In less than a week, the wait will be over.
Grossmann's Farm in Malverne will officially open to the public on April 30, after remaining dormant for years as residents awaited anxiously as the fate of their beloved landmark played out.
Many of these locals packed the yellow barn on April 20 to learn more about how they can lend a hand in helping the farm succeed.
"It took us a while to determine what our needs are," said Dr. Pennie Schwartz, a member of the Nassau Land Trust's Grosmann's Farm subcommittee.
Malverne residents made it very clear to the land trust, which was contracted by Nassau County to manage the farm, that they wanted to be involved held earlier this year.
The volunteers present at Wednesday's meeting were advised to sign up for at least one of the groups that fit their interests and skills. The different fields included farming and gardening, events, fundraising, farm stand and retail, building grounds and maintenance, and marketing and administration.
"Every one of these requires people who want to get their hands dirty," Schwartz said, as she instructed those in attendance to indicate their areas of expertise, availability and how they can best fulfill the farm's needs.
Schwartz and her fellow representatives for the Nassau Land Trust each expressed how overwhelmed they were with the amount of people who showed up to volunteer. Andrea Panaritis, who also serves as on the Grossmann's Farm subcommittee, also pointed out that much work has already been performed on the farm, including painting the barn, by eager volunteers.
"There's been almost no paid labor....it's been a community effort," Panaritis said.
She welcomed aboard all those who wanted to be a part of what she calls "a small miracle," later explaining the years of "asking questions" and working with all parties concerned to save the farm.
"One of challenges we will have is meeting your abilities and enthusiasm with our needs," she added.
Another woman who was there with Panaritis since the very beginning - when they first began to question what would become of the historic farm - was Leonore Russell, who is now in charge of coordinating educational programs at the site.
Russell recalled a dinner with Panaritis and their husbands several years ago, when they vowed to each reach out to one person and ask one question about what can be done to preserve farming in Malverne upon learning that the Grossmann family was looking to sell. They agreed they would keep the questions coming until they received a 'No.'
"We just kept getting 'Yes,'" Russell said, quickly summing up the long process of getting foundations on board, working out a deal with the County and recruiting a farmer and volunteers to arrive at where they are today.
"We know how eager you are to help," Russell stated, but asked for residents' patience. "We're going from a trickle to a stream to a river and we have to start with trickle."
She explained that the farmer, Bill Walsh, has already made great progress since he started working in the fall, tending to the soil, fixing equipment and planting the first crops.
"He's been amazing... the soil is already different," she said, attributing that to the 120 tons of manure Walsh dug into the land months ago.
Still, Russell admitted that Walsh will need help with such jobs as mowing the grass, planting flowers, cleaning up, selling plants and contacting volunteers, as she encouraged residents to fill out the forms going around and stay tuned.
"We will be looking for you, but not all at once," she said. "We're thrilled that you're interested."
In the future, Russell said the farm will house animals, but it's more important to bring people there and to create "a social atmosphere...a place for you to come together with all these growing interests."
Already the farm has welcomed students from the Waldorf School in Garden City, where Russell had taught for years and one intergenerational group. Home-schoolers will soon be making a visit, and she is working with the local public schools and the Girl Scouts of Nassau County to arrange for them to volunteer in the future.
However, she said that if any family is interested in spending an afternoon on the farm they do not have to be a part of an official organization, but should reach out and swing by.
Many people already do stop in to chat with Walsh, who said he's "having a great time meeting a lot of nice people here."
He added,"I'm looking forward to working with good gardeners and people who want to learn."
Walsh has planted some produce in the ground and the greenhouse and plans to bring in additional crops that they are not able to grow on site such as corn as the season progresses. They have reached out to some of the same suppliers that had been used by the Grossmann family for several years.
"You'll find you'll be pleased with results but it make take a little time," Walsh cautioned.
Some of the residents also had questions about the farm, including whether organic produce would be grown, when the community supported agriculture (CSA) system would start and if the name would remain the same.
"We are well on our way to organic certification," Russell said, "We can not put the label on it till we get the certification but if it's grown here, it's organic." She explained that there has been no pesticides on the land for four years now. As for the food that is brought in from other growers, she said that if it isn't organic it will be clearly marked.
As for the status of the CSA, Panaritis said they hope to soon have a coupon system in place, in which customers would purchase these upfront for a 10 percent discount off their purchases.
"We're doing that to start because we truly don't know what this farm will yield the first year," she said.
When the full system is in place, customers will be able to subscribe for a fee to the food grown on the farm.
They are also still working out the details of the name. The Trust is trying to comply with the wishes of the Grossmann family, but under the contract, it signed with the County, the property is called Grossmann's Farm. A legal team is currently working with all parties involved to settle the name issue once and for all.
"You will know in time," Russell said.
Meanwhile, she and her fellow volunteers are focused on getting the farm ready for opening day, scheduled for April 30. They plan to be selling bedding plants that day and are asking residents to donate their old newspapers in the days leading up to the launch so that they can use them when packing the purchases into peoples' cars. Anyone with papers to donate can drop them off at the farm.
There will also be two additional volunteer sessions at the farm for those who missed the April 20 meeting. The first will be tonight, April 25 at 6:30 p.m. and then another will be held at 1 p.m. on April 30. Residents will once again have a chance to sign up for different volunteer groups.
Based on the turnout so far, Dr. Schwartz said it's evident that "the community really did support this staying a farm."