Long Island family farm not only survives COVID-19 pandemic, but thrives

OLD BROOKVILLE, Long Island (WABC) -- A family-run farm on Long Island that has been around for five generations is serving more customers than ever due to its increased customer base during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Youngs Farm in Old Brookville is one of the few remaining working farms in Nassau County.

Tim Dooley, the farm's director, said the farm already had a large group of loyal customers pre-pandemic, but that more people have started shopping there since COVID arrived -- and sales have skyrocketed.

"I think people were home more, less vacation, less dinners out," he said.

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Paula Youngs Weir, the farm's owner and Dooley's mother-in-law, said she feels people felt safe at the farm, and that's why they started coming there and have continued to patronize the business.

"I think they liked the feeling of the farm," she said. "They felt safe."

Youngs Weir said the shift to curbside pickup was also a big hit with customers.

"We got busier," she said. "COVID busier."

Youngs Farm doesn't just sell food from their farm. They also sell food from about a dozen other farms on Long Island.

The farm on Hegemans Lane has a commercial kitchen where they make soup and bakery goods, and they also sell gift items and crafts in the main farmhouse building.

Dooley said they have not had a problem retaining workers during the pandemic, and sales were so good last year that they decided to stay open throughout the winter and are doing the same this winter.

In years prior, the farm closed for six weeks during the winter.

Dooley said they are looking to add more greenhouse space to meet the high demand for fresh produce in winter.

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The Youngs Farm features its own 15 acres as well as greenhouses where they harvest 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables, and the produce is certified organic.

The farm hasn't been immune, however, to issues caused by the pandemic, such as the supply chain issues.

Dooley said they have been waiting for seven months for dark cherries to arrive from a farm in Washington, so they can make their very popular dark cherry pies.

He said the cherries usually take eight weeks to arrive.

He also said the farm is paying high prices for everyday items like gloves needed for cooking and handling of food.

Dooley said pre-pandemic, a case of 1,000 gloves cost $40 per case. At the peak of the pandemic, that cost was $250 and now is about $140.

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