3/23/07 Vol. 4 #1

Oh my!  The first market is tomorrow!  Every fall I say I will put out a newsletter once a month to keep you all up to date on our off season antics and somewhere in December I get distracted and drop the ball.  That usually means we are so busy doing off-farm things, that when we are here, it is difficult to find time to get a newsletter out.  This winter has been just such a time.

Betsy’s trip to Kenya, in December, to look at the cut flower industry there was thought provoking.  Some of the largest cut flower farms in the world, including the largest rose farm, are clustered around Lake Naivasha, northwest of Nairobi.  Primarily run by Europeans they were big, but not with the infrastructure or the diversity we have found on farms in Europe.  Primarily for export, they concentrate on a few crops and use a lot of hand labor in sometimes very rudimentary facilities.
Kenyan post harvest facility

The fact that they paid their help $1.50 a day was appalling to Betsy.  When she was in Ecuador a few years ago they also used a lot of local labor but treated them very well.  At the end of their trip they toured the Rift Valley and the Central Highlands around Mt. Kenya, with a guide, and saw many amazing natural things.

The unusual warmth of January threw us off our usual deep winter pattern of time in the house reading and doing desk related tasks.  We knew it was too early to plant in the fields even though it was very tempting.  Between meetings we puttered around on various small projects including, of course, getting seedlings started in the greenhouse.  Early in the month I was the keynote speaker at a sustainable ag conference in Maryland, a good group that I had not experienced before.  The end of January Betsy and I both went to Louisville, KY for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) conference.  This is one of the best farming conferences in the country and the best in the south.  Over 1200 attendees made for a very active time.  I presented at several workshops including giving a day long short course on organic vegetable production.

We came home, ready to get to work in the fields and the weather decided to change to winter.  That threw us off balance again as we held back on planting some crops out into the fields until it warmed up a bit.  The extended cold weather and dry conditions also made it hard to get soil prepared in a timely manner as the cover crops that we depend on so much for soil improvement grew larger than normal in the warm early winter and then wouldn’t decompose when turned into the dry cool soil.  We would turn them under a month in advance, as usual, and then a month later on planting day till the bed again to prepare for seeding and they looked like we had just turned them under the day before.  In the end all the early crops look pretty good just behind where they were at this time last year.  The rest of the leviathan rolls forward as always.  The sliding tunnels are all moved as of yesterday and the first tomatoes go in the ground on Monday.  The huge array of tomatoes and peppers have been seeded in the greenhouse and are beginning to come up, 22 varieties of toms and 25 of pepper this year!

On a sad note we lost a dear friend last week just as market is ready to start again.  Faye Pickard passed away unexpectedly.  Miss Faye as we called her (and that was her email address too) has been one of our diehard regulars since our first market in 1986.  One of the early shoppers (you know who you are, there before 8:30) on Saturdays she always was there unless she was off to be with her grand kids.  She loved Cherokee Purple tomatoes the most and we always saved the first ones for her, sometimes even before we had a chance to eat one!  As a true southern lady she grew up eating out of the garden and was determined to introduce her kids and grand kids to the pleasures of eating good fresh food.  She had succeeded as she would tell us stories of her kids asking her to bring tomatoes from the market or the grand kids eating cucumbers right out of the bag as she would come in the door!  I try to impress upon audiences when I speak about markets that it is more than just selling your products, it is really about the relationships you build with your customers, they become a part of your farm too.  Miss Faye was certainly a part of ours.

