Round Swamp Farm: Not Your Average Roadside Stand
By Patricia Shelvin
Three years ago I traded in my upstate weekend home for one in theHamptons. The fear that my beloved Guido’s, the Berkshires’ answer to Whole Foods, would no longer be part of my weekends was eradicated with a swipe of my credit card at Round Swamp Farm – theEast Hamptonfarm stand phenomenon.
Round Swamp Farm is a shopping ritual for many weekenders. Inside a building the size of a large shoebox, you can find a painter’s palette of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs. Just out-of-the-oven muffins, fruit pies and breads are strategically placed along the route to the cash registers, on the slight chance that the baked goods which greet you at the front door, have not already found their way into your cart. Prepared foods are so enticing that one can easily lose her original intention and exit with an entire prepared meal.
It appears that to this novice of two seasons that two matriarchs run the production with ease, sometimes moving people, and sometimes moving food over the heads of people. One of the staff glides through the crowd with a finesse of an ice skater balancing a tray of prepared entrees high above the masses. Younger, inexperienced, employees are positioned at the outside stalls and the back room. Obviously, one has to earn one’s stripes to dance in this show.
This past summer was filled with lessons, most of which I am, selfishly, unwilling to share. However, one inescapable observation is that August is far more challenging than the rest of the season, as evidenced by my last two visits.
Intending to stop on my way out to the house two Fridays ago, I was shocked at11:30 amto see a line of people stretching into the miniscule parking lot (a whole other story). I drove on without stopping. My weekend was simply not the same. Three days withoutRoundSwampstaples? The One Stop is not a substitute; Cheeze-its is not a major food group. I would not make that mistake again.
The following week’s visit proved to be my most challenging: though there was no visible parking problem, the checkout line greeted me when I opened the door. This situation is fine for fast track shoppers, those who shop only what they can survey on the line. I had to blaze a trail through to the back room where most of the fruits, vegetables and herbs are offered. It is interesting how this room is never crowded. Prepared foods rule here!
I rejoined the masses on the checkout line, adding an irresistible pear salad to my cart. I could not put another thing in, on or around the cart, yet I kept shopping as I moved along. A gentleman ahead of me on the line shared that on a previous visit he had been accorded an “over70”expedited checkout. We continued to pass time attempting to estimate the hourly take at the register. I was still some 8-9 people from the cashiers.
For the first time in three summers, I heard the announcement all septuagenarians were waiting for – the “over70”call — and in a flash my friend was gone. Within two minutes a second call went out to all those pregnant. Seriously, how does one prove pregnancy? Let’s not go there. The third (and final) call was to those celebrating their birthdays. I quickly thought maybe they would honor my half-birthday (still a day or two away) as all winter babes are already operating on an uneven playing field.
At some point during the wait-on-line experience you are likely confronted with the contrarian, she who chooses to disregard the established one way aisles forcing all kinds of adjustments (and, at times, food casualties) as she maneuvers willy nilly through the oncoming traffic.
In spite of the insanity of three people trying to move through a one person space, ducking food laden trays, and doing the crawl to the register, there is a civility experienced here that I would like to see more of on the LIE. I think Round Swamp Farm could sponsor a “Please be nicer as you travel the road to our farm” public service message at LIE Exit 70.
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