The Work We Do: Making hay in Mattituck with Dave Steele

My name is Dave Steele and I run a potato and hay operation in Mattituck. I’ve been working out here my whole life, since I was 12 years old, on the farm. 

I went to Mattituck High School and graduated in 1976. I joined the Air Force, spent a little time there and then farmed and was a member of the Air National Guard in Westhampton for 26 years. We have some family working here, but everyone is like family. But everyone’s had enough of me by the end of the day and they go home.

In the spring, around April, we plant potatoes, then we cultivate them and spray them and irrigate them all year, and we start digging them in September. They hay starts at the end of May and goes through October and is cut three times.

I worked my way into the business. I worked for [John C.] Tuthill since I was 12, and then he passed away and I bought in.

I sell my potatoes to Shuman Produce in Cutchogue. I bring them down in trucks and they bag them up in 5’s and 10’s, which they take in to the New York City and Philadelphia markets.

My favorite part is really just getting the work done and meeting some nice people. In the hay business, we get to meet our customers. We deliver our own hay. It’s all local. We have a lot of good customers, nice people. We’ve been selling them hay for years.

A typical day in July is to get up and start irrigating the hay and potatoes. Towards noontime we start cutting and tedding hay. After lunch we start baling it and bringing it to the barn. At the same time, we’re irrigating everything. We have about 300 acres of farmland, all within a mile of the barn here.

We get up around 5, and get off when were done. Sometimes were shutting pipes off until 7, 8, 9 at night, but the guys are done usually around 6.

‘The Work We Do’ is a Suffolk Times multimedia project profiling workers on the North Fork. See more photos on Instagram @thesuffolktimes.