08/17/13 10:00am
08/17/2013 10:00 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Sang Lee farms manager William Lee, 27, (center, with his dog Molly) and farmhands Hudson Miller, Chaz Schneider, Mark Pagano and True McDonald. The young men are part of a unique crew of locals working at the organic farm this summer.

Looking out into the fields at Sang Lee Farms in Peconic, a group of local young men can be seen baling hay and stringing up cherry tomatoes.

These young men each knocked the door of farm owners Karen and Fred Lee this summer expressing an interest in learning about organic farming and nutrition.

“I’ve done this for over 30 years and I’ve never had a team of local boys like this,” Ms. Lee said. “They wanted to be challenged.”

While the job of summer farmhand — known for hot days and long hours — was once a common among local high school and college students during summer break, that’s no longer the case. As easier seasonal employment opportunities have opened up on the North Fork, and the practice of hiring migrant workers has expanded, local field hands who weren’t born into a farm family have become rare.

This is actually the first summer one of the crews tending the Lees’ 100-acre farm has consisted of seven local college students.

Managed by the couple’s 27-year-old son William, the men have been doing everything from digging up onions and garlic to laying irrigation lines through tomato fields.

“These young guys are connected with the land and the region,” William Lee said. “I think the appreciation of the younger generation is starting to come around, because people want to know what’s in their food.”

The crew starts its day at 7 a.m. and finishes up about 6 p.m., he said. Any farmhands who show up late “aren’t going to get the easy jobs all morning,” William Lee said.

While cleaning out a greenhouse last week — pitchfork in hand — 20-year-old Chaz Schneider of Cutchogue said he wanted to learn about plant growth and development and how to grow successfully without using chemicals.

“Working with food feels important,” he said. “It’s good to know where your food’s coming from.”

Mr. Schneider, who expects to major in environmental science at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, is the only crew member with any food production heritage. His father produces a line of all-natural fruit spreads, he said.

Sang Lee Farms veteran Hudson Miller, 21, has been working at the farm for seven years, originally working at the farm stand. The Cutchogue native, who is majoring in economics with a minor in botany at Ohio Wesleyan University, said he hopes to opening a company in the city that uses rooftop gardens to grow fresh produce.

“Working here seems like a great jump-off for it,” Mr. Miller said. He’s also participating in a winemaking internship at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue this fall.

Mark Pagan, 18, an environmental science major at Cornell University, said he wanted to apply what he was learning in the classroom to the farm.

“Now I can see the development myself,” the East Marion man said.

He and Mr. Schneider said that while the rest of their friends go out at night, they’re preparing for the early morning job, which they say would be impossible on only a few hours sleep.

The young men’s advice to others interested in working on a farm: “Stick with it. It gets better,” Mr. Schneider said.

“And be ready to get dirty,” added Mr. Pagan.

Ms. Lee said the renewed interest in farming these local men display is exciting, and she hopes many of them will return to help again next season.

“It’s been really unique and really amazing,” Ms. Lee said. “They have the energy and inspiration to get the job done.”

When comparing the students to migrant workers, William Lee said he’s seen a different level of discipline in the “American college boys,” and also appreciates the level of communication, which he doesn’t always have with migrant workers.

“They go home saying, ‘The hard day of work was good for me,’ ” Mr. Lee said. “[They] look forward to jumping in the bay at the end of the day.

“It’s a lifestyle that a lot of country boys out here appreciate.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

08/03/13 11:36am
08/03/2013 11:36 AM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck High School graduate Kate Freudenberg won the women’s singles final in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament at Tasker Park in Peconic Saturday morning.

Rain interrupted play in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament Saturday morning at Tasker Park in Peconic. Only two of the four scheduled matches were completed before tournament director Jim Christy called a weather-related time out. The courts were too wet to allow for safe play, he determined.

Before the rains came, recent Mattituck High School graduate Kate Freudenberg defeated Rosemary Krocke of Cutchogue, 6-2, 6-3, in the women’s singles final. Freudenberg, who will enter her freshman year at Villanova (Pa.) University this fall, was simply too steady for her older opponent.

