Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #13, 5/16/18

What’s been going on!

Looks like a long gray week, hard to tell how much rain we will actually get but we have to at least plan like we might only be able to do certain jobs on the farm.  Jennie and crew hit it hard Monday and Tuesday trying to get as many dry jobs done as possible.  Cultivating while the soil is dry and ideal for weed killing, planting before the rains, pruning tomatoes, a job not to be done on wet days for disease purposes and more.  At least it will not be as hot as it has been.

The last big planting project of spring happens this coming week, pepper time.  In another nod to the impending wet weather we did the final tillage on the beds that we cover with landscape fabric and then laid that fabric so we will be ready to plant next week.  Those beds are only half of the pepper field as we the plant the rest into untilled soil covered with a huge cover crop mulch of rye and hairy vetch.  That half we will prepare next week after the rains which will make the soil much easier to plant into.

While the season has been delayed with all the cool weather, the heat of the last week has gone a long way towards playing catch up and this week’s harvest will be a big one that will have to be done around the rains and hopefully not in the rain.  Cool weather makes for beautiful cool season vegetables so we have to hope for a few more weeks of moderate temperatures to pick the best out of the field.

Picture of the Week

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Maybe the best Sugar Snap Pea crop we have ever grown

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #12, 5/9/18

What’s been going on!

Well the packing shed project was completed last week and a coat of stain rolled on it too.  With it all tucked up before the weekend rains I slipped off to the mountains for one last hiking trip before the leaves were on the trees up there.  Leafless above 3500 feet and the wildflowers were really getting ready to put on a show.

Back home and my morning walk around the farm showed that the crops are really jumping and Jennie (and crew) are doing a great job in both planting and keeping everything really clean.  There is a lot of beautiful produce ready to roll out of the fields this week to the market and even more shortly behind that.

The big planting of tomatoes, which has been in the ground for two weeks, has turned the deep green they get once their roots have really taken hold and are being feed by the rich soil we prepared for them, with the warm weather coming this week they will really begin to grow.  The early planting already has lots of small fruits set and are equally vigorous.  Even though this spring has been odd, late and cool the farm has never looked better at this time of year!

Pictures of the Week

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Jennie and crew harvesting for Wednesday market

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #11, 5/2/18

What’s been going on!

We made it to May, a glorious week and things are beginning to move.  As director of maintenance and soil management I have been busing on both fronts.  We have had a backlog of building repairs that I have been slowly working on, partly waiting for conducive weather conditions.   A few weeks ago I replaced some weather beaten siding and replaced some decayed wood on the passive solar greenhouse and then rolled a coat of stain on the whole structure.

This week I have torn into the side of the packing shed to do the same resuscitation from too much water hitting the side of the building.  Once finished we will have gutters installed to correct the problem.  There are three or so other similar repair/replace projects on the list for some time this year and then I will have been around all the buildings and that should hold them for another 20 years.

On the soils front we have some beautiful cover crops at or near peak growth so it is time to mow them down and get ready for the cash crops that will follow or plant yet another soil improving cover crop for the summer.  In a perfect world we wait until the legumes are at least at half full bloom when they have pulled all the free nitrogen out of the air and it fixed into the plants themselves.  We are about a week past that point with the crimson clover and about two weeks away for the hairy vetch.  Happy soils.

Don’t forget to vote this week in the primary!

Pictures of the Week

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Packing shed surgery

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 Awesome crimson clover at full bloom

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #10, 4/25/18

What’s been going on!

Bam! And it’s green, even on a gray day the intensity of the new leaves is staggering.  A long damp period but it looks like it will finally turn starting Saturday for a beautiful week to come.  Sometimes it is difficult to find enough work to keep the staff busy at times like this but not this week.

Two big projects that actually benefit from cloudy conditions happen this week.  The first was the culmination of a week of activities, the big tomato planting.  It starts with covering the Big Tops and the final soil preparation, then running out the drip lines and covering the beds with landscape fabric.  144 metal T-posts are then driven and the fence trellis is hung to support the plants as they grow.  All that happened last week but we waited until the really cold weather passed to plant.  Monday was a perfect day with overcast but warm conditions and no wind means no stress on the plants as they get used to their new home.

There is always the weekly seeding in the greenhouse to do but the real job this week is moving the 3000 pepper seedlings up into bigger containers for their last month before going into the field.  We start so many seeds that space in the germination box is at a premium so we start them in tiny cells and then move the best looking ones up.  Again a cloudy day is perfect to help them overcome the stress of being pulled out of one container and tucked into another.  Don’t get me wrong, we will be happy to see the sun return but sometimes it’s okay to be cloudy.

