Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #19, 6/23/16

What’s been going on!

Farm transition, a very popular subject these days in the farm community as many farmers are getting older (average age is 59) and are trying to figure out what they are going to do with their businesses and properties and themselves as they get even older.  It is a complicated process that has many moving parts and every farm business is different in some way or another.

It is a long process too.  You don’t pass on, close or sell any business quickly, especially one where you live and have nurtured your whole life.  It takes time to put all the pieces in place as there is estate planning, financial planning, tax planning, and all manner of legal details to work through.  The more people involved, the slower it goes but as we are finding sometimes going slow is best as it reveals things that were not apparent at first.

Astute readers of the newsletter have maybe pieced this together between the lines and certainly we have spoken with many of you over the last few years at market or conferences about our transition plans but this is really the first official, in print, announcement about what we refer to as “The Jennie Project”.  Let me first say that all is fine with us and the farm, we are just being proactive about managing the last third of our life before it starts to manage us.

Over the coming months and years we will discuss our thoughts and process and how it is all going but rest assured that Betsy and I are not going anywhere.  We do plan to slow down some and let Jennie take over more and more of the business and work responsibilities in the next five years or so.  After 35 years it’s time for a change.

Part of the process is happening this week as the surveyor is here marking off our house and acreage, separate from the rest of the farm, so that we can stay here as long as we want but still be owners of the farm too.  It is exciting, interesting, scary, maddening, and rewarding all at the same time!

Picture of the Week


It is definitely yellow flower season

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #18, 6/17/16

What’s been going on!

Another busy week with the change of seasons in the fields but apparently not quite yet with the weather.  One more last reprise from summer for the next few days including the longest day of the year and official start of summer on Monday in the mid 80’s!  I always feel like we are buying time when there are days in the low 80’s and nights in the 50’s in June.

We have been mowing down and turning under more spring crops every day, making way for new plantings or cover crops.  Last week beet, carrot, radish beds went under the tiller, this week, fennel, radicchio, more lettuce went down.  Same in the flowers with campanula, stocks, snapdragons and more having their irrigation lines and trellis taken out and then mowed.  Not to worry, more lettuce was planted as well as zinnias and sunflowers.

Now we begin to settle into the summer work patterns of harvesting tomatoes twice a week and maintaining other the summer crops.  Betsy will make her daily rounds through the flowers, getting the sunflowers and zinnias that have opened overnight, checking the other flowers that might be at the right stage to harvest.  All mostly done in the mornings so we can hide out in the shade in the afternoons.  Lots of mowing, weed eating and tying up tomatoes and peppers.  A bit of replanting each week until mid-August when the fall planting starts in earnest.

Picture of the Week


An amazing Annabelle Hydrangea display, can’t possibly sell them all

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #17, 6/8/16

What’s been going on!

Whew! We survived the Farm to Fork weekend, barely. Three nights in a row with preparation for market and Saturday market all squeezed together is more than simple country farmers are used to! It all went as good as it possibly could have including having to move the Sunday Picnic to an indoor location due to potential severe weather. All events sold out and we raised a lot of money for new farmer training programs.

The change of seasons are upon us with the last of things like beets and larkspur and the beginning of tomatoes and zinnias. If just seems a bit out of whack with the relatively cool start to summer but it looks like the heat comes in with authority this weekend.

Do not miss this our fundraiser dinner this Sunday the 12th. We are doing the first Farmer and Chef Mashup at the Midway Community Kitchen, with Al from Al’s Burger Shack to raise money for Heavenly Groceries. We are thinking of it as a “Sunday dinner” with lots of side dishes from vegetables from the farm, dishes include the first tomatoes of the season with mozzarella, callaloo with pork belly, fennel salad, the first shishito peppers of the season and other good things. $65 with wine pairings, it will be a really good time.

Picture of the Week

Early morning sun on the tunnel with cukes, basil and shishito peppers

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #16, 6/2/16

What’s been going on!

Our kingdom for some sun!  Flowers won’t bloom and tomatoes won’t ripen, argh!  The only good things are the temperatures are a bit more moderate and the newly transplanted peppers have had the perfect conditions to get over the shock of planting.

Two busy weekends ahead.  This weekend is the big The Farm to Fork Picnic Weekend featuring three events in 3 days, including a talk by Deb Eschmeyer from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative on Friday in Saxapahaw (sold out), a dinner at “The Durham” with Sam Kass, President Obama’s former personal chef and assistant White House chef on Saturday and the always amazing Sunday Picnic.  We are paired with Brendan Cox and Oakleaf restaurant, it will be great tasty fun!

Next Sunday the 12th, we are doing the first Farmer and Chef Mashup at the Midway Community Kitchen, with Al from Al’s Burger Shack to raise money for Heavenly Groceries.  We are thinking of it as a “Sunday dinner” with lots of side dishes from vegetables from the farm and other good things.  $65 with wine pairings, it will be a really good time.

