A Landscaper Becomes a Farmer

A much attenuated flag-lot oasis
Spring Close Farms Nursery and Farm Stand in East Hampton cultivates a narrow acre-plus ribbon for 20 varieties of tomatoes and a whole lot more. Durell Godfrey

Imagine a farm that starts at 85 feet across, narrows to 50 feet, and goes back far enough to fill a total of 1.4 acres. Sort of like an extra-skinny railroad flat in New York City, or a much attenuated flag-lot oasis. 

That is what Darryl and Pamela Glennon’s Spring Close Farms Nursery and Farm Stand in East Hampton is like. At the front, just inside the fence from a shaded parking area, is a koi pond, then the farm stand itself, where the couple sell all sorts of things they grow in their long ribbon, some in large containers and pots, some in hay bales and straw bales, and then, at the back, fields.

The property was once part of Pheasant Run Stables, until 1985, when the whole thing, less than 12 acres, was subdivided. Mr. Glennon, who had a nursery business for many years, has owned and been farming his own strip there since 2003.

They bring in fresh mozzarella and feta from Goodale Farms in Aquebogue, and whatever else people might request that they do not already grow. But they do grow northern highbush blueberries, alpine strawberies, tomatoes, basil, beets (white and red), garlic, mint, peppers, zucchini, blue potatoes and fingerlings, summer squash, melons, sunflowers, zinnias, and oakleaf hydrangeas.

“Farmers share with one another what’s available,” Mr. Glennon said. “If we don’t grow the best, we know where to buy the best.”

The couple also engage in what they call hobby farming. Ms. Glennon experiments with growing things like kohlrabi and 20 different varieties of tomato, including the Speckled Roman, the Indigo Blue Beauty, and the Ukrainian Purple. She also grows cucamelons, which look like miniature watermelons but are actually exceptionally small cucumbers or Mexican mini-sour gherkins — they can be slipped onto the edge of a martini glass.

In addition to produce, they also have a “nice little nursery selection of ornamental trees,” Mr. Glennon said, such as deodar cedars, Japanese maples, and varieties of purple fountain beech trees, most of which are deer-resistant. He has the growing plants protected by six-foot fences, but as the driveway extends all the way to the back of the property, inevitably deer walk in. Unlike many other growers, however, “I love the deer coming through,” Mr. Glennon said.

There are other animals: Olivia the 20-year-old ostrich, a miniature horse, Rosie the mellow potbellied pig, who came from Rita’s Stables in Montauk, and two goats.

One of Mr. Glennon’s goals is to transform the whole place into a park-like garden, he said. He has applied for permits for two greenhouses and has been experimenting with growing cucumbers, peppers, and Swiss chard in straw bales, and potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants in hay bales, as it seems like a more efficient, less labor-intensive way to produce crops. 

He is also playing with the idea of using his koi in an aquaponics venture, a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by the koi, which winter over, would fertilize the plants he would grow hydroponically, which in turn would purify the water. A medium made of shredded stuff from coconuts mixed with potting soil would be needed to hold the plants in place.

His goal is to generate between 75 and 250 pounds of produce a week from a 1,200-square-foot system. He said he wants to begin with a 10-by-20-foot starter. If, in the process, he comes up with an especially beautiful koi that someone wanted to buy and keep in a pond with other fish, so much the better.