Picture of the Week
Italian Ranunculus inside one of the sliding tunnels with Lettuce outside
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3/29/07 Vol. 4 #2

Every year people ask “so what are you doing different or new this year?”.  I think that most times it is just a way to ask about the farm in general.  I usually search my brain and come up with a smattering of new tomato and pepper varieties or a new radish but those kinds of changes don’t really make any difference in how Peregrine Farm runs.  We (hopefully) are long past any major infrastructure changes, the last major one being the arrival of the Big Tops.  No new greenhouses, large pieces of equipment or walkin-in coolers.  We are at the point, after 25 years, that we are just fiddling with the knobs and fine tuning things.  There is one big change this year though and it is more important to how we operate than any other component of the farm.  Our staff.  For the first time in ten years we are starting with entirely new help.  We have been extremely fortunate to have had a string of great people and every year at least one of them would return for at least a few days a week.  The continuity that this provides is wonderful and the integration of new people into the program is much smoother too.  But all good things come to an end and our last group all decided to move on at the same time.  Joann is finally on her farm full time and we couldn’t be more pleased for her.  Rett is starting his new farm near Asheville.  Rachel is graduating from UNC and headed out.  Will is working on developing his new farm too.  Julia decided to stay at home in Wisconsin to work and farm up there.

Hired help is the most important single input on intensively managed small farms, both in getting things done but also in cost.  Most small farms like ours spend as much as 50% of gross on hired labor!  This doesn’t leave much for every thing else and a return to the owners.  We have worked very hard (fiddling with the knobs) to reduce this number to less than 20%.  We have managed to do this by becoming very efficient in how we do things, not growing crops that take excessive labor, using help only for critical farm related needs and by hiring really good people plus training and paying them well.  I am pleased to report that, once again, we have two great people for this year.  Elizabeth is from South Carolina but has worked the last two seasons on farms in this area, Elise Margoles’ Elysian Fields and Bill Dow’s Ayrshire Farm.  Cov is from Charlotte but traveled widely with stints on farms in California and last year as an intern at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro.  After nearly a month here on Peregrine they have not left running down the road screaming!

This is one of those transition weeks on the farm.  The first tomatoes went in the ground (in the sliding tunnels) and the last large planting of lettuce was put in too.  From now on just about everything we plant will be warm season crops so while we are just barely beginning to harvest the cool season crops our minds are already partly in June.  Great rain this morning which will help a lot but we began the process of putting out the irrigation this week.  Those high 80 degree days forced our hand.  Just about everything on the farm got cultivated and weeded this week and are much happier now.  Soon we will have to start putting trellis up to support all those flowers and peas that will grow fast from here on in.

Picture of the Week
Elizabeth and Cov planting Lisianthus

4/4/07 Vol. 4 #3

Cold weather coming!  Every farmer and gardener is scrambling now.  It’s like a drill on and aircraft carrier, you know it’s coming but really don’t want to have to do it.  It happens every spring but this year is more extreme than most with the record 80 degree days and warm 50 and 60 degree nights.  They say we are going to have four nights below freezing (Thursday through Sunday) which is also more extreme than the usual two.  Now most of the crops out there in the field are cool season types that can take a light freeze so we are not worried about them.  It is the flowering and fruiting crops that most of us are trying to protect.  I know the strawberry growers will not get much sleep the next week, staying up all night either waiting for the temperature to drop low enough to start the irrigation pumps or trying to keep them running.  They spray water over the plants and as that water freezes is releases heat to the plants and flower buds which keeps them from being damaged.  I know it is counter intuitive but thermodynamics always was to me.  They have to keep the water flying until it starts to melt again.  It is an even harder job when the wind is blowing, which it is supposed to do with some vigor.

For us we cover what we can with floating row cover, maybe several layers and hope that is enough.  We don’t have enough water or the equipment to do the overhead sprinkler system the strawberry growers do and our crops are too tall anyway.  The blueberries have been blooming for weeks and should have set enough fruit that won’t be damaged unless it drops really low.  The viburnums which are up to twelve feet tall will just have to stand and bear it.  If we sprayed water on them we would do more damage with broken branches from the weight of the ice than the blooms are worth.  The two crops we are most concerned about are the tomatoes in the sliding tunnels and the dutch iris in the field.  The tomatoes we will drape the floating row cover over the tops of their trellises as a second insulating layer under the greenhouse plastic.  Batten down the plastic as best we can and usually we are good down to the low 20’s.  The iris are another level of difficulty.  Tall, spindly and spiky we will have to construct some kind of structure that will support the row cover and then try and hold that suspended fabric on in the high winds, makes thermodynamics sound easy.

