Suffolk County farm cultivating hope with organic produce for the hungry

Nestled off the beaten path in Suffolk County is nearly 30 acres of land dedicated to farming. The property belongs to the Sisters of St. Joseph, but plantings on a portion of it, dubbed the Healthy Harvest Farm, yields produce for food-insecure Long Islanders. 

"Growing organic food and getting it into the community is important but we also use it as a model so we can help teach people who are struggling how to grow food for themselves and become more independent," said Randi Shubin Dresner, who is the President and CEO of Island Harvest Food Bank. 

Island Harvest, one of Long Island's leading hunger relief organizations, recruits an army of volunteers to help on the farm.

According to the nonprofit, 221,000 Long Islanders struggle with food insecurity. 

This season there’s a new focus on culturally diverse produce for families that may not have access to products they’re used to cooking with. 

"We have jalapeños, okra, amaranth, a whole assortment of different foods we’re able to grow," Shubin Dresner said.  

Thousands of pounds of organic fruits and veggies are harvested from this so-called "food forest." 

"We grow 60 to 70 different varieties of fruits and vegetables so these are things that often you may not find in the grocery store," said Cassidy Kirch, who is the Farm and Garden Supervisor for Island Harvest. 

Once picked, all of the produce gets washed. From the farm, it goes to Island Harvests’ warehouse where it gets inventoried, and then it goes out into the community- to agencies and produce programs for kids, seniors, and veterans. 

Seed libraries are also popping up across Long Island. The hope is for people to grow their own produce, or grow food and then donate it to a neighborhood pantry.