Pictures of the Week


Even the bees have to work in the Campanula when it’s cloudy


Happy peppers in the no till section of the field

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #15, 5/26/16

What’s been going on!

So I am afraid to say that it looks like we may not get any blueberries this season.  We knew way back last winter that we would have a smaller crop when they started blooming in the unusually warm December weather.  When they started blooming again   in late March we felt like there was still a substantial number of blooms so maybe an OK crop.  26 degrees on April 6th reduced the number of berries even further.  Now with so few berries out there the birds are taking everyone just as they begin to show any color.

We have seen this twice before.  In 2001 when we had what everyone now refers to as “the Easter Freeze” with 24 degrees on April 18th and again in 2007 with five nights in the 20’s the first week of April.  Both years we had a tiny fruit set which the birds and squirrels took either all or most of.  What happens when we have late freezes like that it not only kills domesticated fruit buds but wild fruiting plants too, leaving not much for the wildlife who in turn eat where the pickin’s are good, our bushes!

Could we net the bushes and save what we have, sure if we had netting here and when weighing the cost of netting and the labor to put it on and take it off to pick it is hard to say if it is worth it with a small crop.  So now we will wait and see if this flock of birds will move on or not.

The good news is we have gotten all the peppers in the ground and they look great.  The big planting of tomatoes we finally got pruned and tied up for the first time and they look happy too.  Every day we look for a ripe tomato in the little tunnels knowing that sometime in the next week we should be able to eat one!  Take that you birds!

Picture of the Week


Even the fake rubber snakes don’t slow the birds down

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #14, 5/18/16

What’s been going on!

Another rainy week ahead, at least it is cool, so some solace.  We used the beautiful days leading up to yesterday to cultivate as much as we possibly could as the weeds were biblical after the previous wet period.  While we did not get everything perfectly weeded we did get to most of it.

Always too much to do in May and so we are a little behind in getting the big planting of tomatoes suckered and tied up for the first time.  Got a good start on it Monday but now it will be too damp to break off the shoots (suckers).  If we do it when it is really wet then the chances for disease to enter those wounds is very high so we will just have to wait until the sun comes back out.

The other big job we are trying to get to is preparation for the big pepper planting next week.  The plants look perfect and will be really happy to get in the ground.  Just before the rain started yesterday we tilled the nine beds that get covered with landscape fabric for all the hot and fussy varieties.  Today or tomorrow we can lay the drip lines and pin down the fabric so we will be ready to plant first thing next week.  That just leaves the rolling/crimping of the cover crop for the no-till sweet peppers.  Go, go, go!

Pictures of the Week


Thousands of pepper plants ready to go


Freshly tilled pepper beds on a really gray day

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #13, 5/13/16

What’s been going on!

Running behind again this week after my two day Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) board meeting.  There are a lot of good sustainable agriculture organizations across the country doing great work in all areas of farming to make the lives of farmers and agriculture in general better and we have worked with a number of them over the years.  RAFI is one of the keystone organizations in the movement and has been working on the issues of fairness and farm sustainability since the 1930’s, tracing their roots back to the National Sharecroppers Fund.

Few organizations have the history or the experience to do the work that RAFI does both in North Carolina and around the world.  It is one of those groups that you probably have never heard about because they work either far out in front of emerging issues or quietly in the halls of the USDA, UN-FAO or the North Carolina General Assembly.  Their headquarters are right here in Pittsboro!

This small group has had far reaching impacts on fairness in contracts for farmers, literally writing the legislation for the National Organic Program and other farm bill provisions, saving hundreds of family farms from foreclosure, issues of rural poverty and hunger, preserving the rights of farmers to save seed and develop new varieties, farm worker’s rights and more.

But there is a big problem in the non-profit world that is bringing many well established NGO’s to the brink of closing their doors.  For last few years the foundations that fund most of the work that non-profits do have narrowed their focus and will only pay for exact project work and no longer give money for general operations.  This means RAFI can do the field work but cannot pay the light bill or the book keeper unless they can raise money from individual donors like you.

The work is so important that anyone who eats should donate to RAFI.  Those of you who read this newsletter who have received a grant from RAFI, get your check books out, those of you who read this newsletter who have used RAFI’s farm advocate services and had their farm saved from foreclosure, you need to donate.  Those of you who want good, clean and fair food have to send money.  RAFI has helped you and made for a better world, now you need to help them continue that work.

Betsy and I have worked with them for nearly 20 years and continue to be amazed at what they do; I am honored to be on their Board, donating time and expertise and even with a small farmers income we are sustaining donors.  Be prepared, when you see us next, to talk about RAFI and why you need to become a sustaining donor or at least give $50 to start.

Picture of the Week


Perfect Sugar Snap Peas, sweet and glistening with dew.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #12, 5/6/16

What’s been going on!

