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All posts have been categorized by year, or crop or some other way.  If you want to look at all the posts that talk about tomatoes, for example, you can either click on that category in the right hand column or on the word tomatoes at the bottom of the post.

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Have fun!

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

 

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

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

 

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

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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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #22, 8/28/14

What’s been going on!

It is that time of year when we are both tearing down and restarting.  The big job this week has been removal of all the tomato plantings.  I always caution that it is one thing to build elegant support structures to hold up plants but one has to keep in mind that sooner or later those same plants will have to be taken out so the trellises need to be just as easy to take down as to put up.  It should not take more time to remove than to build.

Such is the case with our tomatoes, it takes a couple of mornings to get it all set up before planting and then months later another couple of mornings to snatch the plants off and pull out the fences, only dirtier.  After months of tending the plants Jennie and Liz are more than ready to be done with them and to move on to other crops so there is no reluctance in the effort, they always do a great job.

For the better part of a month we have been slowing planting for fall and winter harvest.  The intensity quickens during the next weeks when bigger plantings go in that will carry us all the way into January and February.  While the weather has been generally more conducive to getting plants established than most Augusts it is still a battle between heat, too much or too little water, weeds and insects.  If we can stay vigilant for the next month then the work will be much easier once the halcyon days of October arrive.

Pictures of the Week

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Barren tomato trellis, soon to be gone

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Fall crops already in and newly seeded ones under a moist cover to help them germinate

 

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #21, 8/20/14

What’s been going on!

Another foggy morning in this continuing coolish summer.  The old folk adage “for every fog in August there will be a snowfall” indicates that we should be ass deep in snow this winter.  With the days beginning to get noticeably shorter we can let ourselves think about fall.

Summer break was enjoyable, different in its pacing and how it rolled out but we all had a chance to reset and do non-farm things.  Jennie was able to go north for a while and Betsy and I lolled around the house, went out to eat a lot, I even managed to read two whole books!  We still had to do some seeding and planting and maintenance but all with a relaxed agenda.

But we are back and it is a packed week.  The hard rain on Monday slowed re-entry some as we had planned to get a lot of things planted, looks like tomorrow we can get it done.  That is OK because we still had a film crew here shooting some pieces for Farm Aid which will be in Raleigh September 13th and then a dinner for a UNC class we participate in.  Friday night is our annual Farm Dinner at Fosters Market in Chapel Hill, focusing on peppers, what else.

Saturday is the first day of pepper roasting at market.  It will be a “soft” start with mostly just chiles as this cool weather has delayed the ripening of the colored sweet bell peppers but the Anaheims and Poblanos look great and will be in abundance.  The weather won’t even be brutal with a high in the mid 80’s, never in my wildest dreams.

Picture of the Week

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Get the snow shovels ready

 

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #20, 7/31/14

What’s been going on!

Yep, missed last week’s newsletter, sometimes it just slips past us.  July has slipped past as well; always a prominent mileage marker in the year when the mountain that is tomato season is behind us and we can actually see the shorter and cooler days of fall in front of us, we are not there yet but we know it is on the horizon.

Fall like, I don’t know what to say about this unusual cool stretch of weather in July.  Can’t really remember another July like this, especially one that, at least for us, has also been so dry as we have missed the bulk of all the rains that have passed through.  Just over two inches of rain in the last 7 weeks and the creek is running at the barest of trickles.  I know many of you have had multiple rains of over two inches in the last few weeks; we are just on the wrong side of the line this summer.

Planting for fall quickens over the next month.  Every week more and more beds are seeded or transplanted until mid-September when it will all be done.  The first radishes, carrots and turnips are up.  Next week beets, cauliflower, kale and more.  The last of the winter squash will come out of the field this week, curing for a few weeks in the shade of the big poplars before arriving at market.  When the tomato trellises come down in a few weeks then we will know for sure that fall is close by.

To celebrate the end of July and mentally prepare for the fall rush we are headed into our summer break after this Saturday’s market.  We are all a bit out of gas after five straight months with only a few days off, there is an unspoken need for rest or a change of routine, if only for a few days.  Betsy and I will not be a market for two weeks (the 9th and 16th), Jennie and Liz will probably be at market on the 9th with the last of the tomatoes and then they get a week off too.  When we return on the 23rd not only will we have spring in our step but it will be full blown pepper season, let the roasting begin!

Picture of the Week

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Four weeks-worth of lettuce timed to be ready on our return

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #19, 7/16/14

What’s been going on!

So I am always amazed by the speed at which some crops can grow and change.  Last week it was all we could do to get all the tomatoes picked and this week a precipitous drop off (partly due to some varieties completely dying due to the wilt).  Two weeks ago the winter squash looked vibrant, today the butternuts are beginning to die back and we will have to begin harvest of them in the next few days (I know “winter” squash in July but that is the reality in a non-New England climate).

Yesterday we were doing a bit of trellising in the peppers to make sure they were ready for any crazy weather that might come in with the cool front and they look really fabulous and then I looked that the newsletter picture from just five weeks ago when they were barely a foot tall and now they are big bushy rows with some four feet tall!  Not too many peppers to pick yet but most of the varieties have a lot of fruit set which should come in just in time for pepper roasting to begin in late August.

