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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.”

(Credit: Barbara Ellen Koch)
(Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
(Credit: Barbara Ellen Koch)
(Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
(Credit: Barbara Ellen Koch)
Daniel Catapano feeds crackers to the sheep (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
(Credit: Barbara Ellen Koch)
(Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Your North Fork Sunday Scene features weekly snapshots of life on Long Island’s top fork.

Previous North Fork Sunday Scenes:

National mammal in Riverhead

Rainy days at Biophilia Organic Farm

Blooming in Baiting Hollow

Riding in Laurel

Spring plowing at Sang Lee Farms

Baby chicks in Riverhead

Early spring blooms

Peacocks in Southold

Roaming the pasture at McCall Vineyards and Ranch

A Southold ‘Renaissance’ man

Winter at the Beach

Sunset over the Sound

An early harbinger of spring

A field of geese? Look again

A North Fork snow day

A New Suffolk Ave. sunset drive

Icicles form at Iron Pier Beach

Birds of many feathers in Riverhead

Blanket-wrapped horses

Katahdin sheep in Jamesport

Late fall harvest at Andrews Family Farm

Feisty Acres quail farm

Fall art in the fields

North Fork fall foliage

Healing with Horses

Harvest is coming

CSA pickup day at Biophilia

A postcard from Love Lane

Bring on summer

A stroll down Oregon Road

‘Zenful’ flowers in Baiting Hollow

Hello from this North Fork mama and her babies

North Fork asparagus is here