Gurney's Inn
April 19, 2006

400-Year-Old Farm On The Block New Life For Orient Legacy?

Independent / Lisa Finn Fred Terry has treasured memories of years spent farming with his father and grandfather on waterfront property that's been in the family for almost 400 years. (click for larger version)
Stand at the edge of Fred Terry's farm in Orient and enjoy the utter silence. Take a ride to the end of the 36.5 acres of lush property to a private beach and hear the sun-dappled bay caress the sand. The land is ripe with nature's gifts — geese and deer wander free and fish swim in a freshwater pond.

It is a portrait Terry would like to see captured forever for posterity; a place that has transcended the passage of time. The farm, which has been in Terry's family for almost 400 years, has become a beloved symbol of all that is beautiful and pristine about the bucolic North Fork. The soil is fertile with memories, having sustained generations of family members who've toiled and thrived off the land.

But, despite its splendor, after 42 years spent running the farm, Terry, who turned 65 last week, has decided to retire. Since October, Terry's farm has been listed with Prudential Douglas Elliman Realty of Southold for $9 million.

His decision was met with resistance by some. "My family is upset because I want to retire," said Terry, whose siblings pursued other careers. "This is my business. I held onto the farm. I've spent hours and hours and hours, just as my father and grandfather did, on this farm. I don't want to see it developed."

In the past, Terry received two offers of $4 million for the property, which features a 50-foot right-of-way to the bay, as well as DEC-owned wetlands. He refused both because prospective buyers planned to develop the property.

Terry's vision, if the next owner is not a farmer, would be to see the land developed as an estate similar to the North Fork's Entenmann compound, or as a horse farm.

Terry plans to continue farming until the land is sold; he has other farms in the area where his family's legacy will live on through his stepson, Tim.

While some may wonder why Terry did not pursue the sale of development rights to the town — neighbors on all three sides have had their development rights preserved — Terry said Southold "is not paying enough."

On the South Fork, Terry pointed out municipalities are paying up to $100,000 an acre for development rights; on the North Fork, the going price is $40,000-$50,000 an acre. "It's not realistic yet."

And, although the town did survey the property for appraisal, "they never came to me and gave me an offer."

Terry and his wife Ethel are familiar faces on the Orient canvas and in Long Island's farming community. In 1992 the couple created the Long Island Growers Markets, bringing farmers markets and fresh produce to communities where there are no longer farms. Today, there are nine Long Island market locations.

Community means everything to the Terrys. Fred is chief of the Orient Fire Department; both he and Ethel have been EMTs for 30 years. "When the siren goes, you go," he said. "I've had people say 'Thank you for saving my husband.' I've brought back people who've had heart attacks. If you do that one time, it's worth every single bit of training."

Terry looks back on his farming years with satisfaction. After attending Cornell University, where he studied agricultural engineering, Terry moved back in 1963 and has been on the farm ever since, growing over 50 types of vegetables. But it's a dying art. When he started out, there were "at least 15 other farms in Orient. Now there are two."

Today, Terry dreams of traveling cross-country. But no matter how far wanderlust takes the couple, they'll always come home to Orient: "I'll never sell my home here. You're not going to find a place like Orient anywhere. There's no 7-Eleven. No traffic. It's a beautiful place to bring up a child."

Ethel concurred. "There's such a feeling of peace and tranquility here. You can feel the history. Whether you're born and raised here or a 'transplant,' there's a certain feeling of the love of the land that's just remarkable."

  1. print email
    October 28, 2015 | 11:25 AM

    Thank you for what you do. My family came from Amityville and perhaps from
    Oysterponds. I hope to get to eastern LI and see wonderfull places like your home. Regards
    Chet Terry (828)862-6707

    Chet Terry
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