Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #4, 2/21/19 The Big Reveal

Peregrine Farm 7.0, or as we joke, back under really old management.

My father, who was a keen observer of life, always said that you had to reinvent yourself every so often.  By our loose thinking we have done so with Peregrine Farm about every 6 years or so. From all Pick-Your-Own berries to vegetables and cut flowers sold at Wholesale and Farmers’ Market.  From only Betsy on the farm full time to both of us with employees.  Reducing the emphasis on wholesale to really focusing on the Farmers’ Market.  Turkeys and the Big Tops.  Bringing Jennie on as a business partner.  All big changes in both direction and to “the brand”.  7.0 is the next re-jiggering, as my father would have also said, is probably the most dramatic since getting out of the Pick-Your-Own business.

If you read previous farm transition pieces closely you know that our original plan, before Jennie, was to eventually downsize to where just the two of us could do the work, go to Farmers’ Market only part of the year and become old characters at market (we may have already attained the last part) and that is what we are doing.  There are points of no return with this plan and we are fine with that.  The two big ones are getting so small that there is not enough work to actually hire help and giving up one of our two spaces at the market because we will not have enough product to fill two spaces and won’t be there enough weeks to qualify to have two spaces (27 weeks).

When Jennie made her decision last June we began to draw up the new plan.  It had to revolve around farming in the cooler months as both of us have gotten to where we don’t tolerate the heat well anymore and we wanted a large chunk of time off for travel and to enjoy life while we are still in good shape.  We have to attend market at least 17 weeks a year to hold one reserved space which is the key to us being successful.  While the “cooler months” do include fall and winter the difficulties of producing enough, consistently, in those seasons are too many.  We would focus on late winter, spring- when the growing conditions are the best and the very early bit of summer.

We also knew that we couldn’t grow every crop that we had in the past, so as pragmatic business people we did a deep dive into our data to determine which ones really paid the bills and how much of it we really needed to produce to meet market demand.  This also meant giving up crops that either didn’t carry their weight, didn’t grow easily on this piece of land or we just didn’t like growing.  The years of experimentation were over, we were going to only grow the tried and true.

In the downsizing we would limit ourselves to only a half an acre, a big change from the 2 to 2.5 acres we had been producing for the last decade or more with four to five people.  This is one quarter acre outdoors and one quarter acre under the cover of the little sliding tunnels.  We are moving from being small farmers to large gardeners.

So what does all this look like?  Our market season will start in February and run about 20 weeks until the 4th of July, Independence Day.  Our growing season of course starts earlier with a few things going in the ground in October and November but the greenhouse and planting really starts in earnest in December.  As you can see now at market it starts with Anemones soon to be followed by Ranunculus and other spring flowers.  Cool season vegetables will focus on lettuces with other greens and salad turnips and radishes.  Warm season vegetables will be limited to the very early cucumbers, basil and tomatoes.

Most significantly the days of big tomatoes and peppers are over.  The Big Tops (Haygrove field scale tunnels) that have allowed us to consistently grow large amounts of tomatoes have been taken down and sold, they are just too big for us to manage without employees and would mean too much tomato work in the heat of the summer.  We are going from 1300 plants down to 260 that will give us tomatoes in June.

The single biggest change will be no more peppers for market and no more pepper roasting.  We are thinking about coming for a few weeks in September just to roast peppers for people who purchase them from other vendors at market.  This is the one crop we really hate to stop producing for market but it is the most time consuming crop and during the hottest months, as they are in the ground from May until November.

So there it is, Plan B.  One of the reasons that Betsy and I became farmers in the first place was to be able control our as much of our own destiny as possible by working for ourselves, producing our own food and building our surrounds and this is just a continuation of that determination.  We know that you will embrace this next evolution of Peregrine Farm too!

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Holy cow! The sun came out.  This is now the scope of Peregrine Farm

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #39, 12/21/18 The Winter Solstice edition

What’s been going on! 

The first day of winter, woohoo!  Yet again a gray and wet day as we are on our way to or have eclipsed already the wettest year ever recorded depending on the weather station you look at.  We are well ready for this season to be finished.  When I left two weeks ago I had no idea that we would get 11 inches of snow plus rain and ice.  I felt guilty as Betsy was home doing a great job of keeping the little tunnels cleaned off and the power went out for a day and a half.  Just to cap off the year.

