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Peregrine Farm News Vol.11 #32, 12/18/14 Winter Solstice Edition

What’s been going on!

A beautiful sunrise this morning but the saying “Red sky in morning, sailor take warning” appears to be accurate for Saturday’s market, forecast to be in the 30’s with rain.  Don’t let that deter you from coming out, getting your Christmas dinner produce and visiting with us at our last market of 2014.

One of my favorite things this time of year is to get up quietly, leaving Betsy sleeping, stoking the woodstove and taking my coffee up to my office to watch the day come up with the first rays of sun through the big window.  Time to think about the coming day and many other things too.

Another good year just about in the books and the 34th season is underway in the greenhouse and in the field.  Only a few more end of the season projects to finish up like the last of the pepper trellis to take out so that field can be prepared for onion planting in early spring and moving of the Big Top hoops over next year’s tomato field.  The winter travel and meeting schedule is set and well underway, all too soon it will be spring again and we will wonder where those slow days of winter went.

Once again we feel fortunate.  Fortunate to be on this beautiful piece of land and to be able to make a living from it.  Fortunate to have great help, especially Jennie, and a great market with such supportive customers and friends.  If we don’t get a chance to see you on Saturday we hope you all have great holidays and thank you again for making it possible for us to do this thing we love.

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2015 tomato beds ready to be covered by the protective hoops

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #31, 11/21/14

What’s been going on!

Back from Jamaica, alive and well.  Sixteen days is a long time to be gone and Betsy and Jennie did a great job in keeping everything rolling and protecting all the crops from the unusually cold weather, 14 degrees two days ago, way too cold for this early in the season.

Jamaica was beautiful and interesting.  Enlightening, uplifting and depressing all at the same time.  It is certainly a place of deep contrasts between the touristy north shore and the poverty of the south shore, particularly the far eastern parish of St. Thomas where I was.  A good place to be working with small farmers to help move them both towards organic farming practices but also direct marketing of their products so they can make the most income possible from their efforts and help reduce the amount of food imported into the country.

The farmers were friendly, open, eager, hardworking and looking for a break in what has been a long line of difficulties including hurricanes, drought, diseases and unscrupulous exporters.  The Jamaica Farm Sustainable Enterprise project is a three and a half year effort that will bring in 70 volunteers with both farming and marketing expertise to work with 150 farmers from all across the island but particularly in the eastern end of the country.  I just happened to be the first volunteer to work with the first ten farmers, their fledgling farmers’ market in Kingston and look at the whole project from a 30,000 foot level.

More stories later but more immediately we have this big food holiday coming up.  Two markets in four days for you to get everything you need for the big meal.  Of course tomorrow 9:00 to noon and then Tuesday afternoon, the special pre-Thanksgiving market 3:00-6:00.  The weather looks perfect for both.  If you want to have us save something special for you in advance, for either market, please let us know as early as possible so we can set it aside.

 Picture of the Week

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Showing farmers in the Plantain Garden River plains how to use a walk behind tractor

 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #30, 10/30/14

What’s been going on!

In my mind the first ugly, cold, wet weekend of the winter is always the first weekend in November.  Usually because it actually happens that way but it was imprinted on us 32 years ago this week when we finally moved into our “house”.  We had been living in a tent for seven months while we tended the first crops and began building a house.  The house was far from done, more like a big wooden tent but it did have a roof and walls and a woodstove.  The forecast for that weekend was the same as this coming Saturday, 40’s and rain, the thought of gritting it out under the tractor shed was not appealing so we moved in.  There was no insulation so we had to almost sit on the woodstove to stay warm but it was dry and a lot warmer than the tent would have been.

The first killing frost usually comes along just after that cold weekend too.  People always talk about the first frost when it gets below 32 degrees or frost actually forms on some surfaces and maybe damages some tender plants.  Statistically for the farm it is around October 21st but that is really of no concern to us.  Our defining line is 28 degrees that is when peppers and other warm season crops will actually die.  This weekend’s forecast has been warmed up some from 29 to 31 degrees on Sunday night but for us that is close enough to go ahead and clean off the pepper plants and call it a season.  Yesterday Jennie and I got about three quarters done, today we will finish.  One of the beauties of peppers is they hold very well in the walk-in cooler so we will be able to have them for several more weeks but Saturday will be the last day of pepper roasting.

No newsletter for the next several weeks as I will be out of town, in Jamaica.  Not a vacation, even though I am sure there will be some recreation involved.  I am headed down for a farmer to farmer exchange with a group of organic growers in the far southeastern tip of the island.  I will be staying at The Source Farm who is the lead in country to work with this group of over 40 farmers trying to diversify and improve their markets in Kingston.  Lots of stories to share when I get back but until then Betsy and Jennie will be at the Saturday markets while I am away.

