Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #16, 6/1/17

What’s been going on!

We made it to June and the Farm to Fork weekend is upon us and it will be fun and delicious and lots of work especially for Betsy who has been busing with the planning committee and in pulling together flowers and flower donations so she can make the many arrangements that will grace all three events spread over three days.

The Farm to Fork weekend is the primary fundraiser for beginning farmer training programs at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and the W.C. Breeze Family Farm Agricultural Extension & Research Center.  This is our 10th year of the Picnic and we have managed to raise a lot of money to help new farmers get on the ground.

The first two events are already sold out but there are still tickets available for Sunday’s Picnic at Fearrington Village.  For Friday’s event at the Bridge Club in Raleigh we are paired with our friend Scott Howell of Nana’s Restaurant where he is making a golden beet borscht for one of the five courses.

Sunday we are really proud to be working with another long time friend, Gabe Barker and Pizzeria Mercato where he is putting together a calamari and chickpea salad with our spring vegetables. It might even include some of our first ever purple artichokes!  Hopefully we will see you on Sunday as we will all be there helping to serve food and talk sustainable food and farming.

Picture of the Week

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Artichokes and agrostemma on a beautiful day

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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

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

 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #26, 9/26/14

What’s been going on!

The first week of fall certainly wasn’t messing around, almost straight to early November weather instead of the beautiful 70’s and 50’s originally forecast.  Good days to be inside working on other projects.  At least today looks dry to get all the peppers picked and Saturday looks marvelous.

The season is beginning to pick up with meetings and events for many of the organizations that we work with.  Farm to Fork 2015 picnic planning is well underway with an exciting plan to expand it to an entire weekend with multiple events that folks can pick and choose from, more on this as we fill in more of the details.  Many events around the 20th anniversary of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) that we serve on the Advisory Board for.  The same weekend is RAFI’s Crop Hop a fun time and they raise money for their farm sustainability programs.

We were talking the other day about all the groups we work with and that the three we will do just about anything asked of us are the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, RAFI and CEFS.  They constitute the entire range of issues that are most important to us.  Of course the market is our main source of income but is also a leader in how local markets should be run.  RAFI fills a middle niche working on policy issues that affect us both in the state and nationally.  CEFS rounds it out by actually doing the hard science and field scale experiments of sustainable agriculture as well as much work in local food systems.

The Carrboro Market’s fall harvest dinner was last night and it went off beautifully with a sold out house, fed by 20 area chefs we raised nearly $7000 to go towards market site physical improvements.  The exciting new announcement was the kickoff of the Market Perennial program.  Like the WUNC Sustainer program it allows people to donate a set amount every month to help support the ever expanding market programing.  Check in at the market’s website where there soon will be a link for you to sign up so that you can be Perennials along with us!

Picture of the Week

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A gray day but these crazy celosia brighten up anything

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #7, 4/25/14

What’s been going on!

Wow, an insanely busy week and just about every muscle we have has been sore at one time or another, a lot of ibuprofen going down!  Tomato Week, started last Friday with covering the four Big Tops that keep our plants happy and dry.  Monday, we did the final tillage on the beds and laid the irrigation lines and landscape fabric.  Wednesday and Thursday Jennie and Liz built the 1600 feet of trellis for the plants to climb up.  Right now they are out planting the 23 varieties on a perfect overcast day for transplanting, hopefully it will just shower and not thundershower this afternoon.

Last Thursday I spent the day down at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) for a Board meeting and tour.  Now in its 20th year, it is the largest organic and sustainable research farm in the US.  More than just a farm, they also do work all across North Carolina in both farming practices but also food systems, food access and other parts of a healthy farming and marketing system.  We have been involved from its inception and continue to serve on the advisory board.  On top of all that I taught three classes this week, whew!

One thing we are not participating in this week is the Farm Tour, third year in a row after 16 straight years.  Next year is the 20th anniversary and we will probably jump back on to commemorate the founding and steering of it all those years.  It is a great way to see so many of our local small farms and where your food comes from but with so much going on here, it is just too hard to do both.

Picture of the Week

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A beautiful field of lettuce and the tomato Big Tops looming in the distance

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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

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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.

