An Inteview with Laurie McBride from Wickham Family Farm
An Inteview with Laurie McBride
Wickham Family Farm, Cutchogue, NY
What do you do?
I am officially the manager at Wickham’s Fruit Farm. I’ve been in this capacity for about six years now. I manage the farm stand, which includes retail wholesale as well as the on-site bakery. We have a lot of weekend customers who come in. So every week they’re expecting a little bit different product, so we need to grow so many different crops to keep the customer interested. Keep ‘em coming back again and again, year after year. With our apple picking, we’ve had one family that has now been doing this for 20 years with us. Growing produce on Long Island is very different because we’re growing within communities. Our farm itself buffers several different neighborhoods, so they become a part of our farm.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I really enjoy educating customers about what products you can actually grow on Long Island. June is strawberry season. Yes, you can go into a grocery store any day of the year and find strawberries and blueberries and raspberries, but their fresh counterparts have certain seasons of availability. So educating the consumers on that is, is a really important goal for us here. That is why we’re not carrying out-of-season products. I love doing this. I actually went to college and I’m a high school math teacher by training so that’s where my education component is, but I have so much more mental peace working on the land and tilling and harvesting a crop. And it’s a different kind of gratification.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest issue that I see is our labor. We participate in the H-2A program. So we have a fantastic work crew that comes in just for field labor. Getting the part-time seasonal work for the farmstand is a huge challenge right now. The pandemic hit us hard because we all worked through it. We all put in 60-hour weeks, which is normal during uncertain times and that did burn a lot of people out. A lot of people left the workforce entirely.
What is your biggest reward?
You can feed yourself. You can feed the community. You’re also able to sustain the lives of your 30-plus employees by doing it. There is so much overflow for ag and it’s not just working the land and producing food. It’s a greater sense of feeding your community.