Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #30, 9/28/18

What’s been going on! 

Another gray and wet day but the light is at the end of the tunnel starting tomorrow with next week looking beautiful with lows in the 60’s and highs in the low 80’s and sunny, not quite pure fall but closer.  It’s been a bit hard to get a lot done in the field between the showers but the crew plugged on.

Betsy and I spent the middle of the week at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) conference in Raleigh.  The ASCFG is the national trade group for cut flower growers and this was their 30th year.  Betsy is one of the original members and has both built wonderful long time friendships with other growers in the group but also helped build the Association by serving on the board, organizing the national conference and serving as Executive Director of the Research Foundation.

She had a good time visiting with old friends and attending some of the educational sessions.  I am always a happy second fiddle with her at these flower grower meetings but I did present on soil management which is an important and universal subject that all farmers need to have a good knowledge of.  It is great to see so many young and new growers just starting on the journey of farming.

Picture of the Week

IMG_20180928_081436 Thank goodness for indoor crops, Fennel and Celery looking good

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #29, 10/23/14

What’s been going on!

Cover crops seeded!  Not up but everything is done and waiting on rain, unfortunately none in the forecast for maybe several weeks now, just as I feared, oh well, it will happen and we will enjoy the amazing weather in the meantime.

It has been a really busy week.  Betsy just back last night from the Association of Specialty Cut Flowers (ASCFG) annual meeting in Delaware where she saw lots of old friends, learned a few new things and oversaw the successful benefit auction to raise money for cut flower research.  Last week was also the culmination of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) 20th anniversary with three separate events and a board meeting, it is sometimes hard to believe that it has been 20 years already.  Sunday was the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) Crop Hop to raise money for their very important Farm Sustainability work which, amongst other things, has helped save hundreds of family farms from going out of business.

Last night I was on a panel with Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery and Jared Cates of CFSA for the first of the Triangle Land Conservancy’s Wild Ideas speaker series.  We all shared thoughts on not only where the local food movement is in this area and some ideas of what needs to be done to help increase the availability and access to locally produced food.  A good discussion with about 70 folks.  Fortunately the calendar is clear for the next several weeks, whew!

Picture of the Week


Two acres of soil and beds ready for 2015, just waiting for the rain


What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #7, 3/8/13

What’s been going on!

Remarkably busy week with lectures, tour groups, teaching, interviews, a conference and oh yeah, that farming thing we do out here.  Betsy had a good and tiring trip to Texas for an Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) regional meeting and a visit with our good friends and compatriots the Arnosky’s of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.  Betsy first met Pamela at an ASCFG meeting in the early 90’s and the two quickly realized we had been traveling the same road in two different states.  Both farms started with nothing but a dream and through perseverance and our “too dumb to quit” attitude became successful.  Now every few years we find ways to get together and commiserate (and have fun too).

I had an interesting meeting with the new dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at NC State.  A group of the Board of Advisors for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) met with him to discuss on-going strategic planning processes for both CEFS and CALS and how we can all work together.  Nice and bright guy, Dean Linton, but we got onto the topic of what the definition of sustainable agriculture is.  This used to come up all the time back in the day but less so now unless someone is trying to co-opt the concept.  It was defined by Congress back in the 1990 Farm bill when the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) of the USDA was being authorized.  Most of us working in the field now consider it the “legal” definition.  I said that not only was there this legal definition but that essentially every person and group I talked to now knew that sustainability has three tenets- environmentally sound, economically viable and socially responsible.  If most of the public now embraces this concept it will be difficult to change it now.

We did manage to get a lot of plants and seed into the ground but still have more to do just to get caught up.  Six more beds of lettuce, the first carrots, beets and broccoli raab, the first four of 10 beds (at least) of onions.  Hopefully most of the rest of the onions will go in today.  Jennie and Liz also extracted the bent Haygrove legs we need to replace so we can finally reconstruct the Big Tops that were damaged in last July’s storm.  It is good to have the staff begin work again.

Picture of the Week

3-8-13 068

A bright and windy March day, overwintered greens flanked by newly seeded crops protected by row cover to help germination

What’s going to be at the market?

