Meet Artist Peter Treiber, Jr., now Farm Manager of Treiber Farms, one of Southold’s Newest Farms

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Q: How did you come to the North Fork?

A: I’ve been coming out here my whole life. I’m originally from Sea Cliff, on the North shore of Nassau County. My parents are from Nassau County too. My mothers’ parents moved to Southold in 1985, and my parents bought a place in Orient in 1996. I decided to move out here full time last May, so I have been here since then.

Q: I’ve never heard of Treiber Farms—when did your family get it started?

A: My Dad bought the land on the North side of 48—where the orchards and berries are—in 2014, and acquired the barns across the street at the end of 2015. So the first full year of work started in the winter of 2016. It’s all very new.

Q: What do you grow?

A: We have beehives, an orchard, berries, and will add more.

We produced 220 lbs of honey last year. The focus right now is the fruit trees, and the berries. We will get into vegetables. We’ve already planted garlic.  When you plant garlic you can get the green garlic in the spring,  then the scapes—the top of the garlic plant. They’re delicious. Use the green just like scallions and the scapes are great when pickled or used like garlic. The mature bulbs will be ready in June and July.

We’re going to work out our growing schedule in the next week or so, working out what we’ll grow where, precisely, and when.  We will grow some cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, herbs, and some cut flowers.

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I want something to pair with the garlic, fruit and berries at the farm stand. Give people more reasons to stop and browse. Maybe even do some root vegetables.

We’ll have a greenhouse to grow in and start our transplants, too.

Q: Your farm’s brand new—do any of you have a background in farming?

A: No. The closest is my father kept a vegetable garden with some fruit trees and a few bee hives, and that’s not really the same at all.

My dad’s family started an insurance business in Williamsburg Brooklyn in 1899, so that was the family business. It’s still in existence under the name the Treiber Group, but they sold it to a publicly traded company in 2008 and my Dad just retired this past year.

So this is his second career. I can’t imagine him really retiring. He always dreamed of having land, and he always loved being outside, growing food, and sharing that experience. The passion and love of growing food has always been there. Fresh food was always on the table in the spring and summer months growing up.

Q: You said you grow berries and have an orchard—what fruits precisely do you grow? Will you do U-Pick, or sell jams & jellies?

A: We have several varieties of raspberry—your traditional red, plus yellow, and black—then we have blackberries and blueberries. We also grow apples, peaches, pears, nectarines and cherries.

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U-Pick isn’t in the plans for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t really interest me.  Jams, jellies, preserves—that’s something that I and my father are excited about. What we’ve made at home so far has been delicious, and we definitely want to make that an option at the farmstand.

This year is a great experiment, seeing how everything goes, learning from our successes and failures and relying on help from our neighbors.

Q: When your dad bought the property, was it already a berry farm and orchard?

A: Everything on the property now was planted in the past few years. This farm was totally untouched, fallow for some time. The land was overgrown, hadn’t been farmed in a decade or more. We spent the first year clearing land, then two seasons of cover cropping, then setting the rows, then the irrigation, then we planted our berries.

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All trees are brand new as well. Some were planted last year, and we’ll plant some more this year, more trees and bushes to expand and fill in where we need replacements—one variety of cherries didn’t really take.

It takes a little while to establish an orchard. Last year we picked the flowers to drive root growth—channel the energy the trees would’ve put into the fruit—but  you can’t get every flower and we got some fruit. I tasted them and they were unbelievable; I’m really excited to have a proper crop.

Q: Where will the farmstand be?

A: The farmstand will be on the south side of 48, where our barns are. Where we have the American Flag truck.

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Photo Credit: Mike Mallette

Q: Cool—that truck is such an icon, it’ll make your farmstand easy to spot.

A: I did the design for one label—for our eggs and honey jars, and it’s our truck in black and white.  Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the eggs. We keep 27 egg chickens, I get about two dozen eggs a day.  And they are delicious.

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Q: What’s the story behind the flag truck?

A: Well, the full story is here, but the short version is this: The land was owned by Bill Zebroski, and he was renting to Mike Widener, a carpenter who lived here 10+ years. Widener kept up the buildings, turned them into workshops. He had this old truck, and for Memorial Day, or maybe it was Fourth of July, he wanted to decorate it. He measured the truck and the dimensions were just right, so he made the stars and just painted it up.

He used to have barn sales, selling furniture he made and other old treasures, and it was a great landmark for him. Now it’ll be our landmark.

img_2031We’ve hired him back for lots of projects, like the ornate shingle work on the side of the barn, other repairs on the barns too. We put in a stained glass window I got from Lydia’s in Greenport. That barn—with the ornate shingle work and stained glass window–will be our farmstand.

Q: Is it just you and your dad, or do you have other siblings or family involved with the farm?

A: It’s my father and me. It looks like my eldest cousin, Chris Treiber, is moving back from California to join the farm. He’s been a lawyer. So he’s leaving law to join the farm—we’re a farm made up of an insurance man, a lawyer, and an artist. Sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it’s real.

Q:  So you must be the artist. What’s the backstory?

A: I graduated from college in 2010, moved to Brooklyn, moving in with a friend. They had some art by Mac Premo, who does this amazing assemblage, college, sculpture art. I was really taken with it and got to meet him.

I’d studied history and anthropology (I’d been in business school and was really miserable and switched to learn the things I wanted) but I didn’t need to be a history teacher or a professor. So I got in touch with Premo, and I became his assistant/apprentice in 2012, learning carpentry, film making (he’s a director as well, you might have seen his work on the most recent Ford F150 ads), how to navigate the art world, and to embrace my need to create and so much more.

I helped him make films, commercials, we did a play, I helped build the set and do the lighting. Eventually I got my own studio and have been making, showing and selling art ever since. I mean, I’ve always been making art, but through working with Mac and other artists I really learned how to express myself.

I currently have an exhibit at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company’s Greenport Tasting Room, and our closing reception is Sunday February 19th, 6-9 pm. We’ll have food from 8 Hands Farm in Cutchogue.

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Q: When does Treiber Farms open to the public?

A: I think we’d like to do a grand opening shindig in May—maybe a big pig roast or something—and start the farm stand Memorial Day Weekend. We’ll see.

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