Wells Family Will Continue To Farm The Land, Sold Development Rights To CountyBy Carolyn Gusoff

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Long Island’s oldest running family farm was sold Wednesday, but not to developers.

Suffolk County bought the development rights and will preserve it as farmland. It’s part of an effort to protect the character of Long Island’s East End and an important food source.

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The fertile acres are a part of Long Island history — farmed by one family, 12 generations of the Wells family, since the 1660s.

Now, they’re certain to stay farmland.

In what’s become a model for preservation nationwide, Suffolk County’s been buying up development rights to farms for decades. It now adds 11 acres of the Wells farm after the patriarch, Lyle Wells, a giant in East End farming, died in a tragic accident in 2018.

Son Matt says bank loans were calling and the family had to consider selling the land for millions.

“It’s a lot of money. You could easily sell and live the rest of your life and be happy, but the legacy that’s out here, your family’s been on this farm for so long,” Matt Wells told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

Instead, they’re netting far less money but doing what would make Lyle proud. They’ll continue to farm the land but sold development rights to Suffolk.

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“There has been intense development pressure, so the farmland preservation program … is absolutely critical for Long Island and the survival of this industry,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

The $600,000 paid is funded by a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters to preserve open space and protect ground water. The land can never be developed.

“This is a voluntary program, so what they’ve done here to commit this productive land into the program, it’ll continue on for the next three centuries,” Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski said.

And that a 13th generation of Wells, soon to be born, will keep feeding Long Island.

“I hope if she wants to be a farmer, then she has a lot of great people to learn from,” said Ella New, Matt Wells’ fiancée.

“She will be on the tractor, for sure,” Matt Wells said.

The purchase preserves one family’s legacy and helps safeguard the legacy of the East End of Long Island as very special farm country.

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Two-thirds of Suffolk County farmland, some 20,000 acres, are now protected from development.

Carolyn Gusoff