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 January 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 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!
Picture of the Week
Holy cow! The sun came out. This is now the scope of Peregrine Farm
What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading →