There are so many different kinds of farmers on the North Fork. Families who have tended these fields for generations. Pioneers who helped invent a wine region in the 1970s. And newcomers and immigrants who weren’t always born into farming but have remade their lives tending grapes, flowers, oysters, bees, poultry, sheep.
I’m no farmer myself (I’m just happy my basil plant made it through the summer), but I’ve been privileged to tell the stories of local farmers and fishers and learn what they do.
Here’s one thing I’ve learned: The harvest can break your heart.
Those of us who don’t sow and reap for a living may think of the October harvest season as a carefree time: hayrides, cider, cozy wool sweaters and assorted fall fun. And that’s great! This issue is packed with ways to enjoy all the unique agri-tainment the North Fork offers.
But when you see it from a farmer’s point of view, the harvest is a delicate operation, fraught with danger, of which you can only control so much.
At Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue, that means scrambling to pick grapes earlier than you ever have because the weather forecast called for a mid-August hurricane. For this harvest issue, we talked to the skilled field workers who make wine happen.
For the North Forkers who harvest warming waters for Peconic Bay scallops, it has meant two years of empty nets and uncertainty about the future. We talked to them, too, and heard a combination of realism and resourcefulness. Non-farmers owe these harvesters all the support we can afford.
When we asked Love Lane Kitchen owner Carolyn Iannone to trace every step and person involved in the making of a single dish, our intention was to make visible the invisible work that goes into farm-to-table cooking.
There’s a reason a farm stand tomato costs more than one at big box store; a local restaurant costs more than a trip to a fast-casual chain; and Long Island wine can’t be had for three bucks.
Risk-taking, grit, ingenuity — this is what we invest in when we eat local.
Whether you’ve been farming for generations or are just getting started, this month’s harvest issue is dedicated to you.