Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #30, 9/21/17

What’s been going on!

One of those weeks where the calendar is packed.  A lot going on with the various nonprofits that we work with and serve on their boards.  Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) had a full day facilitation training that was a great learning experience and the tools will come in handy.

There was also a retirement party for the last of the founding NCSU faculty members for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS).  We have worked with this group for nearly 25 years first to envision what a big organic research farm could be and then advising along the way as it has grown into a national leader in food and farming systems.  We have been honored to be associated with these people and they have always treated us as equal members of the team.

Tonight is the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s Harvest Dinner at the Market.  A great evening with food from many of the chefs who shop at and support the market.  It is a fund raiser for various market projects but more importantly it is a wonderful way to visit with farmers, chefs, customers, volunteers, town officials and anyone who loves the market.  I think there may still be tickets left.

Next Thursday is our Harvest Dinner at the Eddy Pub in Saxapahaw.  They do a series of dinners throughout the year, each focused on a single farm that supplies them with ingredients.  Next week is our turn and the food and people will be enjoyable.  Fall starts officially tomorrow and it is always a busy time but it sure is starting with a bang.

Picture of the Week


Fall crops really looking good!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #29, 9/13/17

What’s been going on!

We feel like we slipped a bullet with Irma moving so much farther west than originally forecast, under an inch of rain and just a bit breezy.  We will take that but feel for the people in Florida who now have weeks and months of clean up to do.  Thankfully it looks like Jose is going to stay out in the Atlantic.

The peak of pepper season the last few weeks, with some slowing of the ripening with all of this unusually cool weather for early September but still always an amazing amount of peppers to pick.  Peppers are our second largest and most important crop after tomatoes but the season is so much longer and less perishable that tomatoes.

The growing season unwinds slowly after the rush to get them planted and while they too require a support trellis they don’t grow overnight like tomatoes seem to do so that part of the management is more relaxed and can happen at different times and over days.  Harvest also carries less pressure because the fruit is much less fragile than a juicy tomato and they keep much longer on the plant or in the cooler.

We have to pick tomatoes twice a week and constantly be selling them within days but that intensity only lasts six or seven weeks.  Peppers on the other hand we only pick once a week, sometimes every other week, but the season is long from the first few pods to the last pick at first frost it spans over four months.  A marathon not a sprint.

We do harvest twice a week but one day is hot peppers or the small varieties and the other day is the sweet bells and Corno di Toros.  Shishitos and Padrons we have to pick three times a week to ensure just the right size fruit.  It usually takes a half a day each time between searching for the pods tucked down in the plants, cleaning up the bad fruits and sorting and grading on the tailgate of the truck into ripe, part ripe and seconds.  It is a nice crop to end the summer season with in a steady and calm way.

Picture of the Week


Long rows of Red Bells to pick

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #28, 9/7/17

What’s been going on!

A glorious, cool 54 degrees this morning after the cold front passed!  The long shadows of September mornings that reach over most of the fields, even mid-morning, this time of year makes us aware that the season is really changing.

While our focus is on planting and cultivating the cool season crops we are keeping a very close eye on Hurricane Irma and where she might go.  None of the scenarios being considered are good news short of an abrupt turn out to sea.  We are certainly preparing for a good amount of rain and at least winds in the 20 mph range on Monday and Tuesday but ready to batten down more if it changes.  We already uncovered the tomato Big Tops and will at least uncover half of the other set of Big Tops, partly it is that time of year and the rest is just in case.

Otherwise we are into one of the best parts of the year with great working conditions in the high clear light and pleasant temperatures.  The little tunnels are completing their turn over from summer crops to cool season planting.  The big planting of tomatoes will be pulled out over the next week too.  Soil samples have been taken so that the end of the month we can begin all of the winter soil and cover crop work.  It all starts to run fast now, have to enjoy it while we can.

Picture of the Week


Tomato Big Tops uncovered waiting on the sun

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #27, 8/31/17

What’s been going on!

Second Labor Day weekend in a row with the remnants of a tropical storm passing by and bringing rain on Market day.  Last year it was Hermine, this year Harvey.  What bit of rain that we might get will not slow us down at market and is nothing compared to what has happened in Texas.  We feel deeply for the people in and around Houston, for what they are going through now and what lies ahead.  We lived in Houston in the early ‘70’s and experienced several floods but nothing on the scale they have been through in the last week.  Send help their way, whatever you can do.

We have been getting quite a bit done in advance of the rain coming in today by picking all the peppers yesterday as well as planting yet more fall crops.  The peak of fall planting occurs for us right around Labor Day, especially fall lettuces which all need to be in the ground by mid-September and if we get behind there is no catching up.  With the days getting shorter fast, it is a matter of enough daylight to grow the plants to maturity before both the short days and cool temperatures bring growth to a halt.  The rain will water them in nicely.

