The day was July 26, 1989, and the Harbes family was celebrating its first successful harvest of super sweet corn, the golden vegetable now synonymous with their fourth generation farm.
The family, who up until that point had been mainly potato farmers, had just began to sell their produce out of a 14-foot-by-14-foot gazebo located off Sound Avenue in Mattituck. It was a turning point for the farming clan, who months earlier entertained thoughts of getting out of the agriculture business all together.
“The wholesale potato business was trending downward,” Ed Harbes III, 57, said of his initial cash crop. “My father encouraged us to never expect things to be easy, so we decided to try one more thing: a super sweet corn.”
Since then, business at Harbes has exploded, taking the 50-acre farm to a 200-acre operation featuring a 10-acre orchard, a 5-acre vineyard and retail outlets in Mattituck and Jamesport.
But the oh-so-sweet corn is still the mainstay of the family business, with 60 acres planted each year.
To celebrate the occasion and its prized crop, Harbes Family Farm will host the 25th Annual Sweet Corn Festival over two weekends — July 18 and 19, and 25 and 26 — with events and a taste of North Fork farm life.
While parents can enjoy live music and wine tastings, the kids can take part in singing hayrides, farm tours, face painting or compete in a corn eating contest.
Families can purchase admission to Harbes’ “Barnyard Adventure ,” an area of the farm containing goats, bunnies , a corn hedge maze and an animal petting area .
There will be roasted corn, corn custard and strawberry ice cream created from the farm’s bounty.
Mr. Harbes will be on hand to talk about how corn is grown and how it helped reshape the family farm into what it is today.
Standing at the family’s farm stand Wednesday afternoon, surrounded by his children and wife, Monica, Harbes perused through a photo album, recalling countless memories from when he was a 10-year-old boy to how his children — all eight of them — played a role in the farm’s success.
“I can show you picture after picture,” he said. “There’s a number of different challenges you face, but going through them together it helps you bond as a group.”
“That’s been my favorite part of the family business,” he said.
The farm is located at 715 Sound Ave in Mattituck. The festival runs from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
See next page for a number of photos shared by the Harbes family