We had some new farmers out yesterday and as we walked around the farm we talked about how our brains always seem to be working on the next season.  We hardly have a chance to savor the crops we are harvesting at the time because we are beginning to focus on getting the next ones in the ground or keeping them happy until they start producing, like planting leeks and Brussels sprouts this week for fall or another layer of pepper trellis.  While we eat tomatoes every day right now, mentally we are already moving on but wait I haven’t even made fresh salsa yet!  That’s OK because just now I finally have all the ingredients as the first serrano peppers and a new planting of cilantro is ready to go with the red onions and select tomatoes, maybe we are not done with tomato season yet.

Picture of the Week

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Those are five foot tall posts holding the Poblanos up.

 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #18, 7/11/14

What’s been going on!

What was that falling from the sky yesterday?  Four weeks since the last real rain and things were getting crunchy dry.  In a determined attempt to make sure that we were able to solarize next year’s tomato field, that has been waiting for a month for a rain so we could cover it with plastic, we ran sprinklers for 48 hours to wet the soil enough to be effective.  Must be what finally brought some rain.

For solarization to be most effective the soil needs to be good and moist before covering with clear plastic otherwise there is not enough transmission of heat deep into the soil to kill the fungus and weed seeds.  As we have whole rows of tomatoes now dying from the fusarium wilt in this year’s field, it is a stark reminder of why we go to the trouble of covering a quarter acre with plastic.  After this morning that job will be done.

Definitely peak of our tomato season though with the biggest harvest day this last Monday.  Just in time for Tomato Day at the market tomorrow and for ACME’s annual tomato festival with three days of a tomato centric menu.  You can also find our tomatoes on the menus of Elaine’s on Franklin, Pazzo, GlassHalfull, Oakleaf in Pittsboro and Nana’s in Durham.  Time to wade into big plates of tomatoes as they will all too soon be slowing down and then all of a sudden gone until next year.

Picture of the Week

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Sprinkler goes around while half the field is already under plastic

 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #17, 7/2/14

What’s been going on!

Last Friday I woke up in the middle of the night with the realization that this coming Friday was the 4th of July.  It completely slipped up on us.  Not so much from the “Woohoo! It’s a holiday” kind of thing but more from a small business persons perspective of how do we manage the schedule with markets on Wednesday before and Saturday right after.  Everyone’s normal patterns will be upended, restaurants will be closed some days, people going to the beach or mountains, parties going on, oh and now a hurricane will be brushing the coast and bringing rain (hopefully) here on Thursday.

The potential of some real rain is actually much welcomed as the dry conditions are holding us back from both getting the remains of the spring crops turned under and cover crops planted but we also need a good soaking of next year’s tomato field so we can get it covered with the big sheets of clear plastic to cook the fusarium wilt disease out of the soil.  We did not have a chance to solarize this year’s field and we are already losing a lot of plants to the disease especially German Johnsons, Italian Oxhearts and Kellogg’s Breakfast.

Crops don’t know about holidays so we roll on their needs.  Fortunately after this week’s mow down of the last of the spring crops it is all about picking tomatoes and flowers and keeping the rest watered and growing well.  Tomato picking is a Monday and Thursday morning job and believe it or not this may well be the peak week, already.  There is already a thousand pounds in the packing shed from Mondays harvest and maybe as many coming Thursday.  We will act a bit like Friday is a holiday, at least the tomatoes will be in the house and we will take a relaxed approach to getting ready for Saturday market, see you there.

Picture of the Week

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Beautiful Lisianthus flanked by soon to be ready Celosia

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #16, 6/27/14

What’s been going on!

So I am torn.  Every year during June, when we have some of the first tomatoes of the season we have customers ask “are these greenhouse tomatoes?” or “are these from the field?”.  I understand the intent of the question, true greenhouse tomatoes are specific varieties bred for indoor generally lower light conditions, grown in bags of sterile potting soil, fertilized through the drip irrigation line, in an artificially heated structure.  The result is beautiful looking tomatoes that taste OK, better than the standard grocery store tomato, but not great.

While ours are grown under a single layer of plastic that is the only similarity with a “greenhouse”.  In our minds they are field grown tomatoes because they are “grown in the dirt” as my brother always used to say when asked that same question.  Flavor and texture in a tomato is mostly due to variety, how they are managed and the soil they grow in.  After years of variety trails (we have grown nearly 200 different ones) we have arrived at the ones that taste the best and produce well in our conditions.  We manage the soil and the plants the same way we always have for field production only we now have covered that field with clear plastic roofs for two reasons.  Disease control is the primary reason, so the plants will live and produce for a longer period of time.  The other reason is we can control the water to them just right both for best fruit quality and intensity of flavor.  Like any fruit, too much water and it dilutes the flavor.  Yes the plastic also allows us to have tomatoes a few weeks earlier than what we normally could do in the open field.

So like many such farming questions that blend many things into one we choose our replies carefully, if we have the time we will explain our system and how it is we have tomatoes so early, if not we just say “yes they are field grown”.  However folks take it, the result is in the fruit and it is starting to ripen fast now, don’t miss out!

Picture of the Week

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The cover crop that will feed next seasons tomatoes, next to this years under a layer of plastic but grown in great dirt.

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading