As I was sitting in the middle of 11,000 day old ducklings Douglas Corwin, President and 4th generation Duck Farmer of Crescent Duck Farm was proudly admiring and speaking to the newborns in what appeared to be duck language which sounded like this, "Bup! Bup! Bup! Bup!" It was as if the ducklings innately knew what he was saying, as they were climbing up his legs frantically, racing for the highest point.
It would be no surprise if these ducklings understood every word considering this family affair of duck farmers dates back to 1908 and the land where the duck farm resides has been in the family since the middle of the 1600's. The 145 acre duck farm produces 1 million ducks a year for 4.5% of the countries duck produce for the more discerning white tablecloth restaurants and asian food trades.
Douglas shared with me his family history and passion for the duck farm as he gave me a tour from his ford truck. We bumped along the dusty trails, passing the 22 or so duck structures which are used for breeding, hatching, growing and processing. Douglas stated to me proudly, "For my entire life this farm has been my home!" When I asked where he lived he stated, "On the other side of the farm." He then proceeded on sharing with me the various family members who live along the circumference of the farm and pointed to this white house in the distance where Douglas' oldest son lives. This home happened to be his great, great grandfather's from the 1940's. At that moment I wished my head was able to spin 360 degrees as it was hard for me to keep track of where each family member lives.
Depending on where we were along the tour I was either holding a duck egg in my hand which hatched before my eyes, standing amongst thousands of ducks ranging from newborns - 6 weeks old or breeding ducks.
When I asked about the variety of Ducks on the farm Douglas stated, "Pekin! The history of the Long Island Duckling began in 1873 when Pekin ducks of unusual size were brought over from China to the USA; one drake and 3 ducks made its way to NYC and these 4 ducks happen to be the Crescent Ducks Ancestors, known as the Long Island Duck."
Crescent Duck Farm was named by Douglas' great, great grandmother. It was named after the creek which is crescent shaped and sits alongside the farm.
30 years ago, there were 40 duck farms in the Eastport area, 75 miles east of Manhattan. Of the eight million ducks produced nationally, more than six million per year came from Long Island.
The humid climate, abundance of fresh running water and sandy soils is why Ducks were raised on Long Island.
Today, Crescent Duck is the only major producer that remains.
The birds are fed a unique diet of natural grains without hormones or artificial growth stimulants.
We happened to drive past the Old Steeple Church Cemetery which sits along the farm. Douglas pointed to 2 tombstones which had the family name Corwin and a Duck engraved on both. One was where his grandparents are buried and the other is his Father's plot. As I was photographing the cemetery Douglas stated, "My grandfather was my hero, mentor and idol growing up, he was gregarious and everyone like him. My Father on the other hand is more business like and reserved."
These traits which Douglas described about his Grandfather and Father are very much ingrained in him. I saw an individual who is very proud about his family heritage and legacy. He was a Cornell graduate like his Father, both who immersed themselves in the intensive study of chemistry, biology, physics, nutrition, genetics and business. His Grandfather's gregarious nature was evident as he was excited to share with me what he holds close to his heart; the love of his duck farm and family. The culmination of his lifelong study of raising the perfect duck for the culinary industry combined with his genuine outgoing nature and nurturing quality has set the standard in the industry. This is evident by the business he keeps.
Crescent Duck Products are being prepared at award-winning restaurants such as The Four Seasons, Jean-Georges, Bouley, The River Cafe, Momofuku and the majority of the restaurants which are out east on Long Island. His duck products have set the standard in the industry, being consistent and having a flavor profile which is succulent, meaty and tender. I know first hand as I have had a Crescent Duck Breast prepared for me by Chef Keith Luce of Luce & Hawkins in Jamesport, NY on the the same day I did this tour.
I asked Douglas if he had one wish for the future of his farm what would it be? He simply stated, "For his son's to continue the family legacy of the Crescent Duck Farm on Long Island and to keep providing healthy discernible tasting ducks for years to come.
note: Crescent Duck Farm products can be purchased at the Bayview Farmers Market in Aquebogue, NY. Crescent Duck Farm is a wholesale production facility and not open to the general public.
To read more about the Crescent Duck Farm go to: www.crescentduck.com
Recipe coming up: Duck sausage with cheddar polenta and an autumn compote.