At age 4, Bob Nolan was already
Oh, those tractors! And what about
their powerful noise and the things they
could do!
“I liked to watch the tractors from the
upstairs window and I remembered being
excited to see what was going on at an
early age,” Nolan said. “I lived in this
Nolan sat down with the Advance at
his parents’ home, 288 South Country
Road in Brookhaven hamlet, where Alice
and Alfred Nolan still live, a harmonious,
pretty environment for a youngster and
his two brothers to grow up in. In the
back was the 33-acre farmland Nolan’s
grandfather, Herman and uncle Henry
Lohman established in 1953. Nolan
heads up Deer Run Farms; his uncle and
dad still help out. A fourth generation
farmer, Nolan was honored last Friday
at the Bellport Country Club. Friends
and family came out to celebrate Nolan’s
Amherst Davis Memorial Farmer Citizen
of the Year Award from the Long Island
Farm Bureau.
He started seriously helping out on the
land when he was 12. Nolan was playing
basketball with his brothers, Alfred Jr. and
Howard, when uncle Henry approached
the young boys. “My uncle came over
and asked if we wanted to make money
and weed the lettuce beds,” he said. “We
thought that was a good idea. Then little
by little, we did more.”
What was it about farming that he liked
the best?
“It’s a challenge to compete against
the weather,” he answered. “Say there
are thunderstorms coming and we have
to plant cabbage. We have to plow the
ground, put fertilizer down and plant it.
Most times we make it. Then you have to
wait until it dries out.”
There was also another advantage.
“Looking at the produce in the box going
out to the customers and knowing you’re
sending out a good product,” he added.
“That’s the best feeling.” Produce includes
several varieties of lettuce, cabbage and
spinach, along with escarole and chicory
and several green leaf varieties.
His day starts early; he’s in his office, his
uncle’s old home next door to his parents,
by 5:30 a.m. The workday continues until
at least 6 p.m.
Besides its own roadside farm stand,
staffed by his daughter Valerie and
managed by wife Janet, local purveyors
like J. Kings Food Professional Services,
Inc., King Kullen and Stop and Shop
Supermarkets along with Wallen’s Market
in Bellport carry his produce and the
Hunts Point Market.
The farm is owned by the nearby Post
Morrow Foundation, which purchased
it in partnership with Suffolk County in
2000; Nolan leases the land.
“We are proud to have a partnership
with him,” said Tom Williams, vice
president of the Post Morrow Foundation.
“His farm stand has been wonderfully
busy this summer. He’s taken a leadership
role in the Long Island Farm Bureau and
contributes back to his profession. He
invited the FDA to his farm in August
to talk about the food safety issues so
he opened up his own farm to federal
officials to see how farmers work on
Long Island. He shares his knowledge
and doesn’t isolate himself. He’s also
civic minded in the farming community.
He participates in the North Bellport
Farmers Market. His farm is very well
kept, it’s neat and clean and he treats
his workers with respect so getting that
award is absolutely appropriate and very
well deserved.”
Nolan’s leadership journey began in
1995 when he became a member of the
Long Island Farm Bureau. “Every year
there’s a meeting for all the farm bureaus
in New York State to discuss policy,”
he said. “We discuss policy, agree on it,
and lobby the politicians. A friend, Jeff
Rottkamp, asked if I wanted to be a
delegate for the New York Farm Bureau’s
annual meeting.” His first delegate
meeting was held at the Melville Marriott
back then; in 2010 when another was held
at the Marriott, he was chairman.
“I didn’t plan on doing all that,” he said
frankly. “I just figured I’d be a delegate
and help out. It took a long time to
understand all the policy stuff.” In 1996
he was asked to become a LIFB board
Nolan is an engaging, astute man.
Confident without an ego. As destiny
tapped his shoulder, he followed. He
became treasurer of the LIFB and had
that role for about four years when he
was asked if he was interested in a vice
president slot, a training precursor to
the president’s position, which he served
from 2006-2008. “Once I got into being
vice president, I felt stronger and then
felt a responsibility to represent the Long
Island farmers,” he said.
The last two years he’s been a member
of the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Advisory
Committee representing New York
State. The committee members send
recommendations to the U.S. Secretary
of Agriculture. He is also a member of
the New York State Advisory Council on
He has a staff of 15, including six Latino
workers. The rest are family members
along with college students. Nolan spoke
fluent Spanish to a worker before the
interview started. “Immigration is always
an issue to keep our farm workers here,”
he said. “We need a worker program for
them to come up here and go back to
their families. The current federal H2A
program is very cumbersome with its
rules and regulations and it’s not doable
for farmers. We need a guest-worker
program. The notion that Americans
will work on a farm isn’t happening.
No one wants to do the work except
the immigrants. It used to be Polish
immigrants, then the Italians. Plus, we’re
feeding people. This is food and it’s a very
vital part of our life. Do we want to rely
on other countries?”
His uncle researches the best nutrient
balance for the crops; son Sammy is
following the family footsteps and is in
his third year at the State University of
New York College of Agriculture and
Technology at Cobleskill. Nolan credits
his family for his success; they all pitch
“I’m driven by the tradition and history
of farming on Long Island,” he said. “I’m
fourth generation. There’s not many of
the original farmers left and I’m proud
I’m one of them.”


Unless otherwise indicated, the articles and photos on this page are  copywrited and reprinted with the permission of Editor Mark Nolan

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