Working the land on the North Fork is a true passion for Ryan Lertora, manager of Jamesport Farmstead. (He’s also a partner along with owners Kim Frank and Jeff Brown.) The farmstead is a certified organic vegetable and fruit farm where Ryan and his crew take a hands-on approach to growing nutrient-rich food. “We don’t use pesticides or herbicides,” he says, “and this is a no-till farm, which means we’re human-powered, as opposed to using machinery like tractors that can disturb the soil ecology and the crops. The goal is to grow and harvest healthy food in living soil.”
Ryan and his wife, Hallie, an elementary school teacher, both grew up in Northport and met in high school. “We were not high school sweethearts, however,” says Hallie. They reconnected a few years later through friends, moved to Maine, where Ryan managed a farm and ended up returning to the East End in 2019.
“We’ve always loved it here, but living on the North Fork, we know all of our neighbors, and we’re friends with the people who run local businesses, like Brett and Ana of Jamesport Sourdough & Coffee Co. Sometimes we’ll even do trades with our neighbors at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. and walk over with fresh vegetables and they’ll give us some beers,” she says. “It’s a really unique small town and a tight-knit community out here, which is very special. And, just driving around and seeing all the farms, vineyards and open land is so beautiful.”
THESE ARE THEIR FAVORITE NORTH FORK THINGS AS TOLD TO GINA WAY:
FAVORITE TRANQUIL SPOT
We discovered the Horton Point Lighthouse in Southold before our daughter was born, and now we come here a lot with her. It’s usually uncrowded and peaceful, a beautiful spot to visit — tucked away at the end of a street in a lovely little neighborhood. There are picnic tables and scenic lookout spots over the Sound, a stairway going down to the beach and a walking trail behind the lighthouse with lots of little homemade birdhouses hidden in the trees. There are also some fantastic apple trees on the property that produced a glut of very tasty apples last year.
FAVORITE FALL OUTING
We’re excited to take our daughter Grace apple picking this fall at Woodside Orchards in Jamesport, which is right around the corner from Jamesport Farmstead. The family-run apple farm has two locations with groves where you can pick your own apples. In season, they also fry up fresh apple donuts right in front of you.
Jamesport Vineyards is right next to Jamesport Farmstead, so when Ryan’s done with work, we like to go for a glass of wine at their tasting room. Their crisp albariño is awesome. There are lots of nice, shady areas outside and even a bocce court back there, and there are free jazz concerts in the summertime.
FAVORITE FAMILY DINNER PLACE
We go to Barrow Food House, a farm-to-table restaurant in Aquebogue all the time. Their smash burger and hand-cut fries are delicious. It’s fun to go over in the early evening with Grace, sit outside and swing on the hammock, plus she loves to draw with the chalk that they provide for kids.
RYAN’S FAVORITE FARM (OTHER THAN HIS)
The Ty Llwyd Dairy Farm in Riverhead is a fantastic, family-run, small-batch raw milk dairy. It probably gets mispronounced by every customer and everyone who passes by, but you know when you go there that you’re getting the freshest possible dairy. They produce raw, unpasteurized milk from grass-fed cows, and it’s out of this world.
HALLIE’S FAVORITE KID-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES
Something I’ve discovered with Grace is amazing local libraries. We go to Mattituck-Laurel Library, Cutchogue New Suffolk Library, and Riverhead Free Library. They all have awesome children’s programs and reading spaces — and it’s free. Most of the time, you don’t even need a library card to enjoy them. I’ve never gone to libraries as much as I do now, and it’s pretty special. Another thing we love to do is stop by Goodale Farms in Riverhead, where you can buy little bottles of milk and feed their baby goats. Grace delights in doing this!
FAVORITE DAY TRIP
Even if you have no destination, it’s fun to hop on the Shelter Island Ferry in Greenport and take a nice boat ride, but a great place to visit on Shelter Island is the historic Sylvester Manor. It’s a nonprofit educational farm on well over a hundred acres of land, with a nice farm stand and an iconic windmill built in 1810. The beautiful estate, grounds, garden and the farm are all open to the public and really cool to explore.