At Marty Sidor’s potato farm in Mattituck, business decisions are made around the kitchen table. Marty is the grandson of Polish immigrants; his family has farmed potatoes on the North Fork of Long Island since 1908. His grandparents, whose photo hangs on the wall near that kitchen table, provided Marty’s first lessons on conservation. “They lived it, they understood it, and they farmed with balance,” he explains.
Marty has taken the family tradition of land and water stewardship into the 21st Century with new marketing techniques and conservation practices, including Controlled Release Nitrogen Fertilizer. This fertilizer is designed to break down over time according to the plant’s need for nutrients, making it less likely to end up in the local drinking water. Conventional fertilizer is water-soluble and can dissolve from heavy rain and leach into groundwater.
After first testing the new fertilizer several years ago, Marty noticed it fit well into his planting and fertilizing plan. “It’s very user-friendly,” he explains. “I’ve seen crops that store better, and I haven’t seen one deficiency in the field through all this time.” It was also around the kitchen table where Marty and his wife decided to diversify their business by opening an on-farm potato chip processing facility. North Fork Potato Chips has given Marty a new market to sell his potatoes, while at the same time connecting local community members to the farm and its rich history. Even more, the sunflower oil used in the chip-making process is repurposed as biofuel in Marty’s fleet of trucks, tractors and other equipment.
In all of his business endeavors, Marty is carrying on his family’s common-sense approach to land and water stewardship. “What you are doing is building your own history,” he says. “As far as what we are doing today, I think we are as much on top of things as we’ve ever been.”
STEWARDSHIP IN ACTION
ACRES IN FARMING:
About 120, equivalent to 60 New York City blocks
Table potatoes, North Fork Potato Chips
Controlled Release Nitrogen Fertilizer, Cover Crops, Biofuel Facility
“The more you are looking to produce, being on the island and sitting over the groundwater aquifer, you have to be accountable for that.” – Marty Sidor