Of course the rest of the farm work must go on.  We now have over 100 beds planted (an acre plus) and have been busy getting them weeded and setting up irrigation.  We should finish that up today and give everything a good drink.  Watering them will not only reduce their stress heading into this cold but wet soil holds more heat than dry soil so it will also help everything through the cold snap.  We moved the 800 tomato seedlings up to their larger four inch pots.  We start them in smaller containers so we can get good germination and then move up only the best looking plants.  It is tedious work especially considering there are eighteen different varieties that one could easily miss label!  This batch of tomatoes will go out into the field in just over two weeks.

Picture of the Week
Hundreds of tomato seedlings

4/11/07 Vol. 4 #4

Wow, that was cold!  Five mornings in the twenties with the nadir Sunday morning at 20 degrees!  Everyone wants to know what the damage has been to the crops but it is really too early to really tell about most of them.  The tomatoes survived with some severe freeze damage on the outside rows but they all should grow out of it.  The cucumbers look unscathed, amazing.  The dutch iris actually look great, Betsy has begun to cut a few. and we haven’t had any open completely yet but so far they appear to have no injury.  The big question is the blueberries.  That will take a week or more for the damage to be really apparent.  This freeze is very similar to the April freeze in 2001, when it was 24 degrees on the 18th with high winds.   That season we lost all the blueberries.  Most of the rest of the crops look fine, the sugar snap peas are burned a bit along with other odds and ends of crops.  Time will tell.

Monday I gave my last big presentation of the speaking season in Spartanburg, SC.  While I have traveled around the country quite a bit giving talks on all kinds of farming subjects it is these full day workshops that I seem to becoming known for.  This one, for 60 farmers and other ag related folks, is at least the fifth or sixth where I hold forth for an entire day, attempting to cover the entire subject of organic/sustainable vegetable production.  Can’t be done really.  The best part, is that after an entire day of examples and pictures I think they go away with the most important lesson: this kind of farming is an interrelated system where each action the farmer takes affects other things up and down the line.  Sure they go away with a big notebook full of information, and lots of details on soil management, how to control weeds and more but it is the big picture that I hope has become clearer to them.  It is hard to get a grasp on this complex system when you only hear someone speak for and hour or so.  I am currently working with the Southern Sustainable Agricultural Working Group (SSAWG) on a CD-Rom on Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing that is modeled after my full day workshops.  Now all of this is really just the Readers Digest version of the Sustainable Vegetable Production course that I designed and taught for five or six years at the Sustainable Farming Program at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro.  There I carried on for three hours a night for sixteen weeks!  Full immersion for sure.  Now the real benefit for Betsy and me to all of this is that the more times I have to explain to people how we farm, the closer I scrutinize why we do things in certain ways and, hopefully, we refine the system even more.

Picture of the Week
The perfect rainy day activity, moving up the 2500 plus pepper plants

4/19/07 Vol. 4 #5

This is one of the pivotal weeks of the year, tomato week.  The whole focus is on getting ready to plant the big main crop of tomatoes and there are a lot of steps in the process.  Tomatoes are a major part of our business and we pay special attention to making sure they very happy.  Of course like everything on the farm we premeditatedly began this dance last summer when we took soil tests to make sure the tomatoes would have just the right amounts of mineral nutrients, especially lime and potassium which they need more of than any other crops.  Then in September we work those minerals into the soil and raise up the beds we will plant the tomatoes into and seed a cover crop of clover and oats.  This cover crop will hold the soil in place all winter, take up any extra nitrogen that may still be in the ground from previous crops and grow more organic matter to further enrich the soil for the coming tomatoes.  A month ago we tilled the tops of those beds, turning that cover crop in so it could begin to decompose and release its good nutrients for the soon to be planted small tomato plants.  Saturday I tilled those beds again, revealing a beautiful rich soil but we are far from ready to plant.  Yesterday after patiently waiting for the incessant winds of Monday and Tuesday to stop we started early (hence the reason for a late newsletter) in calm conditions and pulled the huge 30′ by 100′ sheets of plastic over the Big Tops, under which the tomatoes will grow.  New crew this year as the only people who have ever helped us do this job in the previous three years were Rett and Joann, it went flawlessly.  Under the shelter of the big plastic roofs, the beds can now be covered with the woven landscape fabric we use to keep the weeds down and warm the soil a bit.  A drip irrigation line runs under the fabric because from here on we have to give the tomatoes all the water they will need.  Finally 90 metal posts are driven into the ten beds of this planting and 1000′ of fencing that we use for trellis to support the plants will be hung from them.  By the end of today all will be ready to plant.  The hundreds of little seedlings are waiting in the cold frames, getting toughened up by the breezes and full sun.  Monday they will all be tucked into that beautiful soil, ready to grow up those trellises and give us lots of tasty fruit!