The men’s 50 and over doubles final was hotly contested and featured numerous intense exchanges at the net. In the end, Tom Cahill and Ed Lee prevailed over Rich Chizever and Bob Lum, 6-4, 6-4. In Chizever’s estimation, the match slipped away “because we made for unforced errors than they did.”

Chizever’s men’s 50 and over singles finals versus John Czartosieski was postponed due to the rain, as was the men’s open singles final between six-time defending champion Chris Ujkic and seven-time past champion and last’s year’s runner up, Steve Paskiewicz. Weather permitting, those matches were to be contested at the Tasker Park courts later in the day Saturday or, failing that, Sunday morning.

The Wall Tournament is sponsored by Times/Review News Group of Mattituck. Proceeds from the event help fund a $1,000 tennis scholarship, which this year went to women’s singles champion Freudenberg.

tgustavson@timesreview.com

05/05/13 2:30pm
05/05/2013 2:30 PM

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Winemaker Anthony Nappa with dogs Beckett and Smooch in the Raphael winery storeroom.

Growing up in the outskirts of Boston, Anthony Nappa couldn’t have imagined that his life would one day revolve around grapes and oak barrels.

“I didn’t find wine,” Mr. Nappa said from his new office at Raphael vineyards and winery in Peconic, where he became winemaker in late January. “It sort of found me.”

That’s not to say the path to viticulture hadn’t been at least partially cleared for the 35-year-old Mr. Nappa, who lives in Southold with his wife, chef Sarah Evans Nappa.

Plants had always been one of his primary interests, so after graduating from high school, Mr. Nappa studied botany at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, earning a degree in fruit and vegetable agriculture.

But it wasn’t until Mr. Nappa traveled to Italy, his father’s birthplace, that his interest in wine was piqued.

“I found out I have a decent palate, a really good sense of smell and an ability to do this,” he said of making wine.

Soon, Mr. Nappa was halfway around the world, in New Zealand — a cool-climate region famous for its dry white wines — where he studied winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, earning degrees in viticulture and oenology.

“If you understand grape chemistry it translates to wine chemistry,” he said. “Some people only study wine but when you want to make better wine you have to start in the vineyard. If you take it back all the way to the grape chemistry, you have a better holistic understanding of the whole product.”

After graduation, Mr. Nappa moved to southern Italy, where he has dual citizenship, to make wine. He also worked as a winemaker in Massachusetts and California. In 2007, he moved to Long Island, where Long Island Sound, Peconic Bay and the Atlantic Ocean help regulate the temperature and create a unique winemaking experience.

“Long Island is one of the most positive and interesting regions on the East Coast,” he said. “I think we can make wines that rival any of the high-end wines in California and Europe.”

Mr. Nappa’s first major professional foray into the wine industry was also in 2007, when he and his wife produced 200 cases of Long Island Pinot Noir, creating Anthony Nappa Wines.

That same year, he became the winemaker at Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck. He left there in 2011 to concentrate on Anthony Nappa Wines, which currently sells nine varieties as well as a hard apple cider at its Peconic shop, the Winemakers Studio.

“Anthony is a talented winemaker,” said David Page, co-owner of Shinn Estate Vineyards and Farmhouse. “I wish him nothing but the best.”

As much as Mr. Nappa enjoyed his solo venture — “I was just working for myself, making wine,” he said — he missed the stability an established winery often provides.

“It’s nice to have a home base,” Mr. Nappa said. “You have some consistency and better control.”

Enter Raphael, an estate-owned vineyard and winery that opened in 2001. Last December, Raphael’s owners, Joseph Vergari and Julie Petrocelli-Vergari, approached Mr. Nappa about taking over the winemaking position, which had become vacant.

“We courted him for a bit,” Ms. Vergari said. She and Mr. Vergari had chatted with Mr. Nappa at various industry events and sensed he’d be a great addition to the winery.

“He gets it,” she said. “He gets what we’re trying to do. The way he makes wine and the way we make wine is very similar.”

The timing seemed serendipitous. Just before starting his new position, Mr. Nappa had finished bottling wines at his own shop, allowing him to focus on blending and bottling Raphael’s whites. Next up? Fine tuning the reds and seeing where the rest of the year takes him.