Another cool start on Saturday but a fast warm up.

Maybe the last of the winter potato- Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes).  A little more Spinach.  Maybe a bit of Lacinato Kale but for sure beautiful tender and sweet Collards.  Still plenty of sweet Carrots.

More and more of the brilliant and amazing Anemones not as many this week, too much consistent cold weather.

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.

Hope to see you all at the market!

Alex and Betsy

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.

4/2/04 Vol. 1 #3

Typical spring week warm, pleasant and sunny the first half and then gray the second half.  Still lots to do though, both on and off the farm.  Betsy and I are still trying to get out from under some of these “extra curricular” activities that we become engaged in, slowly but surely!  We do sit on a number of Boards of organizations that do work that we feel is important to the small farm community.  Betsy is the Treasurer and seems like general counsel for the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG), “the” national body for growers of cut flowers other than roses and carnations.  I am in the third year on the board of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), this is a great umbrella organization that does important work all across the South with family farms.  I encourage you to check out their website for all of the different areas that they work in .

How did I get onto this jag?  Oh yeah Monday nights long Farmers’ Market board meeting.  Most folks don’t realize that the Carrboro Farmers’ Market has the organized structure behind it that it does, they think that it “just happens”, you know organized chaos.  That is actually what we want people to think.  In reality the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Farmers’ Markets, Inc. is farmer run and controlled group.  It is directed by a seven member board elected by and from the vendor members.  We also currently have three paid staff that take care of the day to day market operations.  Betsy and I have been involved with the Board for sixteen years now in some capacity or another.  Why?  Because it is so important to our life and business.  The market accounts for 85% of our business and we also believe that it is one of the finest examples of how a local sustainable food system can work.  See you just thought you were buying fresh vegetables and flowers!

On the farm planting continues as we finish up the spring crops and start the warm season ones.  Dianthus (Sweet William), the first Sunflowers and a few other flowers went in and just about the last of the lettuce for the season.  Just before the rains came!  Good thing too because otherwise the end of the week would have been spent setting up irrigation.  Now it’s time to start cultivating/weeding, we got through the lettuces and a number of flowers before the rain.  Trellising peas and fertilizing the flowering shrubs like hydrangeas and viburnums.  Work in the greenhouse moving up the tomato transplants into bigger containers, 720 plants of ten varieties that will go into the field in three weeks.  More seeding in there too, the plants have to keep rolling out so we can stay on schedule.  In between a little construction work on the Packing shed, teaching a couple of classes at the Community college and…

Picture of the week

Look at all of those anemones!

11/20/04 Vol. 1 #29

Busy, busy, busy!  Both here at the farm and on the road.  Betsy was gone for a week to Florida for the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers convention.  She always comes back with a million new ideas and I have to try and sort through them with her.  She was also awarded the Distinguished Service Award, even though she tried not to accept it, no one has worked harder for the Association.  The last week and half has been a blur.  The turkeys went in for processing which is both a lot of work and somber at the same time.  It all went fairly smoothly and they are now in our walk-in cooler awaiting Tuesday’s market. Betsy had to turn around and drive up to Virginia to pick up 12,000 tulip bulbs that she jointly ordered with some fellow growers.  These are now planted in crates so that we can force them early for next spring, look for them in March!

The two of us passed each other as I drove up to Asheville for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Assoc. conference where I presented in three different workshops.  At the banquet the Carrboro Farmers’ Market was awarded the Sustainable Business/Entity Award for the work its done and the leadership the market has given both to local farmers and to other markets across the state.  It is markets like Carrboro and customers like you that give hope to small farmers and the ideas of viable local food systems.  Monday I jumped on a plane to Alabama to give two workshops.  One for the Alabama Sustainable Ag. Network and the other to a group from Auburn Univ. who are setting up an organic research station.  I was really glad to get home after giving five talks in five days!  I’d say the meeting season has started hard and fast.

The end of this week has been back to farm work.  The cold snap last week finally killed the foliage on the tuberoses and the dahlias so that we could dig them for the winter.  We have to dig these tubers because they cannot take the cold temperatures we experience over the winter, then we will replant them next spring.  They have been kind of in the way of getting the rest of the fields put to bed for the winter.  Now that they are out the last of the soil preparation is done and the cover crops are sown!  Yesterday we planted the first 4000 Dutch Iris and the backs of our legs are telling us about it!

Picture of the Month
Look close and see the Brussels Sprouts (left of center) and the Celery on the right

9/3/08 Vol. 5 #24

Well it looks like the rain isn’t over yet.  We ended up with seven inches last week from the remnants of Fay and with hurricane Hannah on the way there could be a whole lot more.  We had water moving debris in places we have never seen before.  Of course the driveways that I had just regraded are all now back down at the bottom of the hill.  The most interesting were the leaves and sticks that washed out of the small gullies that are across the heavily wooded hillside between the top fields and the bottom fields.  The river backed up on the bottom field for the first time in several years but only on the lower end.  It got within about a foot of the irrigation pump, which we are always prepared to pull out if need be.

It has dried out nicely now and the mowing has begun.  Nothing like a little water to make weeds and grass, pent up from the drought, go wild.  Betsy has been on the small mower for two days getting all the grassed areas and I have been on the tractor taking out the summer cover crops, old flower crops and areas we haven’t mowed for some time.  This will be the last mowing for the season on a lot of the farm so it is very satisfying.  Mechanical frost we like to call it.  After this next storm (assuming there is not another on its heels) I will begin turning soil over and getting ready for the winter cover crops.

No newsletter next week as we will be in Portland Oregon for the 20th Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers conference.  I think that Betsy has been to nearly every one and this organization has been very important to the growth of her/our cut flower business.  She has served on it’s board of directors as both regional director and treasurer.  She now is the executive director of their Research Foundation.  It is always a good time with interesting tours of farms and of course checking in with old friends.  We will be back in time for next Saturday’s market though.

Picture of the Week
Newly mown Zinnias with the old celosia going next

9/17/08 Vol. 5 #25

OK enough with the rain for a minute!  Thirteen inches over the last few weeks but at least the forecast for the next week looks sublime and maybe fall is really here.  We had a great time in Portland last week with the cut flower growers where they kept us on the move.  Up every morning at 5:00 to get on a bus for another tour.  The first day we went out to the misty coast and saw acres of colored calla lilies, hydrangeas and the largest artichoke producer in Oregon, beautiful huge purple chokes.  The second day we went to the Portland Wholesale Flower Market for a short visit but it is always good to see how the larger farmers send their product through the system.  In our only real free time Betsy and I made it downtown to a really great small farmers’ market (the size of the Carrboro Wednesday market) with some of the finest produce displays we have ever seen anywhere.  We took lots of pictures and brought home some new ideas for our set up at market.

The last day we headed south of Portland into the Willamette valley to see four farms including the largest dahlia grower in the US with an amazing 40 acres in full bloom!  We also visited maybe the largest producer of dried flowers in the US with something like 30 acres including their huge drying rooms and processing facilities.  Just when we thought the bus rides were over we got back on the bus that evening and went up the Columbia river gorge for a dinner cruise on an old paddle wheel boat.  Beautiful night on the decks with the moon rising over the river.  Friday we were up again at 5:00 to start the long flight back home.  Back to the farm with just enough daylight to cut some lettuce, feed the turkeys and finish loading the truck.  Dan and Cov did a great job taking care of the place and had us ready for market but by the time market was over on Saturday we were ready for a rest!

Things here on the farm are winding up smoothly despite the rain.  Most of the irrigation is up and put away (don’t seem to really need it anymore) and the Big Tops are uncovered except the last bay with the last tomatoes.  Soon we will be ready to begin to turn under all the fields.  The little sliding tunnels are all cleaned out and several already planted with crops for Thanksgiving.  The Brussels Sprouts are maybe the best looking we have ever grown, at least at this point.  If the grass would just stop growing so fast from all the rain, the end would even be closer.

Pictures of the Week
Acres of Calla lilies and Dahlias