Saturday and Sunday is the Farm Tour, 1:00-5:00 each day.  Our annual opening of the doors to the general public to come see the farm.  Many of you have been on the Farm Tour before and it is a great opportunity to see many of the folks who sell and the Carrboro Market.  Now in it’s twelfth year, thousands of people go on the tour and it raises thousands of dollars for the work Carolina Farm Stewardship Association does.  Sponsored by Weaver Street Market, who does an incredible amount of work to promote the tour and local agriculture, it is easy to go on the tour.  Just pick up a map at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market or Weaver St. Market or many other local businesses and go to first farm that you want to see.  The best deal is to buy a button ($30) which will be your pass for as many people as you can stuff into one vehicle, for as many farms as you want.  34 farms this year so you will have to choose, it is hard to do more than 3 maybe 4 farms in a day.  In the mean time we will be mowing and picking up around the place, nothing like have hundreds of house guests all at once to make you buff up the joint!  Come on out and see what we have been up to, the weather looks to be perfect!

Picture of the Week
Putting the final touches on the tomato trellis under the roof on a gray day.

4/26/07 Vol. 4 #6

Farm tour weekend, wow, always enjoyable and always long days.  We had our usual modest sized crowds which makes it much easier for us to visit with everyone and answer their specific questions.  Some of the farms, especially those with animals, have told me that they had more than 1000 visitors!  There is no way we could deal with numbers like that and enjoy it as much as we do.  It was great to see everybody especially our customers from market, we also get quite a few people who are farming or are seriously looking into it and they ask really good questions about why we do things in certain ways.  One of the highlights was the three van loads of farmers and extension agents who drove all the way up form Louisiana for the tour!

With the hubbub of the farm tour behind us we now turn to the next big projects on the list.  Yesterday we covered the four bays of the Big Tops, over the flowers, moving quickly before the winds came up.  We can now begin the last cultivation and weeding in those crops before we have to start trellising them in the next few weeks.  There are only a few big “hurdles” we must clear each year so we can move on with certain crops and this is one of them.  They punctuate the season which is dominated by little steps each day on the way to the end of the year.  Sliding the tunnels, preparing for planting tomatoes, covering the Big Tops, preparing for planting peppers; those are the ones that always loom large in my mind, three down, one to go.  The big planting of tomatoes went in Monday and they are very happy with this warm weather.  “Only” seventeen varieties in this planting including some new large sauce types from Italy and a cherry from Italy which is one of the Slow Food Presidia, special crops or foods that have been designated as such to help save them.  Here is a link to more information about Slow Food’s efforts to save endangered foods.  Pea trellis went up yesterday, the sugar snap peas have grown out of the freeze damage of a few weeks ago and are wanting to climb.  More flowers and vegetables have been planted and now we settle in on the chores of cultivating, trellising and keeping them watered.

Well many of you have been asking about the turkeys and if we will be raising them this year.  We normally would have the little poults here by now but have been waiting to receive word about the status of the new processing plant.  I finally talked with them on Tuesday and while they are making good progress on building it they could not assure me that it would be ready for Thanksgiving.  So the decision has been made for us.  No turkeys this year.  After two years of the stress of not knowing if there would be a place to have them processed we feel it is best to wait until we know for sure there will be a facility.  This is one of the big differences with turkeys as the heritage types, like the Bourbon Reds that we raise, take a full six months to grow so we need to be assured of the outcome far in advance.  With chickens they only take a little over two months to raise and are easier to get the chicks for, so those farmers producing them can still wait and have several flocks this year when the plant is ready to go.  Sadly no excellent turkey for Thanksgiving or stories of Mr. Tasty as the season unfolds.

Picture of the Week
Just covered Big Tops and newly trellised Sugar Snap Peas

5/2/07 Vol. 4 #7

After two straight Wednesdays of early starts to cover the Big Tops I am finally back on schedule with the news from the farm.  It’s hot and getting dry, dry, dry and we are working to get enough water on everything but the newly transplanted small seedlings would really like a rain to get them established.  Our standard spring planting procedure is to plant on days just before a rain is due to arrive so everything gets a good drink of water.  The past few weeks the weather has not cooperated in that way so we move to our summer dry weather system of preparing the planting bed and then burying a drip irrigation line right down the middle of the bed.  We then plant the bed and drag a hose along to water the little plants in well and then let the buried irrigation take over.  This irrigation line is buried just a few inches deep so we can weed over it but it also makes it so the water, that slowly drips out of its openings, moves out through the soil soaking the bed and the plants roots.  That’s the theory and generally it works.  When the top few inches of the soil is as dry as it is now and a hot dry wind blows it is almost impossible to get the whole bed wet with the irrigation line.  We would have to run it for hours and hours to wet it completely and then the established plants in neighboring beds would be too wet.  So the next move, if the rains don’t come and the little plants are drying out, is to roll out the micro-sprinklers to artificially rain on them.  These little sprinklers run on low pressure like the drip irrigation lines do but can throw a fine spray up to ten feet but then we irrigate up the all the weeds too.  No easy solution other than a little rain, maybe tomorrow?

For the second year in a row we are working with NC State on an interesting research project with grafted tomatoes.  In other parts of the world with limited agricultural land and intensive plantings it can be very easy to begin to have problems with soil-borne diseases from planting the same kinds of crops in the same place year after year.  One solution is to use a disease resistant rootstock and graft the variety of vegetable you want on top of it.  Just like fruit trees where they use rootstocks to control the size of the tree and then put say a Golden Delicious on top.  In places like Korea and Japan and Israel a large percentage of their tomatoes, melons and other fruiting vegetable crops are now grafted.  Last year we/they tested two rows of tomatoes here on our farm, just out in the field, testing three different rootstocks just to see the growth and yield differences.  This year they wanted to have the research plot under the Big Tops just like the rest of our tomatoes and to use one of our usual varieties.  So we decided on testing our favorite tomato, Cherokee Purple.  We grow more Cherokee Purples than red tomatoes and so it is a very important crop for us.  Just in case they had trouble producing the grafted transplants in the lab at NC State we started a whole set ourselves so we wouldn’t be without our favorite kind, assuming we would just give those plants away if the graduate student ended up with enough plants.  Then we got nervous and decided to plant those plants anyway just in case there was other difficulties with the grafted plants, this is research after all, things can happen.  So now we have twice as many Cherokee Purples than ever before!  It could make for a very tasty July!

Picture of the Week
Setting up the micro-sprinklers to try and water up the new zinnias

5/10/07 Vol. 4 #8

Blackberry winter is what my father always called these times in late spring when we get abnormally cool periods.  Not really abnormal as it seems to happen every year, and it is when the blackberries are blooming along the roadsides.  We were in the high 30’s on Monday morning and all of the crops, except for the lettuce maybe, are looking skyward wondering when the heat will come and make them bust out in profusion.  Another Mother’s Day and graduation upon us and Betsy is wondering just when all those flowers will start to bloom too.  There is a bloom here and there just teasing her and the plants are looking really good and full of buds.   This is the story the beginning of each May when the big question from Weaver Street, graduates, parents of graduates, brides and others is “When will you have more flowers?”, we just shrug and say probably the week after Mothers Day.  It does seem to be exaggerated this year due to the tremendous cold snap at Easter, it really made a lot of crops just stop and it has taken some time for them to get rolling again.