Pictures of the Week

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Life in a Beech grove

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Peas and Onions like this weather too

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #9, 4/18/18

What’s been going on!

Another sad passing and tick of the clock.  Sunday there was a huge gathering of the friends and community of Tony Kleese to celebrate his life and accomplishments.  Tony died way too young after a short battle with cancer but also after a life full of commitment to building a better agricultural system which you can read about here.

Tony was not quite as old as many of us old rats in the sustainable ag barn but quickly jumped in and became involved in so many areas.  We first met around 1989 when he was starting a farm east of Raleigh and we went to see it on a farm tour.  That farm did not succeed and he also farmed in the mountains for a while but he quickly learned that the best use of his energies was to organize and teach farmers.

We worked together on many projects over the years including the Board of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Assoc., teaching classes at and helping to form the Central Carolina Community College Sustainable Ag program, teaching workshops around the southeast together and he was the one who coaxed me into going to Jamaica to work with his Jamaica Sustainable Farm Enterprise project.  He even worked for us here on the farm for a short while in the early 90’s.

As many of us who, mostly inadvertently, helped lead the way to a more local and sustainable food system begin to age out or pass on it becomes ever more apparent just how fortunate we are in the southeast and particularly in North Carolina to have such a foundation of farmers, non-profits, researchers, organizers, markets and eaters who began to come together in the 80’s and work towards change.  Tony was certainly in that vanguard and will be sorely missed but his energy and spirt will live on.

Picture of the Week

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Classic Tony (in the middle) working with Jamaican farmers

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #8, 4/11/18

What’s been going on!

First day of the Wednesday market for the 2018 season is today, 3:00-6:00, it looks to be a beautiful afternoon.  The mid-week market run by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Farmers’ Markets, Inc. (that is our official name) has been at the Town Commons since 1997.  There has always been a mid-week market but it has moved both locations and days over the years and until 1997, was the Chapel Hill part of the equation.

The first location was at East Gate shopping center and was held on Thursdays from 1982-1986 and was a good market but the Food Lion grocery store began to object so it was moved to behind Mariakakis restaurant for two years until a better location could be found.  With the development of East Chapel Hill High School and the Cedar Falls Park across the street it was moved to the park in 1989 where at first it was on Thursdays but eventually moved to Tuesdays.  The mid-week market never really recovered from all the moves and when the Saturday market moved to its beautiful permanent location in 1996 we asked the Town of Carrboro if we could have a mid-week market there too.

We waited a year so we could settle the Saturday market into the new Town Commons properly before we brought the mid-week market over and became an all Carrboro channel.  The market organization did briefly operate the Southern Village market on Thursdays from 2004-2009, marking the return to a Chapel Hill location but it proved  not be a strong market so we once again consolidated our efforts back at the Town Commons.  Now 22 years later the Wednesday market continues to be a solid, if modest market day, with a great selection of vendors and products.  See you there!

Picture of the Week

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Some bodacious, tender and sweet spinach heading to market

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #7, 4/7/28

What’s been going on!

Roller coaster, up and down, feast or famine however you want to describe the spring weather would be accurate.  For weeks we were too wet to even get soil prepared but we managed and are actually right on schedule as far as planting goes but behind harvest wise due to the unusually cool March temperatures.

Then the winds of March arrived and finally some warmer days and we became dry enough to have to set up the irrigation. So last week was water week, prime the pump, flush out the thousands of feet of underground pipe leading to the fields, pull out the headlines and hook up them up to the valves, roll out the sprinklers and drip lines…  It is always this way but we hope to go as long as possible before having to put out the irrigation lines, just more stuff in the way of tractor work and cultivation and another system to check.  Leaks always leaks.

Same with all the row covers for plant protection, we had rolled all those up too so we could get in and cultivate and set up the irrigation but will need to pull a few back out to cover the really sensitive crops for Saturday nights plunging temperatures, just the tomatoes, early peppers and basil but still another one step forward, one step back dance move of spring.  In a while we will be complaining about the heat!

Picture of the Week

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A dew covered Cherokee Purple plant warm inside the tunnel

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #6, 3/30/18

What’s been going on!