6/30/04 Vol. 1 #16

Rain, rain, rain.  We’ve had 3.5 inches in the last two weeks and it would be alright with us if they turn the tap off for a bit.  Hallelujah for  the “Big Tops”, the tomatoes still look great as well as Betsy’s lisianthus and the staff can still work even if it rains (of course if they are like us they are looking for a day off).  The fairly continuous rain at market on Saturday once again made us think about how great our customers are, coming out and supporting us and the other vendors at market even in the rain.  It also makes us think about how basing our business around outdoor Farmers’ Markets is at the whim of the weather and other factors beyond our control.  We consciously have moved more of our business towards the markets over the past few years for several reasons, first we just love to be at market, to see everyone and hear what you all think about the products that we sell.  Second it fits with our scale of production, when we were more in wholesale we had to keep growing more to meet their needs, it was never enough.  Third it is better income than wholesale because we can sell for closer to a retail price.  On the other hand the market life can be relentless with no way to overcome days with bad weather or other problems, we can’t just take the stuff home and bring it back next week, that’s why they are called perishables.  I explain to the staff and others, including family members, that 75 percent of our business is done at the Farmers’ Markets and so Saturday, in particular, is not to be trifled with.  No weddings, no family reunions, no extracurricular activities on Friday or Saturday morning during market season.  We have about 100 hours a year to make our living, we don’t mess around with that.  So when the forecast is for rain it makes us pause, then we are always pleasantly surprised when the customers come out.  Thank you again.

Despite the rains we have a fairly busy week going on.  Several groups touring the farm including the graduate students in floriculture from NC State and the student interns from the Center For Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro.  We host them every summer during their intensive week on Soils.  They come to see how we manage our soils sustainably and to see how a small farm can be profitable.  These groups always ask good questions that make us think about why we do things the way we do, I think that its always good to look in the mirror from time to time.

The next 40 turkeys arrive this week as well.  We get them in two batches because the Heritage birds take at least 26 weeks to get to size but the Broad Breasted birds grow so fast that they only need about 18 weeks to get huge.  We are hoping that we won’t have any 30 pounders like last year by getting this group later.  The Heritage birds are getting big and have moved to their next location, maybe a picture next week.

Tonight (Wednesday) is Panzanella’s Local Food dinner with part of the proceeds going to support the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.  Look for our tomatoes on the menu and the flowers that Betsy donated to spruce up the festivities.  Go and eat great food made from local products and support our local sustainable farming non-profit!

Picture of the Week
Despite the rains look at how beautiful the Lisianthus and Celosias look!

5/17/07 Vol. 4 #9

Some weeks are all nose to the grindstone and then there are periods when we raise our heads up and let the outside world in.  This next week is one of those times.  Yesterday day we are hosted 21 agricultural extension agents from Florida.  Florida is a huge agricultural state but in the “old school”, large scale, let’s ship it around the world way.  This group is up here for four days to see, feel and touch our thriving local food system.  While all parts of the country are improving as to the numbers of small farms, farmers markets and the infrastructure that supports them, ours here in central North Carolina is really bustling.  Not that we don’t have holes in the system that need to be addressed like the poultry processing problem, easier supply of some inputs, and other things; we do have large numbers of viable farms, great markets and strong groups working on making it all happen.  This is the second group this spring to come to the area to see how we do it, you might remember the three van loads of agents and farmers from Louisiana that came for the Farm Tour.  So if you see a large group moving through market on Saturday you all will know who it is and be proud of all the work we all have done and are doing for local food here in North Carolina.

The second round of events starts next Tuesday when Carlo Petrini the founder of the Slow Food movement arrives in the area for two days of farm tours, dinners and speeches.  You all know of our involvement in Slow Food, having twice gone to Italy for the Terra Madre conference and subsequently working with the local chapter on various projects.  Touring the country to promote his new book Slow Food Nation ,  Carlo is coming to launch the lecture series for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS).  CEFS is the largest research farm in the country doing work on sustainable and organic farming systems and it is here in North Carolina!  Betsy and I sit on the Friends of CEFS Board of Advisors and during a meeting last winter we suggested having Carlo Petrini come and speak, never thinking it would happen this quickly.  Carlo Petrini is one of the most influential people in Italy and in the world of artisanal food production and local food systems their is no larger figure.  Information about his visit can be viewed here .  There are three public events that we are involved in.  The first is a huge (sold out) picnic being held at Chapel Hill Creamery on Tuesday night where farmers and chefs have been paired to showcase local foods that are in season.   We are working with our friend Sara Foster of Foster’s Market in Durham.  Betsy is donating all the flowers for this event as well and for the second event on Wednesday evening in Raleigh.  A reception for members of Friends of CEFS with Carlo Petrini will be held just before his lecture at 7:00 p.m. which is free and open to the public, this will culminate his visit to the area.  Tuesday and Wednesday before these events Carlo and others from the national Slow Food office will be touring farms in the central NC, possibly including ours, just be assured that Betsy has been out on the mower!