Only three weeks until the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s fall Harvest Dinner on September 21st.  A fun community event and fundraiser for the market.  Supported by over many local restaurants who each prepare a dish for the potluck style dinner.  It is always enjoyable to visit with people not in the shopping scrum of Saturday morning over a meal.  Get your tickets while they last!

Picture of the Week


Kyle mulching collards with the pepper field behind

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #26, 8/24/17

What’s been going on!

Time for the big seasonal reset and we are ready for it!  It was a good time for us to take off as the weather was so grizzly but it has now broken for at least a week and we have a lot to do!  Everyone had a good break and rest in the various places we all escaped to, including total eclipse watching.  I, for one, will say that the eclipse was very cool and I was glad that I made the effort to see it but it did not change my life and I will not be chasing them around the world.

Fall crops continue to go in the ground and the obligatory cultivation, irrigating and other duties that happen with them are on the top of the to do list.  Time to mow down the summer cover crops that remain and pull soil samples for testing so we can be ready the end of September for the big annual soil preparation.

As usual the big focus is all about peppers.  We have a huge harvest to do tomorrow as they have hung on the plants for nearly two weeks and there are a lot of ripe fruit!  There is also some tying up and other plant management to do but we are getting ready for the first big roasting day on Saturday and the weather looks perfect!

Picture of the Week


A wall of sweet Corno di Toro peppers

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #25, 8/3/17

What’s been going on!

Close enough to taste, elusive enough to seem like a mirage, summer break.  After 29 straight weeks at market for the three of us and 20 for Kyle and Laura we are all looking forward to some time off.  As we have done the past few years starting after this Saturdays market Betsy and I will be “off” for two weeks.  That mostly means no markets and some more random wanderings but still some meetings and conference calls etc.

Jennie and company will solder on through next week with major fall crop planting and Wednesday market.  IF there are enough tomatoes they may also go to Saturday market on the 12th but I wouldn’t hold my breath.  After that they are off to various places to escape the heat and recharge the batteries for fall.  We have given the staff a week off with pay for years for these reasons and after a long hot summer season.  Jennie, Betsy and I will keep the greenhouse watered and the crops irrigated but little else productive will happen.  We will return to market on August 26th full of vim, vigor and the pepper roaster!

Betsy and I will start our vacation participating in a tomato cooking class at A Southern Season on Sunday the 6th.  Obviously a bit late in the season we will once again be working with our friend and tomato guru Craig LeHoullier of Cherokee Purple fame and Caitlin Burke.  Always a fun discussion of all things tomatoes and great food from Caitlin.  Tickets still available I believe.  Otherwise we will see you in a few weeks!

Picture of the Week


The last of the glorious cool mornings, peppers waiting

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #24, 7/27/17

What’s been going on!

As we have said before, we have never used this newsletter for political discussion as we feel its intent is to let you all know about life on the farm and what it takes to do this thing we love but this is a different time and this Republican attack on everyone’s healthcare is now an existential threat to Peregrine Farm.  So this is not a discussion, we are requesting that you call our lame Senators right now and daily, all week, and tell them to vote no and to work with the Democrats to come up with real solutions to health insurance and healthcare  for all.  Call Sen Burr 202 224 3154 and Sen Tillis 202 224 6342.

You may have health insurance from your workplace but many of the employees in those restaurants you go to, the fishermen who catch the fish you love, the construction workers who fix your house and the farmers that grow your food do not, or won’t if the Republicans pass any of their plans.  We also expect you to get everyone you know to do the same and to work hard in the next elections to elect representatives that will actually represent their constituents, regardless of party.

Otherwise a standard midsummer week with lots of mowing to do, the first bits of fall plantings going in the ground and lots of seeding of fall crops in the greenhouse.  Tomato harvest twice a week and the increasing pepper harvest too.  Hiding out in the shade in the afternoons biding our time until our summer break in a few weeks.

Picture of the Week



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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #23, 7/20/17

What’s been going on!

Into the furnace we go, had to happen sooner or later this summer and most appropriate the third week of July which is statistically the hottest of the year.  We are starting at 7:00 these mornings to beat a bit of heat and are out of the field by noon everyday.  You all stay cool.

I gave a fun talk yesterday to a group of Triangle Farmers’ Markets market managers some of whom are struggling with how to make their markets more sustainable and they were interested in how we manage to do it at Carrboro.  Most new and small markets have very part time managers (like 10 hours a week) who have a hard time in building a market and market community.

For some reason I have become the unofficial historian of the Carrboro Market and did a deep dive into the chronology of how the market developed and critical points along the way.  Now I will admit that Carrboro has had the benefit of 39 seasons to organically develop policies and solutions to problems that are common to most markets and that our success is in no small part due to the amazing customer base we have.

