Historic Harvest Day keeps Long Island’s farming history alive

Trish Cisek instructs a class on churning butter at the Suffolk County Historical Harvest Festival.

By Pamela Wong and Louis Pagillo

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County hosted their fifth annual Historic Harvest Day at the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center this past Sunday.

The festival aims to educate children about the life of colonial and early post-revolution America by allowing kids to watch and partake in several chores and farmhand jobs. This is one of the many initiatives the Farm and Education Center takes to provide a hands-on community education center for Suffolk County.

“The idea with this program is basically going back to those original roots on the farm, talking about what agriculture was like back in the 1800s and in Suffolk County,” Nicole Fiorentino, 4-H Club Educator and weekend event coordinator, said. “Kids and adults—they feel more of a connection when they learn the history of their own backyards.”

The event had activities and demonstrations to recreate daily life in the 1800’s. This included sheep shearing, butter churning, laundry washing, feeding farm animals and wagon hayrides. The event was designed for all ages. 

“As we’re getting more technology every year, it’s good to have these programs and these activities in the year to show how we came from,” Reagan Peperno, a 14 year old 4-H Youth livestock participant, said. 

The 4-H Youth Club is a program that provides children and teenagers hands-on research-based learning about agriculture and environmental issues. 

“I come here in the summer as a camper and I recently just joined our 4-H livestock program, where in the summer for ten weeks, we get a goat or sheep and we learn everything there is to know about them and at the end of the summer, we go to county fairs and state fairs to show them at competitive levels,” Peperno said.

Some of the demonstrations allowed visitors to participate. The butter churning demonstrations encouraged guests to help, and left them with their own butter and buttermilk samples.

“It’s fun stepping back in history with people, especially little kids. They really love to do that and they love role-playing,” Trish Cisek, farm educator who conducted the butter churning demonstration, said. “The farm is an awesome opportunity… to come and spend a day and realize this was Long Island in the 1870s and this was a lifestyle… This is one of the last places you can learn about it.”

The farm has other educational programs for people to come to all year round, such as classes on chicken embryology and programs at local libraries.

“So the Suffolk county farm itself and the eastern Long Island is a historical farming and agricultural society and bringing that to family children and youth and educating them on the Island is a priority for us for them to learn about the year-round agriculture,” Kaylyn Reynolds, Suffolk County Farm and Education operations coordinator, said.

The harvest festival ran for four hours, and had repeated most demonstrations several times throughout the day. This allowed for most guests to get the full experience, even those who came later.

“You always have to learn something from your history, so I think especially for young kids, starting them off early, learning about all of this stuff, especially growing up on Long Island,” Alexandra Eid, a Medford parent who brought her toddler, said. “This is what our history is, so learning about it at an especially young age is very important.” 

About Pamela Wong 7 Articles
Pamela Wong is a Stony Brook University journalism student. She is a news editor for The Stony Brook Press, a student-run culture magazine. She hopes to one day write about fashion and beauty.