Picture of the Week
Tender Baby Swiss Chard

5/24/07 Vol. 4 #10

Whew! Petrini week is over.  Three days that felt like a week, but it all went beautifully.  Monday was like a normal Friday for us as we harvested almost as many vegetables for the CEFS-Slow Food picnic as we would in getting ready for the Saturday market.  The staff worked a full day (Mondays are generally half days) to make sure we could get everything done because we had lunch guests coming the next day.  You may remember in last weeks newsletter that Carlo Petrini and his Slow Food compadres were going to tour some farms around the area, well we found out on Friday that not only was he going to come see us but also have lunch here on the farm!  Lunch here?  I wondered how the founder of a movement that “celebrates the pleasures of the table” would feel about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  We had a plan, call some one else to help!  It’s not that Betsy and I aren’t good cooks with plenty of great material to work with we just had a few more things going on like helping with all of the events including donating all the flowers for them, oh and we had a farm to run.  We have several good friends who are excellent cooks that we could call on but our first call was to Anne Everitt who you may remember used to be the manager of the Farmer’s Market as well as pastry chef at Elaine’s and Lantern restaurants.  Anne immediately swung into action designing a simple but refined menu using mostly Peregrine Farm ingredients along with other local and NC foods.  With the help of Amy Eller, formerly communications director for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Assoc., they took over our kitchen and chopped, sliced and washed there way to an extremely tasty meal.  The next day, when asked by a reporter what was the best meal he had eaten on his three week tour of the US, he said he thought it might have been the lunch here at Peregrine Farm!

By 1:00, when they arrived, the table was set up under our former pick your own stand in the shade of the huge tulip poplar trees with views of the farm.  We took a short walk around the farm and then retreated to the lunch, Italian style.  We had good discussions with all the Slow Food folks about this area and how lucky we are to have great markets, customers, non-profits and lots of small farmers.  More importantly we were able (Betsy in her hard earned Italian) to speak privately with Carlo about our Italian farm family and their struggle to keep there farm from being sold out from under them.  Their situation is a long and complicated story but since last fall we have been trying to enlist Mr. Petrini’s help.  He is a very influential figure in Italy especially the Piedmont region where our friends farm.  If we could get him to say a few words to the right folks in the regional government it could save their farm of five generations.  He said he had received our letter and had called the regional President but that it was messy situation.  He then promised to contact our friends when he returned to Italy to get the whole story.  At that point he pulled out his cell phone and dialed their number (which Betsy just happened to have in her pocket)…they did not answer.  We feel sure that he will contact them and help when he gets back to Italy!

The rest has been a whirlwind.  As soon as they left the farm we had to rush over to the picnic to get set up including all of the flowers that Betsy, with the great help of Jennifer Delaney, had arranged.  A very enjoyable event with great food and everyone really seemed to enjoy it.  It was hard to believe that there were almost 400 people in that field.  Mr. Petrini and friends seemed to have a really good time and were (I think) further amazed at our local food community.  Yesterday the drum beat continued.  Get ready for the Wednesday Farmers’ Market, which the staff was to be dispatched to while Betsy and I headed to Raleigh for the final two Petrini events.  We had to arrive to the reception early to set up the flowers there too.  The Friends of CEFS reception was well attended which then flowed next door to the final event, Carlo’s presentation about the meaning and value of preserving food traditions, defending biodiversity, and protecting food that is good, clean and fair.  Nearly 1000 people were in attendance, and even though he spoke with an interpreter, they all seemed to take away some important messages.  With it all over we limped home.  We didn’t mange to get any pictures but friends where taking lots so hopefully next week we can have a Carlo Petrini picture of the week.

