Widgets Magazine

4th Generation Southold Farmer Al Krupski chats Farming & Community

Photo is three generations of Krupskis; Al Krupski in the middle, with his son Nick at left and his Dad, Al Krupski, Sr.  Q: You’re a North Fork native; when did your family come here?

A: I’m fourth generation, so my great grandfather came with his two brothers and cousin came here from Poland in the late 1800s. They all bought farms—my great-grandfather’s farm became Pindar Vineyard. They’re first non-Krupskis to farm that land in many years.

The Krupski family’s really big, so there’s lots still here, though I’m the only one who still farms.

Q: Has there always been a Krupski crop, or did it change over time?

A: The crop changed with the times—four generations ago it was everything, then potatoes dominated.

I never raised potatoes, by the time out I got out of college we were done with potatoes, and I brought us into cauliflower. Now we concentrate on sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, melons—we’ve had a lot of success growing great watermelons. In the fall we have quite the variety of winter squash and pumpkins.

We do grow sweet potatoes. I have a little one row digger I use for them. To do regular potatoes you need a lot of specialized equipment.

You raise things you can fit into your cropping schedule.

Q: It’s hard to be a family farm. Do you sell retail only, at your farm stand, or you do wholesale too?

A: One of the challenges for agriculture out here is that lifestyles have changed and people cook less than they used to. People are now taking more of an interest in nutrition and quality, and that will help local farms.

An appreciation of quality is returning; everything is fresher, tastes better, when it’s picked ripe in the field.  Our farm stand lets us do that because we don’t ship our crops.

We wholesale a few pumpkins or a little squash. But very little—we’re able to retail our crop. We only grow the quantity we can sell.

Q: What do you sell at your farm stand? When is it open?

A: We carry mostly our produce, and some products made from it,  like corn relish, black berry jam. We grow almost everything we sell—we don’t grow potatoes or onions anymore.

When we grow peas, we open in June. Once I started at the county [Al Krupski is our County Legislator], I had to give up peas; I didn’t have the time. Last year a guy who worked for me asked if he could grow them, and he did. That was great; I hope he does it again this year.

If not, we will open for July corn, tomatoes, a little lettuce. Then it’s field tomatoes, hopefully cantaloupe. In August we’ve got corn, peppers, eggplants, beans, tomatoes, melon. In September you still have corn, tomato & melon, and you add all the fall crops—cabbage, broccoli., cauliflower. In October we add pumpkins and ornamental squashes of all kinds. We have kale and Brussels sprouts in November.

We close in December, though this year we could have stayed open; we still have broccoli, cabbage, Kale, brussel sprouts in the field. We’re not open because who expects to have crops in the field in December?

Q:   Has your family’s farm always had a farm stand?

A: No. The farm stand started with the pumpkins in 1976. When I got out of college I convinced my father and grandfather to raise cauliflower and pumpkins. Few people were growing pumpkins then; there wasn’t a lot of seed commercially available. And that business sparked a retail operation.

As that business grew nationally, there was a lot more diversity in seed, and we kept taking advantage, growing all the different ornamental gourds.

That’s how we really diversify from the more traditional crops. As that grew, we added a hay ride, which people can take to tour the farm and see what we grow.

Q: Krupski’s is famous for pumpkins—you have a Jack O’Lantern face on the side of your barn. What do you offer for Halloween?

A: We do U-pick pumpkins, and we have a corn maze people can enjoy. We always did a haunted corn maze because we really like Halloween. It’s only open during daytime, so to make it properly scary you really have to work at it. So we have guys with chain saws and hockey masks and the like.

Q: One of the challenges of farming out here is water; all of Long Island is one, shallow aquifer and most people around here are on well water. How does that affect your farming?

A: Agriculture has changed so much in my lifetime—a huge change since my grandfather’s day. Everyone, us included, is so more careful about what they use on the land and how they use it. Really paying attention to nutrient and pest management.

Q: You mentioned that you’re the fourth generation Krupski farm, but also that you’re the last farm in the family. Will there be a fifth generation?

A: Yes. My children want to live here and settle here. This operation that we have today, looks so different from what my father, grandfather and great-grandfather did. I’m sure whatever my kids do with the farm it will be totally different from today’s farm.

Q: You’re our County Legislator now, but you started out in local government, decades ago. Why did you run in the first place?

A: I first got elected at 25 in 1985 as Southold Town Trustee. I got asked to run by Frank Kujawski and Paul Stoutenberg, who were Southold Town Trustees back then, but I ran because I wanted to be part of the community and have input into its future.

I was a Trustee for 20 years.  We re-wrote the wetlands code, modernized it in response to development pressure. I think as far as that goes we struck a balance between the private property rights and the public property rights to use that land, and you need to strike that balance.  All of our coastline reflects that work—try to maintain the natural coastline and not have it be armored.

I then served 7 years on the Town Board, and I’ve been a county legislator for three years now.

Q: Does your being a farmer impact your legislative approach and priorities? Are there many farmers in the county legislature?

A: My agricultural background definitely shapes my view of the North Fork and how it should look in the future. It puts me in totally different place than a lot of my colleagues. Which is good, you need diversity in government.

Q: What do love most about the North Fork?

A: I love the history of our town, not just the town’s longevity, but individual families who’ve stayed here over time who’ve made an impact on our community—I really appreciate it.

I think it’s a great community of people. We’re blessed that so many people, whether they’ve been here 10 generations or 10 weeks they want to keep the town and land open, they want to be on the water, they want Southold to stay Southold.

The amount of volunteerism here is incredible. People volunteer for different committees and organizations, the chambers of commerce, the historical societies, the service organizations. So many people give so much of themselves, really it’s such a nice community.