, on the north side of Route 27 across from Mecox Road in Water Mill, is another part of the Hamptons Tradition.
Started by Evelyn Halsey in May 1969, the name was the idea of some of her friends who while at a dinner thought of the connection to the family’s dairy background. At first the original Milk Pail was situated in the small building across from the Lutheran church in Water Mill, on Route 27, but by 1972, John built Evelyn the present building.
Said Evelyn, “We were married in April and we opened in May. We were in that original small building, all it was at first was some local vegetables, and a refrigerator with some gallons of local milk. John would help me setup in the morning before going to work on the farm. I just wanted to work outdoors. Then I brought in the apples.”
Of course, today the apple cider, peaches, berries and cherries joined the vegetables as product the wise locals seek.
In fact, according to Evelyn’s daughter Jennifer, who along with sister Amy have taken the reins of the business, The Milk Pail and other family businesses sell 15,000 gallons a year of apple cider. They have 18 acres of apple orchids with over 10,000 apple trees along with 3 acres of peaches with over 2,500 peach trees.
The girls remember learning early in life about business, recalls, Jennifer, "When we were really young our parents started us out picking pumpkins and told us to price them, and sell them at the Milk Pail Stand and whatever we made we could keep for ourselves.”
Amy when asked about the past recalled 1985 and Hurricane Gloria. “My sister and I got off the school bus and went right into the fields to help pick the apples before the storm. I was around 12 and I was upset I ruined my favorite Hampton Classic sweatshirt.”
Because the Milk Pail stand on Route 27 is closed until the middle of August when the peaches are ready, the business in the summer is centered around the family farm located at 757 Mecox Road in Water Mill. Since 1994 the girls have run the “Mini Milk Pail,” and from farm warehouse buildings and greenhouses located at that address.
I firmly recommend a visit to the farm to see the beauty of the well maintained farm buildings, the orchids, and other crops juxtaposed against the always wide open Hamptons sky. It is a classic American photo in every direction.
As her dad John Halsey was driving a huge tractor into the back of the building I asked Jennifer what had he taught her about farming and business, she thought a second and replied, “I once heard him tell someone who said we had the best apples; that God gives us the crop of apples and that he was put here to help take care of it.”
She went on to say that the weather of each season had a lot to do with how things turned out and they had to manage around the uncontrollable reality of weather, too much rainfall, drought, or abusive heat. However she stated her long term goals was to keep the business small family oriented. Since she and her sister graduated from they both enjoy seeing old life time friends stop buy to purchase the high quality local produce, cider, apple sauces, and other products as well as just say hello.
“We know we are blessed,” she added just looking around at the whole surroundings. As I was talking to the girls, both her mom and dad watched with a silent strong pride. They have watched their lands become worth millions but continue the tradition of family farming that the Halsey family has been known for since the first Halsey left Lynn, Massachusetts in the Spring of 1640 to settle Southampton. In fact not too far off in the distance was a tent being put up to celebrate that evening the 25th anniversary of the . It is their distant cousin John P. Halsey who is at the helm of that noble organization whose goals are to both preserve farming on the east end of Long Island and promote the purchase of local produce.
When asked exactly when the Route 27 Milk Pail stand was going to open, Jennifer said as her mother the founder stood next to her pround and watched, “It’s up to the peaches, when there are ready so will we, it may be the second week of August or the third.”
However, the Mini Milk Pail at 757 Mecox Road is opened May-August 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the Milk Pail on Route 27 operates from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except on Sundays when it opens at 1:30 p.m.
Further information can be ascertained at www.milk-pail.com or dialing either 631-537-5999 or 631-537-2565