A Letter from Local Farmer Rachel Stephens

June 13, 2023

Rachel Stephens

Farms for the Future

I wake up every morning grateful for you! Because you support the Peconic Land Trust, they could support me, and now I am the proud owner of Sweet Woodland Farm at the Trust’s Agricultural Center in Southold.

As a teenager, I looked forward to leaving my hometown to explore something new. I took off to Pennsylvania to take agricultural classes and discovered my passion for plants. After 3 years, I became homesick. I missed the salt air and couldn’t wait to return to the East End of Long Island. I returned home to raise my children and manage my backyard farm. I loved it!

Over the next 10 years, I tended to my growing “homestead” farm. But I craved for my farming business to become something more. I knew the first step would be finding affordable farmland – but how, with the price of land so high on the East End?! That’s where the Peconic Land Trust came in - they were there to give me the opportunity to lease farmland in Southold at a very affordable price, use farm equipment, and receive mentorship from seasoned farmers through their Farms for the Future Initiative.

My success story is one of partnership, and just one example of how the Peconic Land Trust is making a difference in the lives of farmers on the East End. However, there are still many aspiring farmers who need your support to realize their dreams.

The East End is under severe threat with rising land prices and development at an all-time high. YOU can help ensure that our working farms, natural lands, and heritage are here now and for future generations. The Trust’s work is so important to us all who call this place home!

Imagine an East End that no longer has fresh local asparagus and strawberries to pick or sell. No more red, ripe tomatoes grown at the farm up the road and sweet corn in the summertime. These are the things that make this place so special. But without your help, farmers like me may not be able to afford to grow here.

This year, Sweet Woodland Farm is celebrating its 5th year at the Ag Center, growing from one acre in the first year to now three. I grow elderberries and medicinal herbs for products like elderberry syrup, tonics, and herbal teas. Keep an eye out for my elderberry wine, which may appear for sale in the near future!

It wasn’t an easy journey - I had many failures, but even more successes thanks to my own hard work and the help and support of the Trust. They let me borrow the tools I needed, provided irrigation, fencing, and mentorship. They do so much to support farmers like me.

The Farms for the Future Initiative helped make it possible to grow my farm, but without YOU these opportunities wouldn’t exist. Your gift, at whatever amount, is what makes the Trust and its staff able to do what they do.  YOU provide new farmers like me with an opportunity. And support Long Island’s farming communities for generations to come.

Be well,

Rachel Stephens

Owner, Sweet Woodland Farm, Southold NY

P.S. For 40 years, the Trust has done so much more than supporting new and established farmers; they protect Long Island’s natural lands, support water quality initiatives, and our sense of place – whatever the reason you give, I am grateful to you!

To learn how you can support new farmers like Rachel and the Long Island farming communities, click here.

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Peconic Land Trust needs your support to protect the working farms, natural lands, and heritage of Long Island.