The following comments are from former Brookhaven Hamlet resident Richard Beyer, now of Tuscumbia, AL
I would like to add some general first-hand information to your wonderful photos of the Robinson's Duck Farm in Southaven. I worked there for two summers, 1957 between my Junior and Senior years, and 1958 following my Senior year at Bellport High School before I left for the NY State College of Forestry at Syracuse.
Ralph Robinson, one of the family members, was my Sunday School teacher at the Brookhaven Presbyterian Church. The farm was pretty much self sufficient. They had their own Incubator House, a large and expensive facility, where they hatched the eggs of ducks, chickens, and turkeys for the farm, and they also took in, when space allowed, work from other sources such as quail, pheasant and other game birds for Ken Hard's Suffolk Lodge across the highway.
The farm also had its own Feed Mill, another large another expensive facility where they could, with the best knowledge of the day, blend and produce feed for the 100,000 white ducks that were resident on the farm at any given time. I'm sure if there was any excess capacity it was put to good use in making feed for other area enterprises.
>p>The most fascinating operation on the farm, to me at least, was the processing plant, which we simply called "the killing house." In those years when I worked there it operated two days a week. When the ducks had been raised to a weight of six pounds they were "processed" and sent to market in New York City. In that era, Long Island Duck was a very special and much sought after entree in better restaurants all over the East Coast. I even recall the names of some of the workers in the processing plant. I will spare your readers the exact processing details, which I recall very well, except to say that absolutely nothing was wasted and because the farm was run so efficiently, everything was sold except the quack. On the days the plant operated, employees were allowed to take home two ducks per person. Fifty years later I can still taste those delicious fowl and have never found any as good in markets or restaurants over the decades.
We harvested, baled and transported to the duck houses, hay from the farm's fields and from fields all over Suffolk County. The ducks were susceptible to local predators like mink and fox but even more to various diseases, especially when they were still young and yellow. One disease I recall was known as "New Duck." It must have been like a virus and it spread rapidly with a high mortality rate. The inoculation process is still vivid in my mind as it was performed at a high rate of speed and less than 100% accuracy. I was, therefore, over the two summers, inoculated in my fingers for just about every disease known to duck.
Robinson's Duck Farm was a great case study in the benefits of teamwork and efficiency and especially hard work. It was a highly educational experience for me and one for which I have always been grateful. And there are still many of us around who consider ourselves genuine environmentalists who still miss the farm and especially the Robinson family.
27 Nov 2006