Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #9, 3/19/20, Big Changes Ahead!

What’s been going on! 

Old dogs, new tricks.  This is going to be the story for some time to come so bear with us and each other.  There is a lot of new information in this newsletter so please read carefully and completely.

First we want to thank everyone for the overwhelming show of support, both for us and the market, last week and as you all have sent kind words through the week.  Because of your support and the changes that the vendors and market made last week we are being allowed to stay open when other markets are being closed.  But we were not perfect and changes have to be made for us to continue to operate as you will see below.

The biggest change is that the Town of Carrboro is requiring us to have 20 feet between vendors it will have us spread out all over the Town Commons including using all of the parking lots, which is still not enough room for all of the vendors when we reach peak season.  Customer parking will be found over at the O2 Fitness lot and on the streets.  You will have to find us in the market as we don’t know yet where we will end up.

The Market will begin its 7:00 a.m. opening hours this week to help spread out the crowd and we encourage those folks over 60 to shop the market early for greater safety.  The Wednesday afternoon market will also open early this coming week on March 25th,  we will not be there initially.

The strongest feedback we received from last week is everyone has to do a better job of “social distancing”, if we don’t improve we may not be able to stay open so there are several things you all need to do:

  1. Stay at least 6 feet away from other folks. We will remind you with a smile.
  2. As much as we all like to visit, we need everyone to shop and head home to minimize the time of potential exposure.
  3. If you have kids, leave them at home if possible. The playground is closed anyway.
  4. Do not touch any of the products for sale, let the vendors handle all the product, they will bag and wrap it and hand it to you.
  5. and of course, wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.

To facilitate less contact and faster exchanges we are encouraging people to pre-order so that it is ready to go when you get to market, an option we have always offered.  For those who want to reduce the amount of cash handling we have set up an on-line store where you can put in your order and prepay with your credit card or we can take a credit card at market too.  Ignore it if it tells you that the pick-up date is for March 28th.

For those of you who are being extra careful and don’t want to get into the market fray you can text us at market and we can bring your order to your car.  Your order already needs to have been received and paid for the day before.  Text or call (919) 314-7043 with your car type, color and where you are parked adjacent to the market and we will bring it to you.  It may take a few minutes depending on how busy we are and you need to parked along either Bim Street or Laurel Ave.

We are not sure how all this will turn out.  Whether the Market will be allowed to stay open or how much of a pain in the ass the new market set up will be.  Betsy and I will be there selling this Saturday and will evaluate.  If either the market is closed or we don’t want to deal with the changes we will change to a curbside pick-up location near the market for an hour or so on Saturday mornings for on-line prepaid orders only.  We will keep you apprised.

Our restaurant friends are also taking a big hit and we encourage you to support them by using take-out or buying gift cards or more.  Starting this weekend a group of Carrboro business people are starting Carrboro United, an online ordering platform for take-out meals from Carrboro restaurants and CSA type produce and meat boxes from the Farmers Market vendors who cannot sell all of their crops.  The orders can be picked up three times a week in front of Cats Cradle.  See the website http://www.carrborounited.com for details.

We continue to plant as if this will end soon and this situation could last only a few weeks but the experts we are talking with think more like 8-10 weeks, through at least the end of May.  We are all in a strange new world and it will take all of us working together to make it smoother.

Picture of the week

P1050464A bunch of beautiful lettuce

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #8, 3/13/20 the Coronavirus talk

What’s been going on! 

Coronavirus and the market, what to do?  Not to panic and to use common sense of course!  While the Market is a “public gathering” it is not a tightly packed indoor location with many of the kinds of hard surfaces that the virus can be easily picked up from.  Being outdoors, with disinfecting sunlight, makes it far safer than an indoor situation.  The keys to not spreading the virus are hand sanitation, not touching your face and “social isolation”.