A good walk in the desert and time to reflect on where we have been and where Peregrine Farm is going.  Despite the crazy weather season it has been a pretty good year thanks to the dedicated folks we work with and to all of you who support us no matter how bad the conditions at market might be or sometimes how irregular the harvest might seem.  We are grateful for such a brilliant community.

We are appreciative of the time we have spent with Jennie and honored to be able to continue to work this beautiful and productive piece of the earth.  We really hope to see you tomorrow at market to wish you a warm and enjoyable Holiday season.  If not we will see you sooner than it seems in February!

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The bones of the farm, ready for winter

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #38, 12/5/18

What’s been going on! 

Three more markets and then the 2018 season will be in the books.  Of course the 2019 season is already underway with flower bulbs in the ground and flats of lettuce up in the greenhouse.  We spent parts of the last two days preparing beds in the first of the sliding tunnels to be planted and next week the first lettuce plants will go in to hopefully be ready for mid February.  The 38th year of growing for Peregrine Farm has started.

Looks like a really cold and damp stretch ahead with high temperatures hardly rising above 50 degrees for nearly 10 days and maybe snow on Sunday and or Monday?  Colder than we have been used to lately and more like December used to be years ago.  This is when we are happy to have crops growing undercover in their little terrariums.  Our days now have a steady beat of opening and closing tunnels, covering and uncovering crops.

No newsletter next week as Alex will be out walking in the desert.  Look for Betsy and Jennie at market with the last beautiful produce of the season.  We will all be there on Dec. 22nd for our last market of this year and to wish you all a happy holiday.

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A blustery day with the last of the outdoor crops covered for the impending cold

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #37, 11/30/18

What’s been going on!

Was Thanksgiving only a week ago?  Seems like a lot more living than that has occurred in the last 7 days!  We hope you all had a great holiday and are ready to go because here comes December and before we know it will be Christmas.

Some really cold mornings here this week in the low 20’s but we have been able to take advantage of the warm afternoons to get some seasonal work done.  A few weeks ago we planted the anemone and ranunculus bulbs into beds that we had prepared in advance, before all of that crazy rain.  Today we pulled the sliding tunnels over them to warm them up and get them growing.

Of course there is always some repair/maintenance that has to be done with those tunnels before we can move them.  Only 5 boards had to be replaced this time for the two tunnels but there will be more I am sure before we move the other four in March but for now everything is in good shape for closing things up tight when the really cold weather arrives.

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The new wood being installed.  This tunnel will slide off the lettuce and over the anemones at the far end.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #36, 11/19/18

What’s been going on! 

Just a quick reminder and clarification newsletter.  We look forward to seeing you tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, from 3:00 to 5:00 at the Pre-Thanksgiving market.  We have it on Tuesdays so folks can avoid the last minute madness that happens on Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  The weather looks beautiful although a bit breezy.

We will not be at market Saturday after the holiday so the next time we will see you it will be December!  If we don’t have a chance to speak tomorrow have a great, safe, and delicious Thanksgiving!

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Plenty of beautiful Lettuce for Thanksgiving!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #35, 11/15/18 Thanksgiving

What’s been going on!

Holy crap!  Enough with the rain already, we are over 5 inches for this week.  Of course the Haw River backed up into the bottom for the third or fourth time this year, so many I have lost count!  Starting tomorrow it looks to be dry for at least ten days but with below normal temperatures.  We will take that because we have two markets coming up and lots to do.

Best food week of the year in front of us and despite the weather we still have a fair amount of delicious produce for the holiday tables.  Not only will we be at Saturday market as always with a full table but don’t forget the Tuesday Thanksgiving market from 3:00-5:00!  The weather looks great for both days.

The last Farm to Fork event of the year is coming up on Dec. 6th and it will be just outside of Chapel Hill at Lavender Oaks Farm.  This is part of our Sustainable Speaker series and we are really pleased that this year it is our friend John T. Edge the Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance.  The ticket includes dinner from eight different chefs and will be a really tasty and inspiring evening, get your tickets while you can.

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 This is the creek just below our house and it has already gone down 3 feet!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #34, 11/8/18

What’s been going on?

So it looks like the first killing freeze of the season is finally going to hit us on Saturday night, only a few weeks later than usual.  The National Weather Service is calling for 28 degrees at the farm, it usually takes 27 or 28 degrees to finally kill the warm season crops like peppers or the toughest of warm season weeds.

