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Catapano Dairy Farm goat

A goat at Catapano Dairy Farm. (Credit: Lee Meyer)

I’ve been exploring the North Fork my entire life, from day trips with my family as a child to frequent winery and restaurant outings as an adult. While I remember wandering the seasonal corn mazes and picking apples at some of the larger farms, I was eager to venture deeper and go behind the scenes through this year’s North Fork Foodie Tour.

After a day exploring farms big and small across Sound Avenue and Main Road, I came away with even more of an appreciation for the community of creators on the North Fork. Here are some things I learned during the 15th Annual North Fork Foodie Tour. 

Lavender by the Bay is still beautiful in the off-season. (Credit: Lee Meyer)

Bees have a great sense of direction.

I have nothing but respect for these yellow-black-striped keepers of the environment, but I don’t want them anywhere near me. After meeting with Lavender by the Bay’s co-owner Chanan Rozenbaum, I learned bees won’t come for me unless I go for them first. As someone who’s been reluctant to go too deep into the farm on previous occasions, I finally felt comfortable exploring the fields, particularly since lavender blooming season is over. 

Bees are intelligent enough that each one know its way back to its hives, even when there are multiple hives near each other. “They have this natural GPS system based on how fast they flap their wings,” Rozenbaum explained. It’s such a sophisticated mechanism that spraying insecticides in a field inhibits their internal directional system, prompts bees to get lost, which in turn causes the hives to die. If you must spray, do it after dark when the bees aren’t out.

Lavender by the Bay is located at 7540 Main Road, East Marion, with a second location at 47 Manor Road, Calverton.

North Fork Egg Farm
North Fork Egg Farm’s free-range chickens hanging out in the coop. (Credit: Lee Meyer)

It doesn’t matter what color your eggs are.

I’ll admit I’ve bought brown eggs thinking they were more organic. Turns out, I was wrong. North Fork Egg Farm’s owner Matt Bloch, a retired lawyer who raises those 250 chickens you see running around happily by the side of the road in Southold, cleared up that misconception for me. “There’s no difference between a brown egg and a white egg,” he said. “It has to do with the color of the chicken.” Most of the eggs laid at North Fork Egg Farm happen to be brown. But that’s happenstance, said the 13-year egg farmer.

North Fork Egg Farm is located at 49900 Rte 48, Southold.

Catapano Dairy Farm goat
A goat at Catapano Dairy Farm. (Credit: Lee Meyer)

These goats are G.O.A.T.

My main takeaway from Catapano Dairy Farm? That I need a larger yard so I can raise my own goats. I kid (mostly), but after a presentation from farm manager Debra Slack that included goat milking, you’d be saying the same thing. I could rave about those adorable goats all day, but here are some facts instead:

  • Goats give about a gallon of milk a day
  • The cleaner the goat, the lovelier the cheese. During milking season, they keep the sour-smelling bucks away from the females to get a milder product.
  • Experienced goats know when to come for their milking because it’s the same time they’re fed grain. The younger goats follow them.
  • Goats are relieved to be milked. Too much milk buildup can be uncomfortable and painful.
  • For the safety of both the goats and farmers, baby goats undergo a procedure that prevents their horns from growing. This is done to avoid the horns getting stuck (as goats constantly stick their heads out of the fence), as well as for the safety of the farmers, who don’t want to worry about getting stabbed.

Catapano Dairy Farm is located at 33705 County Road 48, Peconic.

Atelier Disset
Disset Chocolate opened its storefront in 2021. (Credit: Lee Meyer)

This box of chocolate is locally sourced.

No, cocoa beans aren’t native to the North Fork, but all the other ingredients at this chocolatier are. Disset Chocolate owner Ursula Sala-Illa aka chef Ursula XVII (or 17, which in French is dix-sept, pronounced like the name of her atelier) opened her chocolate store in downtown Cutchogue in the midst of lockdown. After selling her small-batch confections online last year, she opened shop this past spring. To embrace her new North Fork home, the native New Yorker with Catalonian roots made it her mission to keep the chocolates as local as possible.

“Being part of the North Fork community was part of the key to Disset Chocolate’s success,” Ursula XVII explained. “It’s a really big thank-you from me to the community.”

Her Ode to the North Fork collection includes eight special chocolates made in partnership with NoFoDoCo, Lieb Cellars, Aldo’s Coffee Co. and even Chrysalis Apothecary. Ursula XVII also makes sure that the chocolate itself is traceable and comes from family farms.

Atelier Disset is located at 28080 Main Road, Cutchogue.