Forty days and nights, at least it feels that way but not quite Ark worthy.  We can’t really complain too much as many of our farmers friends have had it much worse than us over the last week with really high rainfall amounts and very damaging hail and winds but we will be happy to see it all end for a while.

We have had over three inches of rain this last week and a very short period of small hail that you all may notice on some of the lettuce leaves.  You will also notice an extraordinary amount of soil on the lettuce from the intense down pours, we have rinsed as best we can but will leave it to you for the full cleaning once you pull the heads apart.

Late newsletter as the only decent day this week was Wednesday which we used to cover the last of the Big Tops over the flowers.  Already a week later than we wanted but there was just not a day suitable to get it done.  Some of Betsy’s flower crops took some hits from the storms that would have been protected under the Big Tops but most of them will come out just fine.

Big weekend with Mother’s Day and all of the university graduations going on.  The good news is despite the weather we still have a lot of beautiful produce and flowers for the celebrations and for all of our restaurants to make flavorful spring dishes.  Even better tomorrow looks to be a really beautiful day!

Picture of the Week


With rain gear on, Tricia harvesting Broccoli Raab in a wet field

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #11, 4/27/16

What’s been going on!

And so it starts again.  Tomorrow I will cut and deliver the first lettuce to Weaver Street Market for this season.  This year marks a quarter of a century we have been growing lettuce for Weaver Street, every spring the dance is the same.  A short dance as it only lasts 4 weeks, the prime growing conditions for standard lettuce varieties here in the Piedmont.

The perfect growth conditions for all of the spring vegetables, if you could hold them in a climate controlled place, is an average air temperature of 60-65 degrees, we have that here for about 20 days from mid-April to mid-May.  Once that average temperature goes over 75 it is too hot for quality lettuce except for a few hot weather varieties.  So by the end of May, all of the cool season crops are on the way out.  Every market day, at this time of year, folks always comment on how beautiful and lush the lettuces look and it is because we are in the heart of the best conditions.

Leaf lettuces are the sixth most consumed vegetable per person and rising which makes it an important crop for us and for the grocery store.  So for that reason you will find me in the lettuce field cutting lettuce four mornings a week, Mondays and Thursdays for afternoon delivery to Weaver Street Market and Wednesdays and Fridays for Farmers’ Market and the restaurants.  I expect everyone to be eating a lot of salads over the next month!

Picture of the Week


Not lettuce, Jennie and Tricia harvesting turnips and more for Wednesday market

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #10, 4/20/16

What’s been going on!

A fair sized ripple rolled through the food and farmers market pool last week, on the internet, over a set of articles by the Tampa Bay Times food writer Laura Reiley.  Titled Farm to Fable she did excellent in depth investigative research on restaurants who say they use local products and a second article on the Tampa Bay area farmers markets.  Her conclusion was everyone was lying and there was almost no local food in either the restaurants or the farmers markets.

Were we shocked?  Not really.  Is it the same way here in the Triangle?  No.  First there has always been green washing in the restaurant and grocery businesses to get customers into their stores, do we really think that the produce department at Harris Teeter is a “Farmers Market”?  I can say that the restaurants we sell to do an excellent job in sourcing local product and try as best as they can to represent that accurately on their menus.  We do have friends around the country who occasionally have to go in and bust a chef for using their names on the menu when they haven’t bought something from them in a long time, it happens.

The second part on farmers markets also represents the fact that Florida agriculture mostly revolves around shipping large amounts of produce around the country and the world in the off season, so a culture of buying from big produce markets and reselling has been that way for a long time.  We know plenty of small farmers growing in Florida but apparently not in the markets around Tampa Bay.

The description of the farmers markets there were filled with crafts, prepared food vendors, food trucks and few produce sellers at all.  Some she described as Flea Markets.  Those are not the kind of markets we have here in North Carolina.  When independent farmers markets started up here decades ago they mostly took a growers only position, where the farmers actually sold their own products.  Sure there are Flea Markets here to but no one I know actually thinks of them as the place to buy fresh produce.

All that being said, not all markets here are created equal either.  The hardest thing for a market to do is to make sure that everything being sold does comply with its rules such as- every product is grown or made by the vendor, that the owner is actually there selling or that they are within a certain distance of the market.  Many markets just don’t have the man power or the will to do the inspections and leg work it takes and slowly “exceptions” can be made.

This is what makes the Carrboro Farmers’ Market so outstanding, for all of its nearly four decades it has been committed to upholding its rules (the most stringent all local markets) and by doing that supporting its producers in the best way possible.  We just hope that people don’t paint all markets or restaurants the same way but the wise consumer should look behind the curtain to verify for themselves the claims made are true, get to know who grows and cooks your food.

Picture of the Week


A field full of lettuce, perfect growing conditions, eat it while it’s here

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