In 2015 the Sisters of St. Joseph affirmed a Land Ethic Statement to guide our future decisions about our Brentwood property.
Based in our charism and our awareness of the responsibility we all have for the health of Earth and in particular for the Long Island Bioregion, the Sisters of St. Joseph worked with the Peconic Land Trust to preserve parcels of the Brentwood campus and return it to agricultural production. Twenty-eight acres of land are leased to several farmers enabling the fields that once were a working farm to be restored to farming. The farmers are only permitted to use organic practices and the produce is available at a farm stand for purchase by the local community.
Thera Farm Stand
Thera Farm, founded by the Bolkas family, was originally a two-acre farm in a decidedly nonagricultural neighborhood in Lake Hills Ronkonoma. Teddy Bolkas leases 10 acres of land near the main entrance of our Brentwood campus and three acres on the northern parcel for agricultural production. Farmer Teddy operates his farm stand everyday from June 1 – October 31 (9:00 AM – 5:00 PM). The farm stand is located near the main entrance to the CSJ property on Brentwood Road (near Commack Road). Customers have the option to purchase at the farm stand or become a member of the Thera Farm CSA.
The Thera Farm Stand is also part of the NYS Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP). The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program provides checks to women, infants and children through the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) and to seniors through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) for the purchase of locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be purchased with checks at our farm stand. For more information on FMNP and how to apply for checks, please click here.
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Meet Our Other Organic Farmers/Gardeners
Island Harvest Food Bank: Billy Turano, Farmer
Island Harvest Food Bank is a leading hunger-relief organization that provides food and other resources to people in need. Under the supervision of a certified organic gardener, Island Harvest Food Bank volunteers cultivate crops that include basil, beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, radishes, squash, tomatoes, watermelon, and zucchini. In all, more than 4,000 pounds of produce will be grown and distributed to local food pantries, soups kitchens and other feeding programs serviced by Island Harvest Food Bank. The Brentwood garden is consistent with Island Harvest Food Bank’s mission to bring healthier food to Long Island’s food insecure population. Island Harvest Food Bank’s partnership with Long Island’s farming community brings in nearly two million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetable each year, making it the largest farm-to-food bank program in New York State.
LINPI (Long Island Native Plant Initiative): Caroline Schnabel, Manager and Rusty Schmidt, Board President
The LINPI staff members are growing plants that are native to Long Island and producing seeds for additional plants. Once native plants have been propagated in containers, they are transplanted to the founder plot on our property that will be used to produce modest quantities of seed for subsequent commercial scale production.
Napolitano Family Farm: Gina and Daniel Napolitano, Farmers
The Napolitano Family will continue to farm two acres of land for organic produce. The various produce will be supplied to restaurants and NYC Farmers Markets. The Naolitanos also feel the harvested produce at the Patchogue Farmers Market on Sundays and various other green markets.
Red Fox Farm: Ernie Herrington, Farmer
Ernie is a longtime volunteer at the CSJ Organic Garden and and FREE farm, He is also the beekeeper for several beehives on our campus. Ernie farms almost two acres of land to produce corn, potatoes, onions, garlic, and other organic produce. The produce is sold to various restaurants on Long Island. Jim Adams works with Ernie to provide an opportunity to model best practices in permaculture.
The Natural Way: Antonio Bellia, Organic Landscaper
The mission of The Natural Way is to supply Long Island with organic alternatives for every horticultural need by providing a variety of innovative, effective, and environmentally sensitive services. Antonio uses three acres of land to grow native plants and medicinal herbs and to create nutrient-rich compost.
Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc., (FREE) a non-profit agency that has served the differently-abled citizens of Long Island for over thirty years are farming a two-acre parcel on our Brentwood property. This year, the FREE staff and participants will grow organic autumn produce including various types of squash and pumpkins.
To model the best practices in response to our Land Ethic Statement and to continue to support our land initiatives, we have created a compost station on this property. All compostable organic material produced on the property is sent to this sustainable composting station. Through the composting process, the output is clean, healthy compost for agricultural use.
Composting is nature’s way of recycling. It is a natural biological process, carried out under controlled aerobic conditions (requires oxygen). During this process, various microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, break down organic matter into simpler substances. Composting is not a mysterious or complicated process. Natural recycling occurs on a continuous basis in the environment. Organic matter is metabolized by microorganisms and then consumed by invertebrates. The resulting nutrients are returned to the soil to support plant growth. Soil alive with biological activity creates the perfect environment for consistent growth and color, resistance to disease, a deeper and stronger root system and incredible resistance to pests and environmental extremes like heat and drought.
The vermicomposting process in this area will use earthworms to turn organic wastes into very high quality compost. Vermicompost consists mostly of worm casts (poop) plus some decayed organic matter. Worm casts also contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, and eleven times more potassium than ordinary soil, the main minerals needed for plant growth, but the large numbers of beneficial soil microbes in worm casts have at least as much to do with it. The casts are also rich in humic acids, which condition the soil, have a perfect pH balance, and contain plant growth factors similar to those found in seaweed.
Composting is relatively simple to manage and can be carried out on a broad range of almost any indoor or outdoor environment and in almost any geographic location. It has the potential to manage most of the organic material in the waste stream including food waste, leaves and yard wastes, farm waste, animal manure, paper products, and wood, and can be incorporated into any waste management plan. Composting biodegrades organic waste and turns it into a valuable organic fertilizer.
Through composting the amount of garbage sent to the landfill is reduced, the organic matter is reused rather than dumped, and it is recycled into a useful soil amendment. On the Brentwood campus, kitchen waste such as coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable scraps and fruit peelings are all saved for the compost pile. We also add chipped branches, shredded tree leaves, twigs and clippings from grounds keeping. All the compostable paper cups from our convent dining room are sent to the compost pile. All involved are committed to environmentally friendly practices and principles. Screening of all the material takes place to ensure that only organic waste is included.
The blessing of our farmers and fields took place on April 28, 2018 at the Organic Garden. Soil from all the farms was intermingled and distributed. Farmers received a container of the mixed soil to bring back to their farms as a symbol of community and common effort.
After the blessing ritual farmers and friends were invited to share a pizza lunch baked in our new brick oven.