Sign up for our Newsletter

A few years ago, my daughter started sleeping with a pumpkin. It started innocently enough, with the kind of fall-fun field trip so many of us make this time of year on the North Fork. (Are we the only spot on earth to suffer seasonal gourd-related traffic jams?) Then things escalated quickly. The pumpkin soon had a name — it was Cheddar, if you must know — along with a favored spot in the bunk bed and practically a new branch on the family tree.

Halloween came and went, and the rest of the holiday season, and still Cheddar held on. Eventually, though, we were forced to say goodbye to our beloved pumpkin with a solemn backyard burial in the softening spring ground.

What did I learn from this, other than that my kids probably need a dog? It all felt silly at the time, but on reflection, I think my daughter had it exactly right. I’d been buying pumpkins every October as a decoration, something disposable, not appreciating all the other things they could be (food, a commodity, a pet). My daughter was thinking more, shall we say, sustainably. She was also showing the proper level of respect due a pumpkin that had been sowed, harvested, and sold by a hard-working North Fork neighbor.

This issue is all about the hard and hidden work that goes into the harvest season. In Long Island vineyards, winemakers and their largely immigrant workforce endured long hours and sore muscles in hopes of salvaging a memorable vintage from a difficult year. In the fields at Ron’s of Orient farm, chef Noah Schwartz showed us the collaboration and care that goes into literal farm-to-table cooking. We were there to watch as North Forkers transformed Sound water into sea salt and a rickety Jamesport barn into handcrafted reclaimed-wood furniture.

No part of the natural environment goes untapped in these parts, and always with the greatest care and skill.

Learning about the sweat behind the harvest season has helped me see October in a different, deeper, and more appreciative light. I hope it does a little of the same for you. Just let me know what you decide to name your pumpkin.

Sara Austin, Editorial Director

You’ll find northforker magazine at restaurants, wineries, and businesses all over the North Fork. Or subscribe by emailing Keysha at [email protected] ($50 for 9 issues plus the Long Island Wine Press).