his father’s meat and poultry products, as well as his maple syrup, at his stand.
His mother, Lynn, was a registered nurse at Southampton Hospital and worked in the emergency room and the cardiac unit before retiring. “She’s actually at her 50th reunion of her nursing care program today,” he stated with pride.
Another photo in the store catches Falkowski’s eye. He grinned and asked, “Do you remember the Raceway? The Bridgehampton Raceway? I worked there. I was 14 when I worked at the track. I got to see all the races. What more could a 14-year-old ask for?” The Bridgehampton Race Circuit opened in 1957 and closed in 1998. It was said to be “a track to be reckoned with” and served racing enthusiasts during the 1950s and ‘60s, the golden age of the racing sport.
Falkowski is community minded and values the interconnectedness of the surrounding communities. He has developed working relationships with other local merchants, even bringing some of their specialties to his store. He uses these connections to obtain some of the produce he doesn’t grow, to make his signature jams. In 2008, he received the Local Heroes Award as a Food Artisan.
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years,” he said. “I started out as the Long Island Mushroom Company. And I’ve kind of come full circle. I started growing mushrooms as food, but they also have medicinal value. This year, I’ve developed dietary supplements that are natural remedies and they are all made here on the farm.”
He added, “I’ve always wanted to help people and growing healthy organic foods is one way, but adding the natural supplements this year has made a big difference in some of my customers’ lives. I can see the change in them. It works for them. I couldn’t be happier. I judge my success by how many people I help.”
In an hour’s time, Open Minded Organics saw a flurry of customers coming in and out. As people selected from the produce and other items the shop offers, it became evident that they all wanted to speak with the 40-year old, who has, in his own right, gained community respect.
For more information on Open Minded Organics, you can contact David directly at [email protected].