The last big hurdle is in front of us this week.  Pepper planting.  Now that the tomatoes are in and looking really great, the last of the large plantings is upon us.  From here on we only plant a few beds a week and never are they as important to the whole farm as the big pepper array is.  Twenty two varieties this year including a few new ones.  The best part is we are in one of the best fields we have.  Great soil and sun, the last time we had peppers here (2002) it was a superb crop.  The plants look as good as they ever have too.  Good germination and they have grown well and look very uniform.  Sometimes, especially with the hot peppers, germination can be poor and then they can take forever to get going.  The last few years we have gotten into the pattern of planting the peppers in two stages.  The first half go into raised beds covered with black landscape fabric which warms up the soil a bit faster.  We put the hot peppers and some of the finicky sweet ones  into these beds, I think they need the additional boost the warmer soil gives them.  In the second planting stage, all of the red bells, and half of the yellow and orange bells, we plant “no-till” into the remains of a huge cover crop of rye and hairy vetch.  There are many reasons why we do it this way but better long term soil management and less disease on the peppers are the main ones.  We have been experimenting/working with this system since 1995 and each year we refine it.  This year is exciting as we have new tractor implements that we hope will make it really easy to plant into the thick residue from the cover crops.  Again this spring we may have to wait another week to get them in the ground because it is impossible to kill the cover crop organically until the hairy vetch is really blooming.  Like everything else, it is delayed from all of the cool weather.  Once the rye has sent out its seed heads and the hairy vetch is in full bloom we can just roll down this mass of plant material which crimps the stems and they give up the ghost and die.  If they are not blooming then, even with the rolling, they have a will to live and make a seed that allows them to re grow which then makes them a pesky weed in the peppers.  Patience is the key, they began blooming nicely this week so next week will be just fine.

Picture of the Week
Preparing the pepper beds for planting, no-till on left, tilled with fabric going on, on the right.

5/17/07 Vol. 4 #9

Some weeks are all nose to the grindstone and then there are periods when we raise our heads up and let the outside world in.  This next week is one of those times.  Yesterday day we are hosted 21 agricultural extension agents from Florida.  Florida is a huge agricultural state but in the “old school”, large scale, let’s ship it around the world way.  This group is up here for four days to see, feel and touch our thriving local food system.  While all parts of the country are improving as to the numbers of small farms, farmers markets and the infrastructure that supports them, ours here in central North Carolina is really bustling.  Not that we don’t have holes in the system that need to be addressed like the poultry processing problem, easier supply of some inputs, and other things; we do have large numbers of viable farms, great markets and strong groups working on making it all happen.  This is the second group this spring to come to the area to see how we do it, you might remember the three van loads of agents and farmers from Louisiana that came for the Farm Tour.  So if you see a large group moving through market on Saturday you all will know who it is and be proud of all the work we all have done and are doing for local food here in North Carolina.

The second round of events starts next Tuesday when Carlo Petrini the founder of the Slow Food movement arrives in the area for two days of farm tours, dinners and speeches.  You all know of our involvement in Slow Food, having twice gone to Italy for the Terra Madre conference and subsequently working with the local chapter on various projects.  Touring the country to promote his new book Slow Food Nation ,  Carlo is coming to launch the lecture series for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS).  CEFS is the largest research farm in the country doing work on sustainable and organic farming systems and it is here in North Carolina!  Betsy and I sit on the Friends of CEFS Board of Advisors and during a meeting last winter we suggested having Carlo Petrini come and speak, never thinking it would happen this quickly.  Carlo Petrini is one of the most influential people in Italy and in the world of artisanal food production and local food systems their is no larger figure.  Information about his visit can be viewed here .  There are three public events that we are involved in.  The first is a huge (sold out) picnic being held at Chapel Hill Creamery on Tuesday night where farmers and chefs have been paired to showcase local foods that are in season.   We are working with our friend Sara Foster of Foster’s Market in Durham.  Betsy is donating all the flowers for this event as well and for the second event on Wednesday evening in Raleigh.  A reception for members of Friends of CEFS with Carlo Petrini will be held just before his lecture at 7:00 p.m. which is free and open to the public, this will culminate his visit to the area.  Tuesday and Wednesday before these events Carlo and others from the national Slow Food office will be touring farms in the central NC, possibly including ours, just be assured that Betsy has been out on the mower!