I do point to two original concepts that help make Carrboro more resilient and innovative.  First when the Town gave governance of the market to the farmers instead of a group of towns folks it instilled a sense of ownership and responsibility that most vendors at markets do not have.  Farmer run and farmer controlled, making decisions that make sense for the members not the economic development folks.

The second I have talked about many times before.  Carrboro is the only market that requires the owner of the business to be there selling, this further deepens that ownership and pride of the market.  When you just have an employee selling for you they don’t observe things that go on at market the same way, they don’t interact with the managers or the other vendors the same way, they don’t serve on committees or the board to help improve how the market operates.  We have 80 plus small entrepreneurs all contributing ideas and solutions that make the market cooperative better that in turn benefits their individual businesses.

The result has been a thriving market place for the farmers, a gathering place for the Town of Carrboro and an important part of the economic engine for downtown Carrboro.  We know we are fortunate to have such a market and never take it for granted.

Picture of the Week


Our first year at the old market, 32 years was a long time ago!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #22, 7/12/17

What’s been going on!

Tomato week #2, at least there is something refreshing as the true brunt of summer heat and humidity weigh down on us.  Tonight is our wine dinner with Glasshalfull in Carrboro.  A summer infused menu starting with tomatoes and ending with basil ice cream.  Come join us in the AC, tickets still available.

Starting Friday and going thru Monday is ACME’s 16th annual Tomato Festival where the entire menu is taken over by and bathed with tomatoes.  Kevin and company estimate they will go through 700 pounds of tomatoes.  While not all of them are from us, whew!, we did deliver the first 60 pounds yesterday and will probably take them another 100 pound plus this week.  The final event is their Tomato Festival Wine dinner on Monday night.

If you can’t make any of those our tomatoes are heavy on the menus at Pizzeria Mercato who just re-opened after their summer break, Elaine’s On Franklin and Pazzo in Southern Village.  Maybe a bit less prominent but in the mix at Oakleaf in Pittsboro, just back from their summer break too and the Eddy Pub in Saxapahaw.  Of course you can just come to market today or Saturday and take tomatoes home to hide out in your own AC and quietly enjoy them there.  Stay cool!

Picture of the Week


Limelight Hydrangeas reaching for the sky

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #21, 7/6/17

What’s been going on!

The peak of tomato season and Tomato Day at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market is Saturday!  Lots of tomatoes to sample, a raffle, music and more.  Don’t miss it!  In honor of the week I bring you an updated version of a tomato related newsletter from a decade ago.

This is the great reward after months of careful tending.  It is always fun to introduce the new staff to the different varieties and their nuances of flavor and ripening habits.  Every Monday and Thursday we spend the mornings picking the 2000 feet of row.  Everyone becomes a specialist in certain varieties.

Kyle is in charge of reds, learning to not pick them too green as they take forever to get fully ripe and can hang on the plants longer than all the others.  Only unblemished Italian sauce tomatoes are put in the box, no “freaks” with them.  The German Johnsons are much more tender so he has to change gears when he gets to them.

Laura is the Heirloom queen this season with hundreds of feet of row to pick and sort, some of them have the most difficult stems to remove without damaging the fruit and sometimes one must resort to using needle nosed pliers to pull them off.  Starting with the monster Striped Germans, so large that it takes two hands to pick them, carefully extracting them from between the vines and the trellis wires trying to not scar them.  The tender skinned yellow Azoychkas and next the Kellogg’s Breakfast.  Moving to the green-when-ripes, interpreting if it still green or if it has just enough golden cast to it to be picked.  Jennie usually takes on the tiny Sungold cherries. Blush, Black Cherries and more while making sure the picking and sorting is going well.

Bucket after bucket is brought to the back of the truck where each fruit is inspected and wiped with a cloth, sorted into three boxes by color and quality or set aside in the “have to eat today pile”.  The knife comes out as we get the first of the new varieties and slices are sampled between cleaning tomatoes.  Surprise at a high acid yellow tomato, amazement at the beauty of the interior of the bi-colored ones with red swirls through the fruity flavored yellow flesh, the reassuring solid full flavor of a Cherokee Purple, popping Sun Golds as one walks by the row that has them.

Finally finished we slowly drive the load down to the packing shed and the air conditioning to keep them from ripening too fast.  Stacks of boxes by variety and ripeness are built, long rows that run around the room.  Finally bags are filled with the “have to eat today” fruit and the staff heads home, stained a sticky green from rubbing up against the tomato foliage, talking about tomato sandwiches, salsa and gazpacho for lunch and dinner.  Life is good.

Picture of the Week

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A packing shed bursting with tomatoes

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