Picture of the Week

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A beautiful fall morning and a very tired field of peppers

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #29, 10/23/14

What’s been going on!

Cover crops seeded!  Not up but everything is done and waiting on rain, unfortunately none in the forecast for maybe several weeks now, just as I feared, oh well, it will happen and we will enjoy the amazing weather in the meantime.

It has been a really busy week.  Betsy just back last night from the Association of Specialty Cut Flowers (ASCFG) annual meeting in Delaware where she saw lots of old friends, learned a few new things and oversaw the successful benefit auction to raise money for cut flower research.  Last week was also the culmination of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) 20th anniversary with three separate events and a board meeting, it is sometimes hard to believe that it has been 20 years already.  Sunday was the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) Crop Hop to raise money for their very important Farm Sustainability work which, amongst other things, has helped save hundreds of family farms from going out of business.

Last night I was on a panel with Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery and Jared Cates of CFSA for the first of the Triangle Land Conservancy’s Wild Ideas speaker series.  We all shared thoughts on not only where the local food movement is in this area and some ideas of what needs to be done to help increase the availability and access to locally produced food.  A good discussion with about 70 folks.  Fortunately the calendar is clear for the next several weeks, whew!

Picture of the Week

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Two acres of soil and beds ready for 2015, just waiting for the rain

 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #28, 10/15/14

What’s been going on!

Arghhh!!!!  Damn this rain.  Some of you may know that I am somewhat of a perfectionist, really more of “elegantist”, I know not a real word.  I always want to see beautifully crafted activities on the farm, a smooth flow of operations from one to the next, no matter how small or trivial I want things to feel like an efficient dance, elegant.  It is all about timing.

I have been pacing around for a week frustrated knowing that if I could have had one more dry day last week I would have had all the cover crops seeded and with this long rainy period they would be flying up in no time, perfect.  Normally we are lamenting that it is too dry to get soil worked or to germinate seeds uniformly but not so this fall.

Slowed down by a few too many off farm activities and a pulled back muscle I ran out of time.  The yearly soil preparation cannot be rushed, it takes a certain amount of time and passes over the fields to do it right.  Now it will take at least a week for things to dry out enough to finish up.  The later up into October we go the harder it is to insure good establishment of the all important cover crops.  Betsy says to get over it and I will but it will not be elegant, more like a foxtrot than a tango.

Picture of the Week

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After 6 days and over 2” of rain, hope on the horizon

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #27, 10/3/14

What’s been going on!

Woohoo!  October!  The dance of joy and maybe the most beautiful month of the year.  After the cold front rolls through tonight maybe we can get past these crazy mornings with fog and settle into some real brilliant fall weather, they are calling for 40 degrees on Sunday morning here!

Fall chores are beginning to get checked off the list.  We uncovered the Big Tops for the winter this last week, the farm always looks smaller when they are not looming at the top of the hill.  Almost all of the summer crops have been mowed and I need to get on the tractor and start getting soil ready for this winter and next year.  While we are not done for the season like we used to be, things are slowing down and this is when Jennie begins to take over as the responsible party.  It is great relief to have her here and know that Betsy and I can get started a little later each morning because she has the plan for the day and will carry it out.

The Market Perennial sustainer program has kicked off well and the link to be able to sign up and donate online is now live.  With just a bit of additional help from the community the market will be able to expand our food outreach and education programs and continue to keep the market a leader in farmers’ markets around the state and country.

Picture of the Week

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The long view, bare bones Big Tops in the distance, Jennie and Lacey harvesting for market

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #26, 9/26/14

What’s been going on!

The first week of fall certainly wasn’t messing around, almost straight to early November weather instead of the beautiful 70’s and 50’s originally forecast.  Good days to be inside working on other projects.  At least today looks dry to get all the peppers picked and Saturday looks marvelous.

The season is beginning to pick up with meetings and events for many of the organizations that we work with.  Farm to Fork 2015 picnic planning is well underway with an exciting plan to expand it to an entire weekend with multiple events that folks can pick and choose from, more on this as we fill in more of the details.  Many events around the 20th anniversary of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) that we serve on the Advisory Board for.  The same weekend is RAFI’s Crop Hop a fun time and they raise money for their farm sustainability programs.

We were talking the other day about all the groups we work with and that the three we will do just about anything asked of us are the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, RAFI and CEFS.  They constitute the entire range of issues that are most important to us.  Of course the market is our main source of income but is also a leader in how local markets should be run.  RAFI fills a middle niche working on policy issues that affect us both in the state and nationally.  CEFS rounds it out by actually doing the hard science and field scale experiments of sustainable agriculture as well as much work in local food systems.

