Former Congressman Steve Israel started many of his speeches by saying that Long Islanders transformed potato fields and pumpkin farms into the defense capital of America, with industrial plants, engineering companies, an airport and universities.
While the farmland was transformed across the region, farmers did not desert their plows and the farms remained. What has grown in parallel with the factories are world-class vineyards, craft beverage breweries and distilleries, specialty foods, and a wide array of crops ranging from cauliflower to sod.
Our partners at the Long Island Farm Bureau (https://www.lifb.com) have the following information on their website:
“Agriculture production across New York State produces over $4.7 billion in products annually from 36,300 farms. This includes fresh vegetables and fruit, fiber, seafood, poultry, wine/beverages, specialty products, herbs, flowers, and a variety of horticultural products. Farming activities also help to preserve wildlife habitats and the natural aesthetic beauty of our island. Long Island farmland provides an important buffer against urban sprawl, protects the water supply and helps maintain the traditional rural character of the East End of Long Island.”
Farming is also an economic force: Agri-businesses employ well over 10,000 people in the region, with a multiplier effect that generates jobs for tens of thousands more. Long Island agriculture is a billion-dollar-a-year industry and generates billions of dollars more for the Island’s largest industry: tourism, travel and hospitality.
The craft brewing industry is also a strong economic engine with 13,000 employees in New York at over 326 breweries. According to a 2013 New York state law, breweries are required to use a certain percentage of ingredients from local farms. Until the end of 2018, farm breweries are required to use 20%. From January 2019 to December 2023, that number will increase to no less than 60%. And by 2024, no less than 90%.