A historic purchase earlier this week will help keep Long Island’s oldest running farm just that — a farm.
Suffolk County purchased the development rights to 11.16 acres of the Wells Homestead Acres farm in Aquebogue for $613,800, which means the land is safe from potential development.
“There has been intense development pressure so the farmland preservation program is absolutely critical for Long Island and the survival of this industry,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said at the announcement on Wednesday, May 5.
The farm, located at 4945 Sound Avenue, turned 360 years old this year and has been farmed by 12 generations, but came under threat after Lyle C. Wells died in a farm equipment accident in 2018 at the age of 62. Wells had been a leader in the farming community as a former president of the Long Island Farm Bureau and was known to grow the finest asparagus in the region.
Fittingly, the necessary deeds were signed a top an asparagus crate on the farm during the press conference.
Wells was remembered for his preservation efforts. According to Riverhead News Review article at the time of his death, a friend called him “the father of our land preservation efforts,” noting how he had been the head of the committee to oversee land preservation in Riverhead and had been instrumental in initiating the Transfer Development Rights program there.
The 11 acres are now apart of the Suffolk County Farmland protection program, which has amassed 11,000 acres in what has become a model of preservation nationwide.
Wells’ adult children will continue to farm the land.
Suffolk County agriculture is among the most diverse in the state, according to Bellone. Agriculture generates more than $226 million in sales annually, according to the county executive. The county boasts over 560 farms that employ more than 4,600 people.
“The history of the Wells family farm is connected to the history of the North Fork having provided the region with squash, asparagus and other vegetables on land that has been in the family since 1661,” Bellone said in a statement.
In January, Suffolk County closed on two land acquisitions, preserving almost 140 acres of open space and farmland along the historic Sound Avenue corridor in the Town of Riverhead, according to Legislator Al Krupski, who is also a farmer.
Purchasing development rights not only prevents potential development that can lead to higher property taxes, but also protects water quality and quantity and ensures the production of food and other agricultural products in the future, Krupski has said in the past.