Neal Catapano has figured out a way to harvest strawberries about six weeks before the traditional season on the North Fork begins.
He grows strawberries at his farm in Southold in a cold frame under a woven fabric cloth in order to trick the plants into flowering and bearing fruit early.
“We don’t call them greenhouse strawberries because people associate greenhouse grown fruits and vegetables with the terrible greenhouse tomatoes the supermarkets sell all winter,” Catapano said. “These strawberries are grown in the soil, with natural compost fertilizer, covered with a special blanket for the winter and covered again by a cold frame. The extra warmth makes the strawberries think they are in the Carolinas.”
His son, Daniel, who lives next door to the farm on the Main Road, gave me a tour Friday morning. He is a farmer, firefighter, soldier and airplane mechanic.
“I want to be here all my life,” he said. “I’m my father’s eyes, ears and hands.”
The father-son team began to diversify the family farm in 2008 and now have chickens, sheep, eggs and jams, as well as goat milk cheeses made by Neal’s brother, Michael, of Catapano Dairy Farm on North Road in Southold.
Their father took over as the “il direttore generale” of Catapano Farms after their grandfather, Salvatore Sr., passed away in 2012 at age 82.
The Catapanos will soon be adding a marketplace called “Il Mercado,” an outlet for local artisans who don’t have farm stands to sell their products.
“Everything we grow is because we want to eat it,” Neal said. “It’s rewarding work, you do something and it grows.”
Your North Fork Sunday Scene features weekly snapshots of life on Long Island’s top fork.
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