Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #29, 9/20/18, Post Hurricane Florence

What’s been going on!

Another storm unlike any other.  While we were spared the worst of it, there are many people down east who were not, including farming friends of ours.  There will be a lot of money raised, donations and time given but most of the farming community will not be the focus of all that generosity.  Our friends at the Rural Advancement Foundation International are already working on helping farmers in the disaster area and need your donations to support their work.  This is one of the main things that RAFI does, come to the aid of farmers in crisis and assist them through all the red tape involved when their farms are in danger of being lost.

Our damage has been limited to just too much rain, nearly 8 inches with the 4 inches Sunday night and Monday morning sending the creeks and the Haw River way over their banks but that is not news to most people especially in Orange and Durham counties.  Jennie and I did a field walk this morning and some crops look better than others with the lettuces that were almost ready to harvest looking hard hit and beginning to bolt or go to seed, which is a reaction to stress.  Time will tell how the other crops respond but the peppers still look good.

The Haw River came way out of its banks and was supposed to crest somewhere near 26 feet but the gauge failed so it is hard to know exactly.  If it did get that high it would be the 8th highest ever recorded and the deepest since hurricane Fran.  It completely filled our bottom field and was certainly in the top 3 or 4 floods we have seen down there.  We had pulled the irrigation pump and there were not crops down there so fortunately for us really no damage.  Let’s hope fall will settle down and be pleasant.

Pictures of the Week

IMG_20180917_163943 Near high tide, it came up another 2 feet from this point

IMG_20180920_083652This is where the irrigation pump normally sits, the water was over the meter, neck deep, if you look close you can see the bathtub ring on the trees

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #28, 9/12/18

What’s been going on!

So now we wait.  All the storm preparations that we can do have been done.  The Big Tops have been uncovered.  The irrigation pump has been brought up the hill.  Everything that could possibly blow around has been gathered up and stowed in the workshop.  All the transplants have been moved into the greenhouse and all vehicles are gassed up and will be parked out in the field.  The chainsaw is tested and ready to go.  The staff is out picking peppers to store in the walk in cooler.  The last project will be to clamp the little tunnels down tight, probably tomorrow morning.

Like most folks we have been looking for days at Florence’s track and saying hurricane Fran, looks just like Fran but worse.  Those of us who lived through Fran are still scarred by the storm and the work afterwards.  But now, fingers crossed, it is looking like it will move across South Carolina instead.  We will still have winds in the 40 mph range and a lot of rain but hopefully there will not be as many trees down and the power will only be out for a short time.

With the current forecast we do not plan to be at market on Saturday unless there is a radical shift and change.  The weather looks like it will be windy and rainy, been there, done that, we will stay home and keep an eye on all of our buildings, hoping for the best.  We will be thinking about all of you too, best of luck to everyone, be safe.

Picture of the Week


Big Tops bare and tarps weighted down, the lull before the storm 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #27, 9/6/18

What’s been going on!

 The long, low angle of the sun these early days of September is the first indication that fall might be on the way.  Still hot and muggy but the fields stay in the morning shade much longer until the sun finally tops the eastern tree line and then the heat really begins to build and the dew finally burns off. Hopefully in a week or two the cooler and drier weather will finally arrive too.

Haven’t talked much about the Carrboro Farmers’ Markets 40th season and anniversary since my March newsletter but in the coming weeks and months look for more events and things about it.  Two weeks from today, on the 20th, is the 7th Annual Market Harvest Dinner which will kick off the 40th events.  The Harvest Dinner is really our community event to bring both market and towns folks together to break bread and celebrate the ties and relationships the market has forged over the years.  To mark the 40th season the tickets have been reduced to $40 and all the money goes straight to supporting Market programing.

The following Saturday (and maybe for several Saturdays) there will be a mini museum in the Gazebo with a big market timeline with pictures and other artifacts from 40 years.  We hope that folks will also add comments and events to the timeline that they may remember from their years coming to market.  Last Saturday the 40th anniversary T-shirt was released with a beautiful mini timeline and graphics.  Lots to remember and celebrate after all these years!

Picture of the Week


The Ginger is ready, look for it at market this week!

What’s going to be at the market?

Full Pepper production now.  Plenty of Red Bells and some Yellow Bells. Fewer Corno di Toros this week in red, yellow and orange. Sweet Cubanelle, Pimiento, Jimmy Nardelo frying peppers and Spanish Piquillo.  Aji Dulce, the habanero without heat.

In hot peppers Passillas, Fresnos, our own Picante Pimiento, Jalapenos and Serranos.  Nice and meaty early season Anaheims and for the Green Chile fans let us know when you are ready for your volume roasts for the freezer.  A drop in Poblano production this week too.

Plenty of the Shishito and Padron appetizer peppers prepared the same easy with a quick blister in a pan then sprinkled with salt and eaten whole.  Get some of both and do your own comparison.

Lots of Summer Crisp lettuce as well as Red Radishes. Our favorite summer green- Callaloo is nearing the end of its run, the green amaranth that we call Jamaican Spinach and is a quick saute. Maybe the last or our sweet Red Onions, great in every dish.  Fairy Tale Eggplants, the striped Nubia and Italian Heirloom Eggplants too.   Fresh Baby Ginger is back for the fall!

The fall flower department is down to a bit of Crested Celosia and Plume Celosia.

As a reminder if there is anything that you would like for us to hold for you at market just let us know by e-mail, by the evening before, and we will be glad to put it aside for you.  Just so you know, sometimes not everything listed will be at the Wednesday market.

Hope to see you all at the market!

Alex, Betsy and Jennie

If you know folks who you think would be interested in news of the farm then please feel free to forward this to them and encourage them to sign up at the website.

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #26, 8/30/18

What’s been going on!

As we claw our way to September, or more accurately swim through the air, it can’t come soon enough as long as the heat and humidity break soon too.  I think the worst air of the summer has come this week, even more brutal after the delicious weather of last week!

While fall planting has been going on for weeks it really begins to ramp up over the next few weeks with lettuce plantings going in every 4 days along with many other crops too.  This is critical timing because if we miss plantings or the days then the crops may never get to their full size before cold weather sets in.  With the days getting short fast the combination of less light and eventual cooler temperatures will bring their growth to a halt.  Fortunately, other than the heat, the dry weather is allowing us to keep things right on schedule.  What goes in now will be at market in November and December.

In an example of how interconnected our local food system is Lacee will not be with us at market on Saturday because she will be getting ready for her wedding on Sunday!  The connections part is that not only did she work at Oakleaf restaurant, one of our major accounts, but her fiancée is the sous chef there too.  She has worked on several other farms in the area including some at the Carrboro Market and they hope to start her own farm soon.  Sometimes it takes a village to raise a famer.

Picture of the Week


 Fall crops in the ground, many more to come 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #25, 8/22/18

What’s been going on!

OK the rain can stop now!  Fortunately it looks like it will cooperate starting tomorrow.  I have lost track but we are somewhere north of ten inches of rain in the last month.  Luckily we have had enough short dry periods to keep on track with fall planting and in general, while wet, the other crops, especially the peppers are looking pretty good.

Everyone has returned from the August break rested and ready to go for the fall.  Lacee made a few short trips including a run to Knoxville and back.  Jacob made a big loop up to Ohio, over to New York and back.  Jennie made it up to Indiana, Chicago and back.  Betsy and I worked our usual staycation and relaxed quite a bit.

The upcoming weather looks amazing including mid 80’s for Saturday the first day of pepper roasting!  I always dread the first few Saturdays with the roaster as they can be brutally hot but this looks to be maybe the best weather for a first day, ever, in the eleven years we have been doing it.  Remember to come to the stand first to get your peppers into the queue and then when you are finished shopping your roasted peppers will be waiting for you.  If you want a large amount roasted let us know and we will make sure to have them ready for you, they freeze great!

Picture of the Week


Early morning in the pepper patch, waiting for things to dry out

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #24, 8/1/18

What’s been going on!

Whew! Made it to August and the tomatoes are winding down fast and so are we.  Nearly time for our summer break starting Saturday after market!  A bit different schedule this year with Jennie taking the first week off when she will head north to visit family while Betsy and I will be here with Lacee and Jacob finishing up the tomato season.  The second week Jennie will be back to keep an eye on things and do some fall planting while the rest of us disappear.

As usual Betsy and I will mostly just be hiding out and taking day trips but it is a break from market none the less.  If there are enough tomatoes you might see us at market next week but I am pretty sure there won’t be many left.  So today will be our last Wednesday market of the season and we will miss both Saturdays the 11th and the 18th.  We will return, with the pepper roaster, on the 25th and we will be ready for fall!

It is always humorous to us, people who make their living at farmers’ market, that the week we take off always coincides with National Farmers’ Market Week.  That will not preclude all of you from celebrating it and going to your favorite market and supporting the farmers there.  We look forward to seeing you at the world famous Carrboro Farmers’ Market this week and at the end of August.

Picture of the Week


This turtle, feasting on tomatoes in the compost pile, is sad that our tomato season is ending too

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #23, 7/27/18

What’s been going on!

The monsoon rains have given us a few days of reprieve but it looks like a return is slated for the end of the weekend.  Late newsletter this week as I was in Louisiana most of the week training new and beginning farmers.  I would have to say it is more humid here today than it was any day this week down there.

A pretty exhausting two days there as I presented/talked for ten hours and then many more hours of answering questions and general farming discussion, fortunately I did not lose my voice.  This is the third time that LSU has brought me down over the past ten years to help them build their nascent sustainable/organic farm enterprises.  The first time there were maybe 15 attendees, then three years ago probably 60 and then this time around 90 both farmers and extension agents.

The trainings consist of one day of how to start an organic farm and all of the parts that one needs to consider- organic farming 101.  Then the second day the participants chose from a list of topics that I talked about the first day for an in depth dive into them.  Those talks are one to one and a half hours long so I can only do 3 or 4 the second day.  The group has the full range of experience from just gardeners to seasoned growers and extension agents so it becomes a little bit of stump the band but it felt like everyone came out of the room with some valuable information.

We forget sometimes how fortunate we are here in North Carolina with so many good sustainable farming operations and all the support and supply options we have developed over the years.

Picture of the Week


Peppers looking really good, nearing the top of their trellises.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #22, 7/18/18

What’s been going on!

While we are in the middle of tomato season and all of the various festivals and tasting events focused on the fruit I thought it might be a good time to actually talk about tomato flavor and bust one of the big misconceptions about different flavor profiles.

To start, flavor is determined by the variety- how it was bred, including the size of the plant and how it is grown including the soil it is grown in.  The bigger the plant, the more photosynthetic area if has, the more sugars and other flavor components the plant will make and put into the fruit.  We grow only tall, indeterminate varieties that will have a lot of leaf area.  The breeders or choosers in the case of heirloom types, also pick texture and flavor attributes they want or like.  Big fruit/small fruit, color, firmer/softer, less juice/more juice, less sugar/more sugar.

The big photosynthetic array also has to have the right materials to work with to make the sugars and other compounds- that would be the soil they are grown in.  Greenhouse tomatoes are generally grown in bags or pots of inert, sterile material like coconut husk or peat moss or even rock wool and fed a solution of nutrients.  “Field grown” tomatoes are grown in real soil but every soil is different and will have more or less of some nutrients and the biology that makes those nutrients available for the plant roots to take up.  Tomatoes grown in sand are different than our tomatoes grown in a rich sandy loam with red clay underneath.  It is not even a contest to compare a short determinate commercial variety grown in South Florida in the winter to a tall, indeterminate, heirloom or hybrid variety grown in our upland soils in the full sun and heat of the summer.

One of the most common questions we get and the myth to be busted is “which of these tomatoes is low acid?”.  The answer is- none of them.  What???!!!  There is no such thing as a high acid tomato or a low acid tomato.  They are all high acid, as in low pH, the scale that acidity/alkalinity is measured by.  Neutral being 7.0, all tomatoes run between 4.3 and 4.9, pretty acid.  Less ripe fruit are more acid and become a bit less so as they become fully ripe.  So our perception of tomato flavor is more accurately high sugar versus low sugar.  The sugars mask the acidity and most good balanced tomatoes have enough sugar to taste some sweetness but also to let the acid be there too.

Because it is so ingrained in us to refer to tomatoes as high or low acid we will continue to describe them that way to most people but just between those of us in the who now know better we will point to the sweet varieties when asked for the low acid ones.

Picture of the Week


Tall tomatoes, growing in soil enriched partly from lush cover crops like the cowpeas and millet in the foreground

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #21, 7/11/18

What’s been going on!

Two big weeks coming up all focused on tomatoes.  Technically starting tomorrow, but with a sneak preview today at the first wine dinner, is the 17th annual ACME Tomato Festival where the entire menu is taken over by tomatoes in every dish.  Runs through the weekend with nearly 1000 pounds of tomatoes being consumed.  We only supply part of that but we did take the first 80 plus pounds yesterday to get things started!

We are also doing our best to fill the menus of other restaurants around town too with delicious tomatoes.  Pizzeria Mercato who just re-opened after their summer break, Elaine’s On FranklinOakleaf  just back from their summer break too and the Eddy Pub in Saxapahaw.

Next Thursday, the 19th, will be our annual tomato class at A Southern Season- An Ode to the Tomato with our friend the NC Tomato man, Craig LeHoullier who introduced the Cherokee Purple tomato to the world.  Always fun with Caitlyn Burke cooking great dishes with our tomatoes and Craig and I bantering on about tomatoes from A to Z.

Finally on Saturday the 21st is the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s Tomato Day a celebration of all the amazing varieties grown by the farmers at market.  A chance to taste as many as 60 varieties and find out which ones you like best.  The market will be brimming with lots of fruit and tomato centric activities, don’t miss it!

Picture of the Week


The Crested Celosia are so tall that you can barely see Jennie amongst them

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #20, 7/6/18

What’s been going on!

 It is all about tomatoes right now and we have them coming out of our ears!  With the holiday landing in the middle of the week it has curtailed our normal tomato sales both from the Wednesday market being a day earlier, and a bit slower, and all of our restaurants closed, some for the whole week!  Combine that with probably the peak of our harvest and we are swimming in amazingly beautiful fruit!  Don’t miss out.

This Saturday is usually the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s big Tomato Day but this year it has been pushed back until July 21st for a variety of reasons partly due to most of the  farmers crops being a bit later this year due to the cooler spring.  Not to worry, there will still be plenty of tomatoes at market.

We finally got some rain on Wednesday after nearly 3 weeks without a drop.  Didn’t exactly need 2 inches in a half an hour but we will take whatever we can get.  After the downpour I have been working on dragging all of the driveway gravel back up the hill to where it should be.  With nearly a half a mile of gravel drives around the farm this is a never ending job but some years are worse than others, just depends on how the rains come.

Picture of the Week


When you enter the packing shed you see this


Around the corner you find this

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