If you’ve dined at local eateries such as The Maidstone, Vine Street, Sunset Beach, Moby’s, Bay Kitchen, or EMP Summerhouse, then you’ve likely had a taste of Satur Farms. The farm, located on Alvah’s Lane in Cutchogue, with a cold facility in Calverton, is owned by German native Chef Eberhard Müller and his wife Paulette Satur.
The couple met organically, if you will, at Lutèce, Chef Müller’s former kitchen. Satur was in the wine business, working for an import distributor. “He actually wasn’t interested in an appointment with me,” Satur reminisced. “I took a girlfriend out for dinner for her birthday and when he saw me, he didn’t leave the table.”
Satur grew up on a dairy farm in central Pennsylvania and received a horticulture degree at Pennsylvania State University with a graduate degree in plant physiology from the University of Arizona. Müller was actually searching for farmland before they met and so their love story blossomed into a thriving business when the couple started the farm in 1997. Originally, the plan was to grow produce for Chef Müller’s restaurant but at the request of colleagues eager for their crops, they expanded their business. Responsibility is divided between Müller in the farm field and Satur processing in the cold facility, where the greens are washed and packed.
“The area is reflective of the advancement through the years but there’s more of a food culture here,” Satur noted, comparing farm life of rural Pennsylvania and the North Fork. “The work ethic is the same; it’s year-round. When we started the farm 20 years ago, there was no locally grown food movement, it was very difficult. Luckily, we were both in the industry so it was easier for us to break into the market here. The food culture out here is just fantastic, from the wineries and craft breweries to the goat dairies and fresh vegetables. Not to mention all the seafood.”
Satur Farms grows specialty salad greens, leafy and root vegetables, and herbs, practicing crop rotation to minimize disease, and feeding the soil. The duo also plants cover crops, using custom seed blends of clover, legumes, and grasses that bind nitrogen and prevent toxic runoff. In keeping with the environmentally friendly theme, everything is packaged in 100 percent recyclable material.
At one point, their soil had 60,000 plants of heirloom tomatoes, which require a different temperature than greens in holding and shipping. Rather than trying to grow it all, Satur Farms understands the benefits of specializing in certain crops and sourcing from their neighbors.
It started when they bought sweet corn from Jeff Rottkamp at Fox Hollow Farm in Baiting Hollow and has since expanded to other farmers. In turn, other places buy salad greens from Satur for their stands. “It’s a terrific region for growing. The crops have amazing flavor on Long Island,” said Satur. Though most of their operation moves down to Florida in mid-October through April, growing the same thing, in September and October the greens get greener, making it prime season for spinach, baby spinach, arugula, mesclun, Brussels sprouts, and long white leeks.
What makes this farm especially unique is one of its latest endeavors, mixing hemp with baby kale and selling it as a mix that both looks good and tastes better. JD Farms from Westchester County has been growing hemp for fiber and approached Satur Farms to think of uses for hemp. Using the baby leaf that’s three to four-inches tall, high in fiber and bioflavinoids, hemp is a healthy green. A research project, funded by SUNY Morrisville upstate, allowed for a trial that is continuing at Satur and is still working on the exact growing method.
Satur also lended her efforts to Business for Peace, a not-for-profit organization that pairs small business owners from war torn and economically depressed countries with operations in the U.S.
“We had hosted a woman from Guatemala who was doing something extremely similar to us with leafy greens and we got along really well. Even the BPeace rep commented what a match it was,” said Satur. “It’s a learning experience and it works both ways. They pay particular attention to the match, trying to make it a worthwhile encounter.