“We’re turning toward reds and figuring out the summer,” Mr. Nappa said. “Things happen slowly in the winery. Things are always in motion but it’s a slow, steady pace.”

For the laid-back Mr. Nappa, who often brings his two dogs, Beckett and Smooch, with him to the vineyard, it’s a pace that suits him just fine.

“I enjoy the creative side of winemaking,” he said. “We’re not changing the world here; it’s just wine — but we do make something that people enjoy, and that’s rewarding.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

03/11/13 12:38pm
03/11/2013 12:38 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley with missing persons experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Southold Police do not anticipate filing any criminal charges in connection with the disappearance of Peconic teenager Ashley Murray, Police Chief Martin Flatley said Monday.

Police say they know where the teen was during her absence, but the chief declined to give the location.

“She was on the East End most of the time with friends who thought they were helping her,” he said. ”I’d like to think that anyone who helped her over that time was doing it for the right reason. Do I wish it had gone differently? Absolutely, but I don’t think there was any criminal intent.”

Ashley, 16, failed to show up at Southold High School Feb. 25 and she was gone 11 days before she and an adult friend showed up at town police headquarters in Peconic Friday afternoon.

The chief said Ashley spent only one night in the hospital after turning herself in and is now in the care of another family.

“When she was being interviewed it became evident she didn’t want to be home,” the chief added.

The police will conduct a few more interviews before closing out the case, he said.

tkelly@timesreview.com

03/08/13 7:33pm
03/08/2013 7:33 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | A missing person flier posted at the King Cullen in Cutchogue.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | A missing person flier posted at the King Kullen in Cutchogue.

When Mattituck resident Michael Barnett visited his neighborhood 7-Eleven Friday evening, he became overwhelmed with joy.

Not because it had stopped snowing at that point, but because he learned that Peconic teen Ashley Murray, 16, returned home earlier in the day.

“Thank God she’s OK,” Mr. Barnett exclaimed, standing inches away from the missing person flier the convenience store posted on its entrance last Wednesday.

When told by a reporter Southold Town police said Ashley she didn’t appear to have been abused or harmed, Mr. Barnett teared-up, grasped his flannel shirt near his heart and said: “You’ve made my day.”

[Related: Relief and joy on social media for Ashley's safe return].

[Related: Ashley shows up at Southold PD Friday].

“My wife and I have been following this story very closely online,” said Mr. Barnett, a parent. “I’m so glad she’s home.”

Rena Wilhelm, who owns White Weathered Barn in Greenport, described herself as being “glued” to her computer following the investigation unfold on news sites and the Facebook page “Ashley Come Home.” Ms. Wilhelm said she “almost stopped breathing” when she learned that Ashley had reappeared.

“I don’t even know her, but I want to hug her,” she said.

Since the Southold High School sophomore was reported missing since Feb. 25, Ms. Wilhelm said she had noticed herself losing patience and being short with people as she spent most of her time waiting for new news about Ashley’s whereabouts.

“The whole thing has been unsettling, especially because it’s so close to home,” she said. “I’m just so happy she’s safe.”

Southold School District Superintendent David Gamberg said Friday evening he believed the community pulled together in the hope that Ashley would return and he anxiously awaits the day when he might see her walking the school’s halls like any other student.

“I can picture her saying good morning,” Mr. Gamberg said. “A simple thing, but don’t take it for granted.”

Andrea Esposito, owner of NoFo Wellness Center whose son attends Southold High School, said she was relieved to learn from a reporter that Ashley was found.

“I can’t even image what the family has gone through,” Ms. Esposito said as she recycled plastic bottles at King Kullen supermarket in Cutchogue Friday night. “We’ve all been concerned. This is a blessing.”

jennifer@timesreview.com

03/08/13 5:05pm

Ashley Murray, the Peconic teen who went missing Feb. 25, touching off a massive search that lit up the social media world and involved agencies including the FBI, is on her way to a hospital for an evaluation after appearing with an unidentified adult friend at Southold police headquarters at 3:15 p.m. Friday, police said.

The teen was interviewed by police for about an hour and 15 minutes before being taken to a “regional hospital,” said Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley.

She said little about where she was during her absence, he added.

“She didn’t give a lot of information,” said the chief. “She was reluctant to say where she was.”