Betsy and I have always joked that we are agricultural shut-ins but in this case all of the farmers are “socially isolated” for the most part of their week, only coming to town to deliver and attend market.  We encourage anyone who is sick in any way not to go out in public and any people who are more vulnerable, those over 65 or with compromised systems, to take whatever precautions they feel necessary.

The rest of us can just be more careful and patient at market by giving each other more space, washing our hands or using sanitizer frequently after touching common surfaces like door handles and money.  There is no evidence that the virus is spread on food, especially if cooked.  Betsy and I will be handling all produce and flowers ourselves in the coming weeks to keep contact to a minimum. We will direct the customer to indicate what they want, we will then pick it up, bag and wrap all produce and flowers and then hand them to the customer.

We are encouraging the Market to provide more handwashing stations around the market and, if we can get them, also placing large bottles of hand sanitizer around as well.  Be aware that the Carrboro Farmers’ Market may decide to close for a while if that is the recommendation from Public Health officials.

Markets are grappling with their role as public gathering spaces that are vital to food access for consumers and the livelihoods of farmers.  You all need to eat and the farmers really need to sell all of the produce that they have been tending for months, together we can make the market experience healthy.

Picture of the week

P1050456Red Little Gem looking good for next week

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #7, 3/6/20

What’s been going on! 

Ah the obnoxious winds of March.  Even after so many years of making our living working outside and dancing with all that weather can bring us, the crazy winds of March are always a bit of a surprise, especially with their day-long ferociousness.  These are not the temporary high gusts preceding a rain storm but the serious, steady, scrub the earth clean for spring kind of gales.

Of course it is all part of the cold winter air masses struggling to stay south as the earth warms with longer days and the warm air masses moving to the north (warm air rises, cold air sinks).  The referee between these two combatants is the jet stream which will slowly move north over the next month or so until the warm air wins and our weather here settles.  Until then we are subject to big temperature swings, tornados and more.  I always find the wind map fascinating at this time of year.

Despite the vicissitudes of spring we did have a good week of planting and cultivating and coaxing the early spring crops along.  In general everything looks really good except the sugar snap peas that we had to replant because the first ones rotted in the wet, wet ground which will make them two to three weeks late this year.  It is always something.

Picture of the week

P1050445A forest of Ranunculus waiting to open

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #6, 2/28/20

What’s been going on! 

Busy few days ahead before the next rain comes in on Tuesday.  The next few weeks have the most spring plantings of the whole season and this week in particular will have a bit extra as we held some plantings from last week to get past the cold and snow and so they could size up some.  Early March is when things have warmed up enough, especially the soil, so that most and cool season crop can now go outside without any worries.

The harvest from these plantings are also the heart of the spring bounty that happens the end of April and early May when the Market is over flowing with amazing greens.  Sunday and Monday we will be planting five kinds of lettuce, lacinato kale, fennel, two kinds of radicchio, escarole, parsley and seeding more Japanese turnips and red radishes.  We will be ready for the rain days that follow.

Two things to close the newsletter.  From last week, several folks asked what the “C” word was, it is the dreaded committee.  Finally if you haven’t voted yet make sure you do so!  Last day of early voting is tomorrow and of course Tuesday is the big day.

Picture of the week

P1050438Lots of very happy seedlings waiting to get into the ground

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #5, 2/21/20

What’s been going on! 

Well I shouldn’t have said anything last week about a snowless winter and last night’s two inches wasn’t exactly the kind of storm that brings everything to a halt but apparently the grocery stores still had huge crowds buying break and milk, jeeze.  Tonight is looking to be the coldest night of the winter which means a really chilly start at market tomorrow even with the sun, bundle up!

As Betsy and I slip quietly off towards retirement another milestone was passed this week as I had my last board meeting for the last board I have been sitting on.  In fact in the past two months I have stepped off of the boards of three organizations that have been dear to us.  The first, after eleven years and three executive director transitions, was the Rural Advancement Foundation International which I have written about many times in the past for their incredible work around farm sustainability and rural social justice.