I can say that to a person the market farmers are more than ready for this stage of the growing season to be over with.  Universally everyone we talk to has had a difficult growing year with generally too much water and erratic weather.   Following 2017, which was a banner year, it has made it even harder to work through the strangeness of 2018.

That doesn’t mean we are done for the year, the crops left in the ground now are solidly established and short of (which I should probably not even whisper) an extreme dip into really cold weather should all be happy to the end.  We are hoping for a least a few weeks of mildish weather to complete some projects that we just didn’t get to earlier in the season when it was just too ugly to contemplate starting them.  Fall always seems to tumble down this way.

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A radiant fall day

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #33, 11/1/18 the Italy edition

What’s been going on!

 Whew!  We are back and it has taken most of the week to recover from the return travel.  Another great trip to Italy where we had the best weather of any of our times there.  We started with five nights southeast of Turin in the Barolo wine country where we visited several large markets

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and ate some fantastic meals all with variations on the Piedmontse style of cooking which typically includes lots of raw beef, very fine pastas, hazelnuts and of course peppers.

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We then moved east to Emilia-Romanga for three nights where we saw several more markets and a few museums and had great meals in Modena, Parma and in the countryside.  There the food is centered on hams, prosciutto and parmesan cheese along with excellent pastas.

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After dropping the Barkers at the airport Betsy and I went back down to Turin to visit with our farm friends who we have not seen in five years.  They of course gathered the whole clan for a typical dinner with 17 people.  Exhausted from so much good eating we made our way back home.

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Jennie of course did a great job of running the farm while we were gone including the final pick of the pepper field and the taking down of all of the pepper support and removal of the plants.  There was a frost while we were gone, not cold enough to really kill warm season plants but definitely low enough to mark the end of their production.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #32, 10/10/18

What’s been going on! 

A lot going on the next few weeks.  First we are ready for the next tropical storm rains coming today and tomorrow.  Greens are being picked this morning to spare them the bruising from heavy rain and splashing soil, peppers can wait until Friday.  The little tunnels are closed down just in case we get higher wind gusts than expected.  The good news is that this storm is moving fast and by Friday afternoon the sun will be out and I am seeing 49 degrees as the low for Friday night!  Definitely the silver lining.

Saturday will be the unveiling of the Carrboro Farmers’ Markets mini-museum celebrating the 40th season.  We had hoped to have it up a few weeks ago but hurricane Florence side tracked us a bit.  We are very excited about the timeline and all the pictures and documents that go along with it.  Our biggest market supporter Kelly Clark of Laser Image Printing and Marketing has worked very closely with us on all of it and it will be fantastic.  The Gazebo at market will be turned into the timeline museum this Saturday, make sure that you check it out and it will be a beautiful fall day!

No newsletter for the next two weeks as Betsy and I will be in Italy with our friends the Barkers.  Never enough research can be done on Italian crops and food.  Betsy says we will be on the red wine and prosciutto cleanse.  This time we are going back to the Piedmont and then over to Emilia-Romagna.  There is a farmers’ market every day to be explored along with seed stores.  I hope that we can make it to the Tomato Museum near Parma.  We will finish with a visit with our Italian farm family near Turin.  So look for Jennie and the crew on Saturdays and if you need anything don’t hesitate to send an email as all three of us will see it.  I will post pictures on Facebook and Instagram too.

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The little tunnels all closed up for the impending storm

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #31, 10/4/18

What’s been going on! 

Welcome to Augtober as they called it on the news this morning.  While it is not unusual to have temperatures in to the high 80’s well into October the average high for us at the farm is more like the mid 70’s.  Fall will come, fall will come, fall will come soon we hope.

We do have the late mornings and low angle light of fall.  The day length drops over 2 minutes a day through the month of October losing a whole hour of light by the time November arrives, it is an amazing change to both people and crops.  The last of the fall crops are going into the ground this week, lettuces and radishes for December, with the lettuces in the sliding tunnels to protect their growth as the temperatures eventually drop.

In the next few weeks we will begin planting and seeding crops for next spring, over wintered flowers like Larkspur and Sweet William and bulbs like Anemones and Ranunculus.  Despite the current high temperatures, effectively the 2018 season is now being wrapped up with no new crops going into the soil.  It is all about cultivation, which is less as the weeds are slower to grow not too, and harvest for market.  Fall is here by the calendar if nothing else.

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The last of the lettuces going in the ground on a dark morning

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