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Charnews Farm acted as the home base for this year’s 16th Annual North Fork Foodie Tour. (Credit: Victoria Caruso)

Once a year, local farmers and artisans on the North Fork open their doors to the public, offering a behind the scenes tour of their daily operations. This Sunday marked the 16th Annual North Fork Foodie Tour.

From man-made mushroom caves to blooming flower fields, participants gained access to 19 different businesses along Sound Avenue and Main Road.

Here are five takeaways from a few of the sites this year:

Mattituck Mushrooms, Mattituck

Mushrooms can have medicinal properties 

Mattituck Mushrooms, a fungi farm run by two artists, produces a wide variety of seasonal mushrooms, each with their own unique flavors and uses. Shiitake mushrooms, for example, are considered antiviral. Co-owner Agathe Snow recommends laying them in the sun to soak up some vitamin D and eating them throughout the winter for an added health benefit. 

The way the mushrooms are grown here is also interesting to note. Using grain and wood chips, they form what looks like a tree log, inoculate it with mushroom spores, and place it in a cellulose bag to contain the mushrooms as they develop. They then place them in ‘man-made caves’ to give them the proper habitat to grow.

North Fork Flower Farm, Southold

This local flower farm grows over 250 varieties of flowers

Moved to its current location this past April, the new flower farm has already grown hundreds of species of flowers, helping to sustain the ‘Slow Flower Movement’ on the North Fork. Among these species are a variety of herbs, like mint and sage, which are incorporated in the farm’s floral arrangements for added fragrance. In the winter, the farm will sell dried floral bouquets, using plants like Strawflower, Statice, and Gomphrena, which keep their colors when dried. 

Naked Farm, East Marion

Naked Farm grows veggies that are “as naked as when you were born”

At The Naked Farm in East Marion, Michael Chuisano says he grows vegetables the same way people have been growing vegetables from the beginning of time. 

“Nobody wasted anything,” Chuisano explained. “Everything went back to the earth.” 

The naked farm is a no-till, organic farm that uses biointensive farming to achieve higher yields than conventional farms. The trick is to keep the soil healthy, letting earthworms, nature’s plow, turn the soil. In the winter, Chiusano grows a variety of plants in a hoop house, offering produce that’s free of chemicals year round. 

Catapano Dairy Farm, Peconic

Goats make great landscapers — baby goats make even better cuddle buddies 

Catapano Dairy Farm, known for its world-famous cheese, has always been a North Fork staple for foodies and restaurateurs alike. As of 2020, the goat farm changed ownership and has been reimagined to be a place for more than just good food. The farm offers goat yoga, baby goat cuddling, and even goat landscaping. The goats, most of which are white Saanen goats used for milking, are super friendly and love being scratched on their backs. The non-milking goats can be rented out to clear large spaces of land. These little goats have voracious appetites and can munch away vines, poison ivy and other unwanted greenery.

Lavender By The Bay, East Marion

English and French Lavender have different purposes 

When you look out at Lavender By the Bay’s purple fields, you might not notice the different types of lavender that make up each row. Lavender By the Bay grows 25 varieties of English Lavender and 15 varieties of French Lavender. The difference? French is a larger, more fragrant plant. It’s the kind co-owner Susan Rozenbaum uses to make the sachets sold in their store. It also can be used as a repellent for pesky moths. English is more mellow and sweet, often used for culinary purposes.