Picture of the Week
Tender Baby Swiss Chard

5/24/07 Vol. 4 #10

Whew! Petrini week is over.  Three days that felt like a week, but it all went beautifully.  Monday was like a normal Friday for us as we harvested almost as many vegetables for the CEFS-Slow Food picnic as we would in getting ready for the Saturday market.  The staff worked a full day (Mondays are generally half days) to make sure we could get everything done because we had lunch guests coming the next day.  You may remember in last weeks newsletter that Carlo Petrini and his Slow Food compadres were going to tour some farms around the area, well we found out on Friday that not only was he going to come see us but also have lunch here on the farm!  Lunch here?  I wondered how the founder of a movement that “celebrates the pleasures of the table” would feel about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  We had a plan, call some one else to help!  It’s not that Betsy and I aren’t good cooks with plenty of great material to work with we just had a few more things going on like helping with all of the events including donating all the flowers for them, oh and we had a farm to run.  We have several good friends who are excellent cooks that we could call on but our first call was to Anne Everitt who you may remember used to be the manager of the Farmer’s Market as well as pastry chef at Elaine’s and Lantern restaurants.  Anne immediately swung into action designing a simple but refined menu using mostly Peregrine Farm ingredients along with other local and NC foods.  With the help of Amy Eller, formerly communications director for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Assoc., they took over our kitchen and chopped, sliced and washed there way to an extremely tasty meal.  The next day, when asked by a reporter what was the best meal he had eaten on his three week tour of the US, he said he thought it might have been the lunch here at Peregrine Farm!

By 1:00, when they arrived, the table was set up under our former pick your own stand in the shade of the huge tulip poplar trees with views of the farm.  We took a short walk around the farm and then retreated to the lunch, Italian style.  We had good discussions with all the Slow Food folks about this area and how lucky we are to have great markets, customers, non-profits and lots of small farmers.  More importantly we were able (Betsy in her hard earned Italian) to speak privately with Carlo about our Italian farm family and their struggle to keep there farm from being sold out from under them.  Their situation is a long and complicated story but since last fall we have been trying to enlist Mr. Petrini’s help.  He is a very influential figure in Italy especially the Piedmont region where our friends farm.  If we could get him to say a few words to the right folks in the regional government it could save their farm of five generations.  He said he had received our letter and had called the regional President but that it was messy situation.  He then promised to contact our friends when he returned to Italy to get the whole story.  At that point he pulled out his cell phone and dialed their number (which Betsy just happened to have in her pocket)…they did not answer.  We feel sure that he will contact them and help when he gets back to Italy!

The rest has been a whirlwind.  As soon as they left the farm we had to rush over to the picnic to get set up including all of the flowers that Betsy, with the great help of Jennifer Delaney, had arranged.  A very enjoyable event with great food and everyone really seemed to enjoy it.  It was hard to believe that there were almost 400 people in that field.  Mr. Petrini and friends seemed to have a really good time and were (I think) further amazed at our local food community.  Yesterday the drum beat continued.  Get ready for the Wednesday Farmers’ Market, which the staff was to be dispatched to while Betsy and I headed to Raleigh for the final two Petrini events.  We had to arrive to the reception early to set up the flowers there too.  The Friends of CEFS reception was well attended which then flowed next door to the final event, Carlo’s presentation about the meaning and value of preserving food traditions, defending biodiversity, and protecting food that is good, clean and fair.  Nearly 1000 people were in attendance, and even though he spoke with an interpreter, they all seemed to take away some important messages.  With it all over we limped home.  We didn’t mange to get any pictures but friends where taking lots so hopefully next week we can have a Carlo Petrini picture of the week.

Picture of the Week
An armload of radishes