In advance of World Food Day on Saturday, October 16, the Suffolk Legislature has approved a resolution that may increase the number of community and pollinator gardens across the County. Through legislation sponsored by Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn, the Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation and Department of Economic Development and Planning will collaborate to identify all parcels within the County’s inventory that are less than one acre in size and do not adjoin other parks properties for potential future use as community or pollinator gardens. These so-called "orphaned" parcels will then be categorized and plotted by individual legislative districts onto publically available maps and published to the County's website. With a listing of feasible locations for the placement of gardens, it will be available to members of those communities to pursue their ultimate development.
"There has been great interest and growing need for community gardens in Suffolk. For one thing, the pandemic worsened the long-standing challenge of food insecurity and access to affordable fresh food effecting many seniors and children. Freeing these orphan parcels of land all over Suffolk will help communities in numerous ways," said Legislator Hahn. "In fact, community gardens not only help reduce food insecurity, but also strengthen family and community relationships, help improve the environment through composting and help provide habitat for pollinators. Using this land in this way isn’t just the practical thing to do, it is the right thing to do. "
Highlighting the positive impacts neighborhood oriented agricultural opportunities have had in his community, bill co-sponsor Legislator Nick Caracappa said, “This is just an example of what community members can do with abandoned properties. Bethel Hobbs Farm located in Centereach, has become a terrific agricultural hub for our otherwise vastly decreasing farming community which once thrived within the 4th LD years ago. Through the volunteer work of our many residents and organizations, this once abandoned (orphaned) property has become a beacon of hope and resource for many of our local food pantries and those seeking some of the freshest organic vegetables, fruits, jams, honey and more. I fully support the opportunity for communities to accomplish initiatives such as Bethel Hobbs Farm within their respective communities.”
The approved bill now goes to County Executive Steve Bellone for his signature within the next 15 days. Once approved, the department will have up to six months to complete the compiling, mapping and posting of these parcels.
Today's passage is not Legislator Hahn's first attempt to address agricultural related concerns, specifically those issues stemming from the threat posed by a decline in pollinating insect populations across the world. Earlier this year, Legislator Hahn sponsored legislation to form an advisory group comprised of County agencies, horticulturists and environmentalists to develop recommendations on ways to support local pollinators on County land. Pollinators like bees, butterflies and even bats, are integral to flowering plants’ fertilization process and are necessary for the propagation of most fruits we consume and for seed production of vegetables.
Photo: "gardening" by Donna McNiel