The Carrboro Market’s fall harvest dinner was last night and it went off beautifully with a sold out house, fed by 20 area chefs we raised nearly $7000 to go towards market site physical improvements.  The exciting new announcement was the kickoff of the Market Perennial program.  Like the WUNC Sustainer program it allows people to donate a set amount every month to help support the ever expanding market programing.  Check in at the market’s website where there soon will be a link for you to sign up so that you can be Perennials along with us!

Picture of the Week

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A gray day but these crazy celosia brighten up anything

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #25, 9/19/14

What’s been going on!

Farm Aid was a whirlwind but with a quick nap after a shower to wash off pepper roasting debris I was able to make it all the way through Neil Young’s set before making the hour drive back to the farm.  Many of the groups that we work with had information booths with good traffic and exposure, North Carolina’s sustainable ag organizations represented well.

One of the highlights, that I missed because we were at market, was the news conference that always kicks off the concert.  Our good friend Scott Marlow of RAFI was so impassioned that Neil Young got up and gave him a hug, not sure if he will wash that shirt or not.  Also during the news conference they ran a short video with me talking about farmers markets and community on the big screen, kind of a small Carrboro market add and check out that pepper field!  They also took me back stage to do a short interview on Sirius XM radio but for those of you into music it was during Jack White’s set where I was able to stand just off the side and watch up close.

Speaking of peppers tomorrow is the Carrboro Farmers’ Markets The People’s Peppers event with tastings of dishes prepared by Sheri Castle, a pepper cookbook and more.  We will of course have the roaster going non-stop all morning.

Pictures of the Week

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Jack White in front of twenty thousand fans

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Only at Farm Aid would you have a collard field as the back drop

 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #24, 9/12/14

What’s been going on!

So we survived the wedding and all the associated responsibilities, the flowers looked great and everyone had a good time albeit much short on sleep.  This week the extra-curricular activities roll on.  Farm Aid is in Raleigh this week and our friends at Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) had a large hand in getting it here and are major players in the week’s events.  Being on the RAFI board in turn means that we have some extra things going on too.

Farm Aid is more than just the concert on Saturday.  There are farm tours, workshops, dinners and gatherings of all types.  Much of what the Farm Aid organization is about is working with groups to help change farm policy and the food system to be better and more fair to farmers.  Yesterday was an interesting day with a room full of activists, many of them both in the farm community but also in the civil rights communities.  Besides some very impressive people and dynamic speakers the gist of the day was how do we take the lessons learned about organizing for social change from the civil rights movement and apply them to the food and farming movement.  Much to think about.

Today there are multiple farm tours which we will not be participating in, have to get ready for market, and tomorrow is the concert itself.  We will be going after market to take it all in, both the music but all of the attached booths and activities, I am sure I will spend some time in the RAFI booth talking with folks.  On top of it all my brother Jon and his wife are arriving today on their way to the beach.  Always great to have them here, I am sure another weekend short on sleep, oh well there is always winter.

Picture of the Week

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Beautiful Yukina Savoy tucked in next to Zinnias and Plume Celosia

 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #23, 9/4/14

What’s been going on!

It is all about peppers right now despite too many other projects, events and other distractions.  Peppers have a way of sneaking up on us.  They can hang on the plants for weeks and then all of a sudden they turn color.  Tomatoes we have to pick twice a week to keep up and if you don’t then they become stinky bags of water.  Peppers on the other hand we only pick once a week (except for the shishitos and padrons which we have to go through three times a week to keep the size just right) and then we just pull the ones that are ripe.

We knew the season was slightly behind due to the cooler weeks in July and August but with the hot weather the last few weeks things have moved along.  This morning I walked out and bam! the whole field looked red.  So today we will start the harvest to split up picking the bells from all the rest and help spread out the job.  We have to wait until the plants are dry so we don’t spread diseases up and down the row, that puts us in the limbo zone between late morning and too hot in the afternoon.  Harvesting peppers is also one of those jobs you can only do for so long because they are just at that difficult height; not low enough to fully bend down or tall enough to stand up, tough on the back, even good ones.

Just to add a level of difficulty to the week our nephew is getting married on Saturday up in the mountains.  All week Betsy has been calmly gathering up all the flowers needed including ordering some from as far away as California.  She will be driving up early tomorrow morning to get set up to do all the arrangements, bouquets, corsages, etc..  Don’t get any ideas, she only does wedding flowers for close relatives and extremely dear friends, too many dangers with unknown brides and mothers.  So she will not be at market on Saturday and I will have to leave market a little early to drive up in time for the ceremony.  This is the balance between family and being all about peppers.

Picture of the Week

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Lots of red bells

 

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