Neighbors and volunteers help Pine Island farmer recover from Irene

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:56

Pine Island — It was reminiscent of an old-fashioned barn raising. Like many Pine Island farmers, Tony Bracco, who owns 25 acres on County Route 1 just across the way from Mission Land Road, was hard hit by Tropical Storm Irene. He not only lost his crops, valued at about $35,000, but he also lost a brand new $10,000 greenhouse that he had just installed. “Up to that day everything was going well. Our tomatoes just came in,” said Bracco. “Then we lost everything.” He recently decided to call on a couple friends to help him finish dismantling that greenhouse. The date was set for Sunday, Oct. 23. Word soon spread around that he needed some help and about 15 neighbors and other volunteers showed up and spent most of the day working with him free of charge. Bracco and his family are new to the area and only recently began organic farming on six and one half acres of his 25-acre property. He leases the remaining acreage to neighboring farmers. Bracco’s organic produce has been popular among local restaurants and other clients. The award-winning Restaurant Latour at Crystal Springs in Hamburg, N.J., for example, has been among his most loyal customers. And the Bracco farm, a member of the Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce, is one of its primary organic produce suppliers. When Latour’s executive chef Michael Weisshaupt learned about the project, he volunteered to personally cater lunch for the group at no charge. Then Kevin Smith, one of the performers at the recent and very successful Farm Aid event held at Warwick Valley High School, offered to provide musical entertainment. And after the people at Maskers Apple orchard heard about the project, they offered to supply apple cider for the workers. “We have good neighbors and good friends in this community,” said Bracco. “We’re here to stay and we want to be ready for next spring.” - Roger Gavan Produce naturally grown on the Bracco farm in Pine Island include:23 varieties of heirloom tomatoes 4 varieties of gourmet onions 7 varieties of peppers 4 varieties of eggplant 5 varieties of zucchini Corn Lettuce Micro greens