The second was the Center for Environmental Farming Systems which among their many projects is the largest organic research farm in the United States.  We have been involved since its inception, over a quarter of a century!  The last and closest to our hearts is the board of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market where we both have been on and off the board in every capacity for over 30 years.

Beyond the freeing up of time and schedule it is good to not be in the lead anymore.  All three organizations are in great shape with good leadership so it also has felt like it was a good time to move on.  We will continue to volunteer and advise these groups when asked but as we want.  When my father retired he said one of the things he was really looking forward to as no more of the “C” word and he stuck to it.

Picture of the week

P1050427The first pink light on a cold morning

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #4, 2/14/20

What’s been going on! 

It will be seriously cold tonight and in the morning at Market but for the most part this has been the winter that wasn’t.  Now to be fair the National Weather Service did predict that this winter would be wetter and warmer than normal and sure enough that is what we have gotten.  For the last 90 days we are three plus inches more than average.  As to the warmer we were six degrees above normal in January alone.

The lack of snowfall is disappointing and we have learned to not count out the late snow storm but it is not looking promising.  My first winter here in 1980 we had, what was at the time the record snow, 12 inches the first week of March, so it can happen.  This would certainly not be the first winter without snow as there have been seventeen of them since records have been kept in Raleigh in 1887.  The most recent was 2007-2008.

Despite all the rain we are still on schedule in the field because, just like the wet spring we had last year, we have been getting beds prepared in advance and then covering them with huge sheets of plastic to keep them dryish so they are ready to plant when we are.  Monday we planted the next rounds of lettuce and so it goes.

Picture of the week

P1050415Hope you saved your real Valentines flower dollars for tomorrow!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #3, 2/7/20

What’s been going on! 

As Betsy said this morning “We are one with the Haw River” as she looked out the window and down to our bottom field completely and deeply underwater.  Quite the storm and we hope that all of you escaped any wind or water damage.  We had over three inches of rain but fortunately no big winds from the initial wave Thursday afternoon but some terrific gusts this morning.

We had, of course, moved the vehicles out into the field just in case and rolled down all the high tunnel sides but we were out early this morning battening them down even more so there would be no damage to the plastic or the structures.  So far everything looks good and no trees down that we have found, yet.  One bright spot is we didn’t have to pull the irrigation pump out of the bottom because it is not down there anymore!

Before the rains on Tuesday and Wednesday we planted the last of the tunnel lettuces, radishes and turnips.  We did seed the sugar snap peas out in the field and some more flowers went in too.  Next week the first lettuces will go outdoors so the season approaches.

Picture of the week

IMG_20200207_081114499_HDRThe 10th highest flood ever at Haw River left us with lake Peregrine

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #2, 1/31/20

What’s been going on! 

Our favorite “holiday” of the year is this weekend and it is not the Super Bowl but rather Groundhog Day.  As I wrote in 2010 it is the unofficial end to winter and the beginning of spring, at least around these parts and as such I see it as one of the two agricultural related holidays, the other being Thanksgiving.

The time between those two holidays, interestingly, also corresponds to what is known as the Persephone period when the day length is less than 10 hours of daylight.  Below 10 hours of daylight and most plants go into a suspended state and barely grow at all.  Technically at this latitude, this winter, it ran between Nov. 27th and Jan. 16th but who’s checking, it’s been dark.  The good news is that the days start getting longer really fast now, gaining two minutes a day for the next several months.

For those who forgot all of their Greek mythology Persephone, the goddess of spring and nature, was abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld.  As the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the head gods, Demeter forbids the earth to produce, or she neglects the earth and in the depth of her despair she causes nothing to grow.  When they finally persuade Hades to release Persephone things began to grow again but she was obliged to spend a third of each year (the winter months) underground, and the remaining part of the year with the gods above.  Fortunately for us that period doesn’t even last two months.

