It’s that time of year yet again.
HeartBeet Farms and its farmstand-on-wheels are back for a second season on Long Island.
“We are bringing organically grown vegetables to your town,” said the company’s co-owner, Jen Ross.
The truck stops at several places across the North Shore and beyond, such as Stony Brook Village, Mather Hospital, Smith Haven Mall, and more (the full list of places, dates and times below.)
HeartBeet Farms uses its decorated box truck to transform any spot on the island into a local farm stand. After setting up, Ross and her partner Ann Pellegrino sell organically-grown produce from their 1.5-acre plot of land at Centereach’s Bethel Hobbs Community Farm.
In addition to its mobile stand, Heartbeet Farms offers memberships for people to receive weekly boxes of vegetables. Patrons can pick up their veggies or have them delivered.
“The produce is harvested that day,” said Ross. “And we also include a healthy super sauce that is created by a local chef.”
The membership runs 14 weeks, from June 28 through Sept. 27.
story continues after the photo
The story of HeartBeet Farms begins with the rehabilitation of the 11-acre Hobbs Farm, the last remaining farmland in Centereach.
Now nestled within a residential area, Hobbs Farm started back in the 1900s.
In 1906, James Hobbs and his family moved to Long Island from Georgia, settling in northern Centereach. He soon began working on land near today’s Oxhead Road that he eventually purchased for himself.
The African-American family would pass on the farm to the next decedent until James’s son Alfred died in 1990. At that point, the family left the farm to Bethel AME Church in Setauket with one wish: never to sell the farm to any real estate developers.
But with no one to care for and manage it, Hobbs Farm degraded quickly.
That was until Pellegrino came along.
As a single mother of three who worked two jobs to support her family, Pellegrino knows how hard it is to supply nutritional meals on a tight budget.
So, when the Centereach resident re-married and became more established, she knew she wanted to give back.
“I just had to do something,” she said.
Living down the road from the blighted farm, Pellegrino had the idea of transforming it into a community farm that could feed many. All of the produce grown at the farm would go to local food pantries across Long Island.
So after some tracking down and begging, the church allowed her to maintain a portion of the property in 2007.
“At first, they laughed at me,” she said.
Part of it was due to the large task at hand, and the other slight problem of her never growing a vegetable in her life.
“My husband doesn’t even eat vegetables,” Pellegrino said laughing.
The church finally caved allowing a 50 x 50 plot of land to be farmed. From there, and with the help of volunteers, she began clearing out vines, weeds, and cleaning the outmoded barn.
“There wasn’t even any irrigation,” said Pellegrino. “And you couldn’t even see the barn.”
After researching farming techniques, she started to get the hang of it.
And in 2010, she got some steady reinforcements, especially after Ross joined the volunteer roster.
After growing veggies together for a decade, the two needed to find a way to help bring in more capital to help run the farm to keep helping those in need.
That’s when they came up with the idea of Heartbeet Farms.
“There was over an acre of land unused,” said Ross. “And you can grow a lot on a little.”
According to the two, Heartbeet Farms has three missions: grow organic produce, focus on creating farming and health education classes, and donate back to Hobbs Farm.
In 2017, the two officially formed the new business.
At first, they were just selling their weekly vegetable boxes, until the spring when they rolled out their first truck.
The first location was the Smith Haven Mall.
“After being at the mall, we started getting requests from other areas,” said Ross.
And they have been riding strong since.
“We did this together,” said Pellegrino on the revitalization of Hobbs Farm.
“The mobile farm stand is like the cherry on top.”
the dates and times of the farm truck
All dates are rain or shine.
Stony Brook Village
On Saturdays, from June 23 through Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in front of Crazy Beans.
Smith Haven Mall
On Fridays, from June 22 to Oct. 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Smith Haven Mall by Bobby’s Burgers.
Stony Brook University Campus
On Tuesdays, from June 26 till Aug. 14 outside of Stony Brook University Library, from noon to 2:30 p.m.
After that, it will be on Wednesdays from Aug. 29 to October 10, from noon to 2:30 p.m.
Stony Brook University Hospital
On Tuesdays, at the Stony Brook University Hospital Marketplace Cafe on from June 26 until Oct. 9 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Pointe at Pine Ridge
Every other Monday at the Clubhouse at The Pointe at Pine Ridge, 1 Avalon Pines Dr, Coram, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Starting on June 25th, the dates are as follows: June 25, July 9, 23, August 6, 20, Sept. 3, 17, Oct. 1.
Stony Brook University Research and Development Park CEWIT/AERTC
Every other Monday at Stony Brook University Research and Development Park CEWIT/AERTC from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Every other Monday, June 18 to Oct. 8, from noon to 2 p.m. at Mather Hospital behind the Thrift Store
Top: (L-R) Ann Pellegrino and Jen Ross outside of Crazy Beans in Stony Brook Village. (Courtesy photo.)