Welcome to the News of the Farm

Just to help you get the most out of these posts, here are a few tips.

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.

The posts all have some additional tags on them too, like “storms” for example.  You can also find those tags at the bottom of all posts and can click on them, you will be taken to a page of posts that include that topic.

All the pictures are clickable and will open a larger version of that picture, if there is one.

And of  course any of the words highlighted in orange are links to other information that will open in another page.

Have fun!

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #8, 4/23/15

What’s been going on!

Earth Day yesterday.  For us, every day is Earth Day, we have spent most of our lives working to make our environment better, to manage the small piece of the earth that we are the caretakers for in a way that will make it as good or better when we pass it on and to educate others on how to do what we do.  Thinking globally, acting locally.

Betsy and I were 13 when the first Earth Day happened, an impressionable age for sure but we both had grown up running wild in the outdoors that surrounded our homes.  We played in the creeks, walked the hills, examined the frogs and flowers and trees and we could feel the changes being wrought on the natural world.  It is a large part of why we became farmers, to live and work outside but in an intentional way.

The first Earth Day was 45 years ago.  20 years ago Betsy had an idea that people would better understand what we do as sustainable farmers if they could come to the farm and see for themselves.  Teaming with Weaver Street Market for their Earth Day celebrations and CFSA as a fundraiser for their work the Piedmont Farm Tour was born.

The Farm Tour is this weekend and we are back on after a three year hiatus to help mark that 20th year.  Saturday and Sunday afternoons 2:00-6:00, rain or shine (looks a bit damp for Saturday).  If you have never been on the tour, it is a self-guided tour that includes 40 farms (no, you will not be able to see them all) for only $30 per car.  Stuff as many folks as you want into one vehicle and come on out.

Picture of the Week

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The magnificent Viburnum Macrocephalum at their peak for the Farm Tour

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #7, 4/17/15

What’s been going on!

A week of rain, at least that is what it feels like, really just two days this week and just over an inch of precipitation but the psychological effect is the same.  The laser focus this week has been to get the big planting of tomatoes in the ground, by the end of today the job will be done.

Sunday we got the last of the structural components on the Big Tops so that Monday we could get the plastic pulled on before the forecasted rain arrived on Tuesday.  The covering went beautifully with hardly any wind and our crack four person crew worked together like we had done it for years.  Late on Monday I tilled the beds for the final time, ready to be covered with fabric.

Tuesday morning we tested the irrigation, put down the landscape fabric and laid out the 144 metal T-posts for the trellis.  Wednesday Jennie and Lacey did the yeowoman’s task of driving all those T-posts and hanging the 1600 feet of field fence we use for tomato trellis.  Done, ready to plant.  Thursday was so wet and cool that we decided to pause a day and plant this afternoon.

Interwoven into the week we had two classes to teach, Wednesday farmers’ market and two board meetings.  One of the meetings was the Farm to Fork Picnic planning group where the pairings of farms and chefs was done.  This year we are working with our friends from ACME for the first time, it will be a fun time for sure!  Check out the Farm to Fork website for all the details on the expanded 3 day event.  The Picnic itself is still on Sunday June 7th but this year we have added a special dinner on Friday night and the CEFS Sustainable Ag. Lecture on Saturday night with fisheries expert Paul Greenberg and a fish dinner.  You can buy tickets for the whole weekend or pick and choose which event you want to attend.  All for the good cause of raising money to train new farmers.

Picture of the Week

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Another grey day but everything is ready for tomato planting

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #6, 4/10/15

What’s been going on!

A two week delay on the newsletter as last week we were moving fast and feeling a bit punch drunk from the fight.  The 21 degrees on the 29th was not kind to many of us farmers.  We had unexpected damage to some crops and others were just fine.  The most striking loss was hundreds of Ranunculus stems that were frozen half way up the and then just collapsed despite being inside the little tunnels, they are sending up new flowers but we are also heading towards the end of their season.