All of the greens that have been at the Farmers’ Market the last several months were planted early in the fall so that they could grow to maturity and then they have just been sitting there waiting to be harvested.  One of the reasons there will be shortage of greens over the next few weeks is that most people have harvested everything they had and are now waiting on things to either re-grow or for newly planted crops to get to size. That is certainly the case with us, it will be nearly a month before we will have lettuce again even though we planted it in early December.  The good thing is the Anemones don’t care about day length, must not be Greek.

Picture of the week

P1050409Working on the new deer fence, a long line of posts ready.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #1, 1/17/20

What’s been going on! 

The last sojourns of the winter are now done and we are home to concentrate on the spring farming season.  That little blast of spring we just had in January is now gone and real winter temperatures are now upon us.

I had a another great trip to far west Texas to walk around the desert in Big Bend National Park and this time it didn’t snow here, leaving Betsy to clean off the tunnels by herself, like last year, I still owe her big time for that one.  This last weekend we went to Tennessee for our annual Southern Foodways Alliance event and gathering of the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans and Chefs.  It was an enjoyable time visiting with friends and learning new things including an interesting talk from Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill restaurants in NY.

Yesterday we were back at it taking advantage of the last of the warm weather, planting the fifth of the six tunnels to more lettuce and turnips.  One more tunnel to go and then we are out to the open field with the earliest outdoor plantings.  I can say that I was a bit stiff this morning.  The early spring plantings and prep has always been hard on the body but at 63 it is a whole other kind of thing, just got to keep moving.

Pictures of the week

P1050307One of the many cool things I found in the desert

P1050406The last rays of the day on Lettuce for February

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16, #25, 12/27/19, Happy New Years!

What’s been going on! 

As I sit here on a foggy Friday, at the end of the year, I think about how it is sort of an analogy to how this year has been.  Not in the dark or ominous or damp way but in the we can’t really see what’s ahead so what surprises are in store? way.  The decision to radically change our farming and life routines to part-year farming and semi-retirement was a bit of a leap into the unknown but has turned out mostly terrific.

The farming part of the season was the thing we were the most sure of and it went great and essentially according to plan.  We did feel the freedom of just being out here on our own, without any staff to manage or be timely too.  We have always loved the folks who worked with us but it is a whole other experience to have this beautiful, quiet place to ourselves and to work the schedule and hours that spoke to us.  A few days were more work than we wanted to do alone but generally we kept it to an amenable level.

Not going to Farmers’ Market the rest of the year seemed both wrong and liberating.  It was the first summer in 34 years that we did not stand behind a table and greet old and new friends alike and it was a bit disorienting for a while but we got over it pretty quickly, helped by almost weekly visits to the market to shop and get our people fix.  We certainly enjoyed not having to work in the field in the heat of summer.

The picture became less foggy with a wonderful late summer and fall of travel and kicking around here on the farm.  Great trips to the Rocky Mountain west and a family trip to Oaxaca, Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebrations were memorable and we have a couple more excursions over the next few weeks and then we settle in for the spring farming season.

And as we speculated it has been a bit of a mental lift to turn the crank and start up the farm for the next year after nearly 6 months off!  Fortunately it starts slowly with soil and bed preparations through the fall, then seedlings in the greenhouse and the first plantings which are smallish and spaced apart in time.  Easier to get the mind and body around the tasks that way.  The good news is the first beds of flowers look great and the first four plantings of Little Gem lettuce are in the tunnels along with Japanese Turnips and Radishes. The 39th season of Peregrine Farm is underway.

Because the Anemones look so good and are blooming earlier than they should be, we will be coming to market tomorrow to sell!  Mostly we want to be able to see all of you, wish you a happy New Years and as always thank you for making it possible for us to do what we do. If we don’t get to see you tomorrow we want you to know that without your support all these years and especially your kind words of encouragement as we head into this new phase, our lives would be much less enjoyable and certainly not as rich.

Pictures of the week

P1050100Anemones in the first morning light

IMG_20191102_094357Chiles and Mole in the market in Oaxaca

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