My earliest memory of the Mattituck Lions Club Strawberry Festival is not exactly a memory at all, it turns out.
It was 1981 and my father was the art director for the now-defunct Suffolk Life and he was tasked with paginating a special Strawberry Festival magazine they published. Needing a cover, he grabbed his camera, a bunch of locally picked strawberries and his 2-year-old son Grant.
For years, decades even, I would see this cover and the black and white photos from the shoot and think they were taken at the actual Strawberry Festival, which is held each Father’s Day weekend in Mattituck.
It turns out, I never did attend the festival as a child. The photo shoot was conducted in my parents’ backyard in Ridge and made to look like I was pounding berries in a quiet corner of the event a half-hour away.
Still, as a non-local, but someone who grew up just a short distance from the North Fork, I’ve always worn that cover as a badge of honor, complete with a bit of creative licensing. “What do you mean I’m not from here? I was Mr. Strawberry Festival 1981!”
While that “memory,” might not be rooted in reality, I do have distinct memories of enjoying the North Fork bounty. Summers always included local produce. And while the experience was much different in my adolescence — agritainment wasn’t quite a thing — we did make trips to places like Lewin Farms in Wading River to pick our own berries.
When it came time to develop a theme for our June issue, agriculture felt like an appropriate direction. We’ve reached that time of year when the farms come to life and strawberries are a big part of that. We would like to think that many of you are reading this after picking your own strawberries or tasting a local vintage (bonus points if you did both today).
Reporter Lee Meyer aimed to represent both the old and new of agriculture in this issue with pieces on a multi-generation farm – Sep’s in East Marion — and the first year on a goat farm for the new owners of the Catapano dairy. Senior staff writer Tara Smith also wrote about the experiences of — and need for — young farmers in the region.
There are also strawberries in this issue. Lots and lots of strawberries.
Summer will officially come alive on the North Fork this month. I hope, like this month’s northforker and my youth, the next few weeks are filled with lots of sweet local berries.