The weirdest injury was the Beets and Broccoli Raab were burned to the ground, never seen those cold hardy crops hurt in that way.  So last week we reseeded them in hopes that they will make it before the heat sets in.  Of course after the deep cold it turned hot and dry with high winds, hard to get seeds to germinate in those kinds of conditions so by the end of the week we had to set up irrigation on an acre of crops to keep them moving along.  This is that chicken on a hot plate time of year.

With irrigation comes rain and those were some terrific storms the last two nights.  Now things are wet enough that it has slowed us down on getting ready to plant the main crop of tomatoes.  It will happen but in the meantime we are in spring cleanup mode including finally taking all the bent steel from the big storm that ravaged the Big Tops in 2012 to recycling.  We are slowly getting ready for the farm tour in two weeks and the first step is tidying up around the place.

Picture of the Week

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Early Tomatoes blooming on the left, lettuce for market tomorrow, Ranunculus recovering on the right.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #5, 3/27/15

What’s been going on!

Classic spring weather.  We were all set to plant the very early tomatoes and cukes in the sliding tunnels and then they dropped the low for Saturday night down to 22 degrees.  Nope, we will just wait until Monday to put them in the ground and will instead move them back into the greenhouse for safe keeping.  The floating row covers will come back out from their summer storage to cover lettuce and some of the flowers.  The only thing we can’t do much about is the blueberries that are beginning to bloom, we will lose some early fruit but not the whole crop as many buds are not open yet.

Cold, wet day so what is more perfect than to be in the greenhouse seeding the big pepper array for this year.  Painstaking and tedious, Jennie and Lacey are up to the task.  Keeping the 28 varieties straight and in the proper numbers takes patience, nearly 4000 seeds.  A few new interesting varieties this year including four special datil pepper seeds, yes 4, given to us by a fellow whose family has been in St. Augustine Florida since the 1500’s where the datil pepper has been grown by the Minorcan community since the 1700’s and is central to their cooking.  Each plant will have a name and armed guard.

Remember the picture of the Christmas lights in the flowers to add just a bit of additional heat when it got down to one degree back mid February?  Here are the results, lots of beautiful Ranunculus for now, Easter and later.

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #4, 3/20/15

What’s been going on!

Ah the first day of Spring!  Feels like a long time coming and that the season is still behind despite the 80 degree temperatures this week.  Very little movement so far in the perennials, a few forsythia blooming, some green buds on the poplars and the blueberries are sending out flowers.

We know that it will all move fast soon and we must stay on schedule to keep up.  This week was time to slide the little tunnels and get ready to plant the very early tomatoes.  It is a two day process with the first day spent preparing the beds for tomatoes, cucumbers and other early warm season crops, including final tilling, irrigation lines, landscape fabric and building the trellis to support them later.

The second day we first have to unbolt the sliding tops from the rails, take off the end walls and other preparations so they will move easier.  Back in the day we used to slide them with just four of us but we must be getting weaker or they are getting heavier.  We now do it with at least six folks which means coaxing extra friends out to the farm for literally 10 minutes of work.  We only move two of the six tunnels by hand, the rest with the tractor.  This year I was able to get four students from my Advanced Organic Crop Production class to come out.

After the intense 10 minutes and after the additional helpers head off, we have an afternoon of rebolting, re-installing the end walls and general tidying the area but it is done and despite the yearly work of moving them we still think it is a superior system to stationary tunnels as far as soil health and production are concerned.

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Newly uncovered lettuces, almost ready for market and covered tunnels ready for tomatoes next week.

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #3, 3/13/15, Like a phoenix!

What’s been going on!

A week ago we were all complaining about soil so wet from weeks of snow and rain that many of the spring crops were in danger of not getting planted at all and certainly not on time but we have risen like a phoenix!