Picture of the Week
An armload of radishes

6/26/08 Vol. 5 #15

Newsletter a day late, this week has been like a fire drill since Monday.  One of those weeks where its nothing unusual or a major type event, just too many small “extra-curricular” items that tip the cart.  Monday had an extra trip to Burlington for supplies, I had to help our 84 year old neighbor fix his mower, we did deliveries and took the big truck to the mechanic and then topped it all off with a lovely evening at Watts Grocery in Durham for their wine dinner which featured our products.  Tuesday (after arriving home late the previous night) we hit the road at 7:00 a.m. for an all day meeting in Goldsboro, we are on the Board of Advisors for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.  Back to the house about 5:30 in time to turn around to head into Carrboro for another board meeting for the Growers’ Choice poultry cooperative.  Wednesday up at the crack of dawn for the unusual chores and to prepare the brooder for the second round of turkeys that normally arrive at the Post Office early in the morning.  No call by 8:30 so I begin calling around to see where they are.  “Yes they were shipped on Monday”, she says at the hatchery.  Now we’re worried that they are sitting on some hot tarmac somewhere cooking (we hear these horror stories from other growers).  Second call to the Post Office, “no not here yet but there is one more plane that comes in at 10:30”.  Finally the call comes in at 11:30 they are here.  Betsy rushes up to Graham to collect them while I continue to work with the staff on the days projects.  By 1:00 the birds are here and installed in the brooder, all healthy and running around.  A quick bite of lunch and then we have to load and head off to market in the 95 degree heat.  By the time I get home and in the house at 8:00 last evening we are both fried.  Dinner and to bed by 9:00.

As my sister in law says, who is a nurse who works a crazy schedule of something like six twelve hour days straight, “I am headed into the tunnel”.  This is how she refers to going back to work after her days off.  We are headed into the tunnel now too, all of the growers at market are in the same place.  The early season excitement is past, the rush to get cool season crops in and out, the beautiful spring days, the planting and tending of the summer crops.  Now the heat is here and it is a careful balancing act to keep it all going while not burning the body out.  You can begin to see it in their faces now, that look of too many nights without enough sleep.  Now don’t misunderstand me, we still love this work and life, but all jobs have parts that take more effort or patience to get through to the next step.  How many days is it until the first frost?

Great news, we recently heard that we have been accepted as delegates, once again, to the Slow Food Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy this October.  As you may remember, we have been extremely fortunate to have been able to attend the previous two Terra Madre’s in 2004 and 2006.  We have another strong group going from the Triangle area including eight of us from the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.  This world meeting of farmers, chefs and others in the food system has been an inspiration to us and we hope to be able to expose others to some of what we have been able to experience there.  Slow Food pays for all of the delegates expenses once they get to Italy but they have to get themselves there.  Look for various fund raisers this summer and fall, sponsored by Slow Food Triangle, to help send our local people.  The first of these is this coming Tuesday, July 1st, at the Lantern Restaurant.  A Greek wine dinner, featuring a Slow Food Presidia wine (Presidia are projects aimed at helping to preserve a food or food making tradition).  Andrea at Lantern says there are still seats available.  It will also feature some of our products on the menu.

Picture of the Week
Happy three day old Broad Breasted Bronzes

6/3/09 Vol. 6 #11

We finally made it to June, seemed like May lasted longer than usual for some reason.  I spent most of the morning yesterday on the tractor doing defensive mowing of the vigorously growing grasses around the edges of the field.  Defensive because the ticks are amazing this year if you have to venture into that tall grass and because the ground hogs are back and I makes it easier to see them if the grass is short.

Ground hogs are our most feared pest, more than deer.  They can and will eat entire plantings of stuff in a day, deer just nibble here and there, if they get past the electric deer fence.  We noticed last week that some lettuce had been eaten on the edges of the rows in the field and then some lettuce transplants in the flats in front of the greenhouse had been eaten too.  Finally Cov went down to trellis his own pole beans in the bottom field and some critter had wiped out the entire row and had helped themselves to the golden beets too.  Several days later we finally spied both the hilltop and the bottom culprits.  The ground hogs never seem to show up until it is warm enough in the spring, usually about now, and in the past few years we have not seen one here on the farm as they move around from den to den.  We can’t fence them out without huge logistical and maintenance headaches and they just laugh at the traps so I am now on afternoon rounds to see if I can get a shot at them.

In less than two weeks, June 14th,  we will be participating in the second Farm to Fork picnic,  put on by the Slow Food Triangle chapter and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.  The proceeds will benefit new and young farmer programs in Orange county and down at CEFS.  Last time it was great fun as chefs and farms are paired to come up with great food.  There are something like 26 restaurants participating and we are paired with Watts Grocery this time around, should be entertaining and delicious.

While the mower was on I mowed down the early spring flowers (larkspur, bachelors buttons, etc.) soon it will be summer cover crop time.  The blueberry picking rolls on with many hands on deck.  Monday we had possibly the largest crew ever with nine in the field, still didn’t put a dent in the massive crop.  The third planting of zinnias and celosia are going in the ground just as the first zinnia bloom has been spotted.  We ate our first BLT sandwiches on Monday so summer is officially here!

Picture of the Week
Beautiful Campanula and other flowers under the Big Tops