The North Fork of Long Island may not be as glamorous as its southerly neighbor (the more famous fork, home to the Hamptons and Montauk) but it's an agricultural paradise with rich soil and an ocean-tempered climate that remains largely rural and committed to its agrarian roots.
Traditionally potato country, the region is now home to more than 30 vineyards and is teeming with large and small-scale vegetable farms, berry patches, and orchards. In addition to the farmers' markets, CSAs, and roadside farm stands, you'll also find top-notch farm-to-table dining. (like the North Fork Table and Inn).
So who's behind the bounty of good food coming out of the North Fork? I recently spoke with the owners of Golden Earthworm Organic Farm, an organic plot in Jamesport, New York.
Names: Maggie Kurek, Matt Kurek, and James Russo.
Farm: Golden Earthworm Organic Farm
How many acres? Nearly 80 planted acres.
Your crew: About 15 seasonal crew members.
Hours: Our farm stand is open Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What you grow: Nearly 100 different varieties of vegetables, herbs, berries and flowers.
Your customers: Mostly CSA members at 27 CSA sites throughout Nassau, Suffolk, and Queens counties, and at our three farmers' markets in Huntington, Islip, and Port Washington.
How you got into farming: Matthew started out as as chef in Manhattan and came back to Long Island (where he grew up) to start farming. He founded the Golden Earthworm Farm in 1996. James joined us in 2003 and came with an agriculture degree and experience working on various farms and vineyards.
Where did you learn to farm? Matthew was completely self-taught.
Your farming philosophy: We farm because we believe it's the single most important thing we can do with our time, energy, and expertise. Food is life. It's the foundation of health, family, and community. What can be more important than that?
Why do you farm? We love growing food for our local community. We like to get to know the people we feed each and every day.
The best thing about farming? Being outside!
The worst thing? It's not an easy life, and we often have to sacrifice time with our family to take care of the farm's needs. With each passing year we try to find a better balance of family and work life, but it's a challenge because everything at the farm is so time-sensitive!
Most important lesson you've ever learned? Patience. Farming teaches patience above all else since there are so many things out of your control—most importantly, the weather!
What's the most important piece of advice you'd bestow on a young would-be farmer? Go work on as many farms as you can before you think about starting your own. Matthew was self-taught, but it took a long time. You can learn a lot from farms that have been around for a while.
The future for good food? There's a bright future for good, local food. We think we'll start to see more people inspired to grow their own food in their backyards and in community gardens to supplement what they can purchase from local farms.