If you’ve ever driven by 1760 Homestead Farm on Sound Avenue in Northville, you’ve likely noticed a sign for grape pie. The sweet, delicious pie is most certainly a draw and great attraction for customers, but only scratches the surface of what 1760 Homestead Farm has to offer, from toxin-free produce to a fascinating history that dates back to—you guessed it—1760.
Larry Kaiser and his wife, Margaret Feinberg, are only the fourth owners of 5412 Sound Avenue in 270 years. “My wife and I owned a landscape company and wanted to expand to do more growing,” says Kaiser. “Riverhead town ordinance said you needed a certain amount of acres to do greenhouses and so on and so forth. The property came on the market and through normal negotiations we were able to purchase it, but we didn’t realize how much history came with the farm.” Built in 1760, the spot is the oldest standing homestead on Sound Avenue and on the list of Riverhead Town Landmarks and Historic Districts and was originally known as the Samuel Wells House. Kaiser and Feinberg purchased the property from the widow of George Tuthill, whose family owned the farm from 1865 to 2013, and wanted to honor the long history of the homestead. “When Margaret and I decided we were going to bring it back as a farm, we had to give it a name, so that’s where 1760 Homestead Farm came from,” Kaiser explains. “We worked the land and were able to put up some greenhouses and petitioned the state to have it re-designated as a working farm and we met all the criteria.”
Kaiser and Feinberg set out to make 1760 Homestead Farm not only organic but toxin-free. “Even with organic, there’s some mild-use pesticide, but it’s still pesticide,” he explains. We went the extreme [route] and went toxin-free. We don’t spray anything. A lot of it is through cultural management and hand weeding and handwork.” The farm is filled with heirloom vegetables, cut flowers, perennial herbs and more. Thanks to the flowers, Kaiser and Feinberg have developed a bee yard with 12 beehives and make honey on-site.
The grape pie came about when Kaiser looked to his background as a baker to develop baked goods for the farm stand. “Once we had the farm status, the state said we could set up a farm stand with baked goods,” he explains. “I had family in the Finger Lakes Region, where the grape pie originated. They let me bring it to Long Island and make it my own.” Kaiser now purchases grape pressings from the Finger Lakes from a purveyor that sells grapes for commercial grape juice to make the pie on-site. “Everything is home-baked at the farm. We sell thousands through the course of the season.”
While Kaiser has worked as a landscaper and a baker, farming is his passion. “Margaret’s father owned Southampton Produce back in the day and was a potato farmer in Bridgehampton,” he explains. “My grandfather was a farmer in Port Jefferson Station back in the ’50s, so it’s in our blood. And now our son, who’s 28, has decided to start growing potatoes. I laugh because I said, ‘Your grandfather is smiling from Heaven.’”
Despite being a smaller farm, 1760 Homestead Farm was able to flourish during the quarantine thanks to all the produce and baked goods on offer. “It, honestly, has a boon for us because people were seeking out real food,” says Kaiser, “especially when everything was closed. We were the only thing that was open because we were deemed essential because we were growing food. We saw a great increase in sales of yams, jellies, pies, honey, vegetables…you name it.”
Visitors are welcome to explore the lovely hidden gem that is 1760 Homestead Farm. “We’re trying to create a destination where you can come in on weekends, grab a pie, sit at the picnic area, stroll through the cutting beds and see a small-scale working farm,” says Kaiser. “We’re constantly evolving and there’s always something to see at the farm and really, if you want to get away from it all, this our little slice of Heaven that we let people in on.”
1760 Homestead Farm, 5412 Sound Avenue, Northville.