In the late ‘80’s and early 90’s we had many a wet spring and because of that we developed our soil management system so we would be able to prepare soil with only a few dry days after a significant rain.  With beds raised up in the fall, that drain fast, we usually only need three days but the previous weeks of sopping moisture that ended on Thursday it would be a test.  Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  Late Sunday we tilled up 10 beds in our only south facing field, which dries out first, for onions and some flowers, not bad but not perfect.

Monday was forecast to be the last dry day and we hit the ground running with our new all-star staff member, Lacy and one other person in addition to the three of us.  Three of them started with the 7000 onion plants while I prepared another 28 beds in the lettuce and spring vegetable fields, the soil tilled beautifully!

To have a break from the endless onion planting, after lunch they moved into the lettuce field and set out 4000 lettuce plants while I pulled out the seeder and rolled out 13 beds of beets, broccoli raab, carrots, peas, radish, spinach and turnips.  To top off the day we planted several more beds of flowers.  In one day we had just about caught up to our original planting schedule!

And then a bonus!  It did not rain on Tuesday so we were able to finish up the onions and get a few more beds of flowers and vegetables in the ground.  In 34 seasons we don’t think we have ever planted so much at one time.  It will not be perfect as to crop timing and we did miss a few plantings of the earliest things like turnips and radishes but we are much relieved.

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Happy onions

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4000 lettuce in front with seeded vegetables behind under covers to germinate

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Abundant Anemones

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #2, 3/6/15

What’s been going on!

Well we hope that all of you survived the crazy winter weather of the last two weeks.  Just a quick newsletter as we had intended to come to market each of the last two Saturdays but the forecast was so dismal that we decided to hold our cards but we will be there tomorrow morning!

Far more extreme than what I wrote about three weeks ago.  We hit one degree on Friday morning the 20th and then stayed awake all night on Wednesday/Thursday the 25th and 26th to sweep the 7 inches of snow off the little tunnels.  We feel a bit punch drunk but still ready to go.

Weeks behind in our planting schedule, we hope to get some things in the ground this week but may have to do some unusual things to work around this wet soil and forecast for yet more rain on Tuesday, at least it appears to be warming up.

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The result of a long nights work

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #1, 2/13/15 A new year

What’s been going on!

They are baaack!!  Not like any kind of zombie apocalypse on Friday the 13th but the long winters nap is about over I guess.  We always feel that Groundhog Day is generally some kind of watershed date, after which the new season slowly begins to unfold.  Right now we are tending to agree with Punxsutawney Phil, more than his southern cousin Sir Walter Wally, that we are going to see six more weeks of winter.

The forecast for the coming week is really extreme, including the chance of snow next Tuesday on the heels of possible record breaking cold with high winds.  We are in batten down the hatches mode, covering and tightening every crop and structure we have.  We expect this kind of extended cold in December or January with crops that can generally take it but not mid-February when we usually do not see any more temperatures below 20 degrees, much less single digits (last night they had Monday morning at 9 degrees, they have since warmed it up to 14).

The greenhouse and coldframe is bulging with transplants waiting to get into the field.  We already waited a week to put out the first field lettuce to get past the last cold snap.  Sunday when it was 70 degrees we planted the first 1000+ lettuce, now we have it double covered as it really is not supposed to go below 20 degrees.  The place looks like a White Sale at Belks with so many crops covered with floating row covers.

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Lettuce covered in the foreground, more tender crops covered both inside and outside the little sliding tunnels

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The high winds make it especially difficult to keep covers on hoops over outdoor crops, Jennie resets the cinderblock weights for the billionth time

The real worry now is the anemone and ranunculus crops inside the sliding tunnels.  They look as good as they ever have but are also at very tender stages now that they are beginning to bloom.  So not only are they covered with row covers on hoops

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But for the first time ever we have run Christmas lights down the ranunculus beds, under the cover, to generate just a bit more heat right at the plant level.

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Every last trick in the book.  The result is there will be anemones for the Valentines Day market and it will be the warmest day of the coming week!

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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.

Picture of the Week

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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

 

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