Things We Love: Shelter Island farm stands

Rod and Robin Anderson’s flower and egg stand on Midway Road. (Credit: Caitlin Panarella)

Rod and Robin Anderson’s flower and egg stand on Midway Road. (Credit: Caitlin Panarella)

Part of being on Shelter Island, especially in the summer, is finding treats in unexpected places.

Such as some property owners with too much of something putting it out on street stands to manage the overabundance.

You might see anything, from blueberries to eggs to flowers — and what’s up with firewood? — or all of the above and more. In contrast with your garden variety lemonade stand, these little booths are unmanned for most of the day. Those running an “honor stand” trust  their customers will pay the correct amount and report they haven’t seen many criminals among us taking advantage.

Ray and Eileen Kotula, veteran gardeners and longtime Island residents, spoke about the produce stand on their Worthy Way property. Mr. and Mrs. Kotula, both retired, grow a wide variety of vegetables in their garden, including lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, beets, onions, mint, parsley, basil and peppers. In addition to the edible fare, they also grow flowers. It’s easy to spot their stand, a rowboat filled to the gunwales with crops.

The Kotulas have had their garden for 35 years, which they started as a hobby when they first moved to Shelter Island. They put up the stand about 15 years ago  to handle the surplus of their harvest. The stand has no set hours but is usually open from the end of June to the end of August.

One concern most people would have about leaving their bounty without supervision — will customers take advantage? “We’ve never had a problem with that,” Mrs. Kotula said. “People are generally honest.”

They’ve even had people knock on their door with an IOU or to ask for change.

Gardeners are not the only Islanders with something to sell. Rod and Robin Anderson also offer their surplus product to passersby on Midway Road. Given one chicken about 15 years ago as a gift, the Andersons now own a coop with 30 chickens and sell their extra eggs in a cooler at the side of the road.

“We always sell out,” Mr. Anderson said. At $5 a dozen for fresh, organic eggs, it’s no mystery why neighbors often call asking for more eggs after the cooler has been emptied. As the chickens lay year-round, the Anderson’s stand is a 12-month-a-year operation.

Mr. Anderson did remember a dishonest customer. “There was definitely one time, about two years ago during the off-season, when there was money missing,” he said.

He thought about installing cameras for surveillance, but that seemed “a bit extreme.” Fortunately, as suddenly as the thieving began, it stopped.