Forty springs means a lot of produce and flowers have passed through the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.  Yes this year is the Market’s 40th season!  It is sometimes hard to imagine that a group of farmers could consistently organize themselves and set up every Saturday for that many years and do it so well.  Now Peregrine Farm hasn’t been there from the beginning, we are only in our 33rd year, but we can completely appreciate the effort that has gone into starting and building the institution that the Carrboro Market is.

For those who don’t remember, our first 17 years were in the parking lot on Roberson St. behind the Armadillo Grill.  That location was just leased from Carr Mill and when they decided they might sell it we worked closely with the Town to find a new permanent home for what had become an essential element in the fabric of the Town of Carrboro.  We knew that we needed to stay near Downtown but a location could be hard to find.  Fortunately the old ball field next to Town Hall (which used to be the elementary school) was available to become a town park.  It took nearly eight years from the first discussions, through design meetings, to fund raising efforts and finally construction before we moved to the Town Commons in 1996.

I was President of the market Board leading up to and during the move and we were ecstatic with our new permanent home.  It was a tight fit as we had grown to an 80 space market but working with the Town it all worked out.  23 years later I am once again President of the board as we prepare to move back into the newly renovated market space after 5 long winter months.  The improvements are vast.  One of the biggest goals was to improve the drainage and grass so that it does not become a muddy moonscape after rains.  They have buried huge drain pipes and graded in such a way to catch all the water.  The grassed areas under where vendor’s trucks and displays will be have been reinforced with a special grid to hopefully prevent wear and tear.  New water permeable walkways, a bathroom building, new playground and market storage building, new lighting and electrical hookups for the vendors that need power.   Refurbished shelters and gazebo to make it all more usable for special events both for the Market and other Town events.  It will be awesome!

Technically the construction is done this week but we cannot move onto the new grass until April 14th so that it has adequate time to become solidly rooted and can take truck traffic.  Until then the good news is that the new parking lots will be open as well as the bathroom building.  We will be able to park some vendors in the south side parking lot and near the playground but will probably still have a few folks in the main parking lot next to Town Hall.

Just as our amazing customers and market supporters followed us from Roberson Street to the Town Commons 23 years ago, we have been equally proud and appreciative of how they have been flexible and unfazed during this renovation chaos!  It is only a short time now and just in time for the blooming of the spring market.  Join us next week April 7th for the official ribbon cutting ceremony at 9:00 a.m.

Picture of the Week

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The ground breaking for building the Town Commons in 1995, Alex on the left was 15 😉

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #5, 3/23/18

What’s been going on!

 First week of Spring, really.  Looks like after another round of snow flurries this weekend, the forecasters are threatening 70 degrees on Wednesday!  It is always hard to get full work weeks in this time of year when the weather is so uncooperative and cold.  Only so much fence maintenance, mulching and chainsaw work to do.  Once it warms up and dries out some there is always more to do with the crops in the field as planting and growth all speed up.

Today is tunnel sliding day for the earliest tomato planting.  I always feel that once we slide those tunnels over the prepared beds and trellises and get those plants in the ground then spring is really here, despite what the weather is doing.  Maybe it is just the thought of finally eating a good tomato again after nine long months.

We have been sliding these tunnels for over 20 years now and there is always a lot to do leading up to the actual moving including getting a few extra people here to help.  Back when Betsy and I were younger we could do it with only four people but these days it takes six, not sure what that means?  We are talking about starting to replace the old tunnels beginning this fall with new models that are easier to move, better technology for old and young bodies.

Picture of the Week

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Jennie with a big pile of mulch on a cold morning being moved to the Blueberry field

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #4, 3/16/18

What’s been going on!

Good trip to New Orleans the beginning of the week and the focused meeting of experienced cut flower growers was an interesting look at where people are in their operations and in planning for the future.  For the most part we are much farther down the road in that planning than anyone else who was in the room and our talk about what we are doing with Jennie was well received.

Back at the farm the staff has started working more each week with this past week really the true beginning of their season. We almost always start them with getting ready for planting the early tomatoes in the sliding tunnels.  While they have helped plant onions and early lettuce, some pruning and mulching of blueberries it is the bed preparation and building tomato trellis that really marks the full emersion into the Peregrine Farm style of production.

Starting with two new people takes a bit more time but Lacee and Jacob are jumping in with enthusiasm and picking it all up quickly.  Both have worked on some other farms but come from two different back grounds, Lacee more from the restaurant world and Jacob from academia having just graduated from NCSU with a masters in Agroecology.  Together we should once again have a great team this year!

Picture of the Week

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Jacob and Lacee putting down landscape fabric

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