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Did you know? Organic garden plots available on town property with unexpected backstory

Outdoors by: Chrissy Ruggeri, April 21, 2022

Plots at the Robert Kubecka Memorial Organic Garden, located at 95-99 Dunlop Road in Huntington.

The Robert Kubecka Memorial Organic Garden is open for the season and there are plots available to Town of Huntington residents for just $25 a year. The annual membership gets you a 20’ x 30’ piece of organic land for the growing season, which lasts from March 1 to December 1.

The Huntington Town Board authorized the purchase of the fifteen acres of land, right off Dunlop Road, from Hazeltine Corporation, a Greenlawn-based defense electronics company that’s now part of BAE Systems, in 1971. Within a year, the land was conveyed to the town and used for the Community Garden Program, which was initiated with approximately 120 families actively gardening on the site for just $3 a year. Since then, membership has grown to over 350 families throughout the township.

The program philosophy is to give community members a space to grow vegetables, flowers, shrubs or ornamental grasses without the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers. The town also provides composed horse manure and wood chips to gardeners to use as natural, organic soil fertilizer and weed barriers.

There are some rules in place for plot renters, beyond the prohibition of chemicals. Garden plots must be actively maintained throughout the growing season. They have to be kept reasonably neat, clean and relatively free of weeds. Water access is provided by the town beginning April 15, but gardens can only be watered when the owner is present on the site. There are also designated areas for composting, where all old plant material can be deposited.

Want to apply for a garden plot? There’s no waiting list for the Kubecka Garden at this time and according to the town provided live map, there are over 40 plots available. You can apply here but keep in mind, vacant plots will likely require a substantial amount of work to get them ready for planting. Common weeds such as mugwort, thorny wild blackberry and stinging nettle have been growing for over a year and will have to be removed.

If you’re intimidated by starting your own little garden, take resident organic gardener Dylan Licopoli’s advice and simply relax. “Gardening is more about the process than the product; and it is a universal truth that no matter what you do, the fruits and vegetables you grow yourself will taste better than anything store bought,” he said in his short guide to starting a vegetable garden. Read more from Dylan here.

A twist: The story behind Robert Kubecka
In 1989, the Huntington Town Board authorized the name change for the Huntington Organic Gardens to become the Robert Kubecka Memorial Organic Garden. Kubecka, a Huntington High School graduate, Greenlawn resident and avid environmentalist who helped the town establish the garden program from 1973 to 1976, was murdered in a headline-worthy story involving the mafia and FBI.

According to a 1989 New York Times article, Kubecka was a Long Island garbage hauler who assisted in investigations of organized crime in the local garbage industry. As an owner of two hauling companies, Kubecka and Donald Barstow, his brother-in-law and business partner, were set to testify in a number of criminal and civil investigations of the Island’s garbage hauling industry. Members of the industry, who allegedly had ties to the mafia, were charged with conspiring to eliminate competition and divide the industry among themselves for total control.

Kubecka and Barstow worked with the New York State Organized Crime Task Force and the state Attorney General’s office to charge the Lucchese and Gambino crime families, the Private Sanitation Industry of Nassau-Suffolk trade group, and several dozen hauling company officials.

Before they were able to testify, Kubecka and Barstow were gunned down in their company office at 41 Brightside Avenue in East Northport. Around 6am, someone – possibly Kubecka himself – called to report the shooting. When the police arrived, they found Barstow, 35, dead and Kubecka shot, reportedly hunched over his desk within a wrecked office. He died on the way to the hospital. He was 40 years old.