He added that police believe she was a runway, not abducted, and remained on the East End.

[Related: Relief and joy on social media for Ashley's safe return]

Reached at her family’s home, her brother Jamie Cradehl, said he hasn’t had time to process the news of his sister’s return.

“I’m waiting for everything to sink in,” he said.

He added that when the family asked Ashley if they should join her at the hospital, she said no, that she needed time by herself.

Ms. Murray was reported missing after failing to turn up at school that Monday morning. The ensuing search was unprecedented for the North Fork with police seeking assistance from other public departments, the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Chief Flatley said that while the search is over, the investigation is continuing.

On the question of charges being filed, he said. “There’s always that chance. That’s what we have to look for.”

But he sees no reason to charge Ashley.

“We have look to see if there’s anyone else who should be looked at or might fit into a criminal charge, perhaps others who assisted her in remaining out of view,” he said.

Asked if the police interviews answered the questions on why she left and where she went, the chief said, “Not in their entirety, no.”

Southold Junior-Senior High School principal William Galati said he received a call about Ashley’s return about 4 p.m.

“We’re very excited, and I’m glad to hear that she is safe,” Mr. Galati said, adding that others in the school and the surrounding community will feel the same way.

“We have a caring, compassionate, educated community,” he said. “They express such great love and great care for these kids.”

tkelly@timesreview.com

With Carrie Miller and Jennifer Gustavson

 

03/07/13 2:45pm
03/07/2013 2:45 PM

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | A Suffolk County Police Crime Lab van at the Murray family home on Spring Lane in Peconic Wednesday.

The mother of a missing Peconic teen said Thursday that she believes her daughter’s fighting spirit is keeping her alive 10 days after she disappeared.

In her first media interview in a week, Charlotte Murray said she doesn’t want to give up hope that her daughter will return.

“She’s headstrong,” Ms. Murray said of the missing 16-year-old Southold High School student. “She’s a fighter.”

Ashley Murray was last seen by her brother shortly after 7 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 25, police said. That morning she left a handwritten “suicide note” in her bedroom and sent text messages to several friends saying she might end her life, her mother said.

Southold Town police focused their initial investigation on searching Ashley’s neighborhood, using canine, marine and aviation resources from the Suffolk County Police Department. They later focused their efforts on interviewing friends and family members and examining phone and computer records, Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said.

State police, the FBI, Shelter Island police and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have all aided in the investigation.

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | A detective with a Suffolk Police Crime Lab officer, shown wearing rubber gloves and carrying a flashlight, on the scene Wednesday afternoon.

On Wednesday afternoon, a Southold Police detective returned to the Murray home on Spring Lane, bringing along the Suffolk Police Crime Lab unit. Emerging from the home wearing surgical masks and rubber gloves, crime lab officers were seen by reporters carrying a camera and flashlight and loading up a van before departing. It was unclear if they removed any items from the house.

Chief Flatley said there were “no dramatic finds” during the Crime Lab search and that it did not alter the investigation.

“In a case like this that would be a normal procedure because that’s where she lived and the last place she left that day,” Chief Flatley said of the search. “We do know she was in her house [the morning she disappeared].”

He called the Crime Lab search “standard for any missing persons investigation.”

“We have not changed the direction of our investigation, it’s the normal workup of the location,” he said, adding that Wednesday was the first time Crime Lab officers visited the house.

Ms. Murray spoke Thursday about rumors in comments on social networking sites and other media websites. Though she said she hasn’t seen them herself, she said she was made aware of some of the online remarks.

“I was told there is a lot of crazy stuff out there,” she said.

Ms. Murray utilized the Facebook page “Ashley Come Home” Thursday afternoon to make an appeal to her daughter to return home.

“I want to write something myself,” she told The Suffolk Times. “In case she is logging on under a fake name.”

Ms. Murray later posted the following message:

“My Dearest Ash, my li’l Ash, my shadow, my courageous one. You are far more braver than I ever was. I do however have only one request, that you somehow let someone know you are OK. You can write home or type away. Do you remember our secret password? The one word between us? Send a note without a return address. Email me. Remember I will never allow anyone to hurt you, however, I can’t protect you unless I know where you are. You will always have a place to come home to. Never in a million years will I ever turn my back on you. My every thought is with you, yet I feel so helpless and sad. I’ve talked to plenty of people in this similiar situation and time again have heard of happy endings. Very doable. No one makes me laugh quite the way you do and God only knows, I need to laugh. Please email the one word. I love you Ashley.”

Anyone with information should contact Southold police at (631) 765-2600. Information will remain confidential.

With Tim Kelly.

gparpan@timesreview.com

03/05/13 2:03pm
03/05/2013 2:03 PM

SUFFOLK TIMES FILE PHOTO | Police Chief Martin Flatley updated The Suffolk Times Tuesday on the missing persons investigation involving 16-year-old Ashley Murray of Peconic.

Eight days after teenager Ashley Murray was last seen at her house in Peconic, the Southold Police Department says it’s working hard to locate her, though they say less information is pouring in from the public and the number of local places to search is dwindling.

In an interview with The Suffolk Times Tuesday morning, Police Chief Martin Flatley and Captain Frank Kruszewski said the search for the 16-year-old Southold High School student has extended beyond the length of any missing persons investigation in their time with the department.

“[There’s never been one] this long or drawn out,” Chief Flatley said. “They’re found the same day most of the time.”

He said there’s no evidence Ashley has contacted friends and family or visited any social media sites since she was last seen by her brother shortly after 7 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 25. Ashley was alone with her brother in the family’s house on Spring Lane when she left at the time she normally leaves for school, but she never boarded her school bus that morning, Chief Flatley said.

Nobody has heard from her since.

“Her reluctance to contact friends and family has made this investigation more challenging,” Chief Flatley said. “We’re hoping she’s with someone else and that she’ll soon reach out to someone.”

This missing person poster has been posted in many locations throughout Suffolk County.

Southold Police have partnered in the investigation with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the FBI, the Suffolk County Police Department and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. Chief Flatley said investigators have looked into leads from as far away as New Jersey and have also followed reports of possible Ashley sightings in Water Mill and East Islip. Police say they also looked into a possible connection with a 26-year-old Sag Harbor man who disappeared last week but was later located in New York City. So far none of the leads have checked out, the chief said.

Chief Flatley is still asking that anyone with information on Ashley’s possible whereabouts contact police at 765-2600. He said many of the tips received to date have been from friends informing police of places Ashley liked to hang out. More than two dozen isolated locations nearby have been searched thoroughly using police dogs, he said.

Because of the rural location of the Murray home, which is surrounded by trees and is in close proximity to creeks and the bay, Suffolk Police canine and aviation units were brought on early in the search process, he said.

Chief Flatley also said police went door-to-door in Ashley’s neighborhood, even searching vacant summer homes and nearby barns.

Suffolk Police and the FBI have been involved in forensic searches of computers and cell phones. The FBI’s behavioral science resources have also helped aid the investigation, Chief Flatley said.

State police and the FBI were used to interview Ashley’s estranged father in upstate New York last week and they ruled out a possible connection to her disappearance, Chief Flatley said.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children sent Lee Manning, a veteran missing persons investigator from Massachusetts, to aid in the investigation last week. A second investigator from the organization, a retired NYPD detective, is also joining the search effort, Chief Flatley said. NCME is authorized by Congress to perform programs and services to assist law enforcement and families of missing or sexually exploited children, their website states.

“[Mr. Manning] is one of the top experts in his field,” the chief said.

Mr. Manning has been networking with other experts from around the country throughout the investigation, Chief Flatley said.

“[They’re discussing] where she’s likely to be and what she’s likely to be doing,” he said.

The involvement of the District Attorney’s office has centered around the need for subpoenas to investigate phone and computer records. They also can help secure search warrants, the chief said.

Chief Flatley said he’s open to the idea of public search parties aiding in the investigation, but so far has asked the public to focus instead on handing out missing persons fliers.

“The problem is once someone goes into an area it becomes contaminated,” he said, adding that human searches can decrease the effectiveness of canine units.

Moving forward, Chief Flatley said, police will continue to focus on interviewing friends and family and developing more leads to her possible whereabouts or if she left the area with someone else. He said there are no other active missing persons investigations in the town.

 gparpan@timesreview.com