Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #1, 3/24/11

What’s been going on?

Happy Spring to you all! Let’s see, where to begin? How about this is our 30th year growing crops for all of you. There is a gravitas that comes with three decades of doing something that I hadn’t really thought about until speaking at conferences this winter. I kept saying this was our 30th growing season and the looks in their (mostly) young eyes was of disbelief or no comprehension. It is like the concept of a billion of something, peoples brains can’t visualize how big a billion of something is or maybe it is like sailing and the curvature of the earth makes it so your world is only as far as you can see. So far from this side of the curve, it looks pretty good.

When your life is measured in seasons more than time- this was a wet one, that was a historic drought, the Easter freeze, hurricane Fran, etc. Your perspective becomes how they compare to each other more than when they actually happened. We can say that so far this is starting out to be a really marvelous year, last year not so much. All of the crops look so much better this spring than last and as good a start as we have had in several years. The staff started last week and we hit the ground running with the great weather. The little tunnels have been slid to their summer locations and the first tomatoes are going in today! We are on schedule with planting and have already cultivated all the crops in the ground as the conditions have been perfect.

It was a busy and slothful winter with both lots of meetings and trips away from the farm, as well as time in the house with all the cold weather. A great event for the Southern Foodways Alliance in Tennessee in early January and then a return to Tennessee for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group’s meeting in Chattanooga, where I taught a couple of classes. The final conference of the season was a trip to Georgia Organics in Savannah where also gave a couple of workshops. It’s back to serious work now.

Picture of the Week

It is all about anemones right now

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

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Italy and Terra Madre

As many of you know we have been fortunate to have now attended all four of the Slow Food Terra Madre international conferences.  This gathering of world food communities, from now 162 nations, is an amazing spectacle of people, food and ideas.  Our first Terra Madre, in 2004, we were housed with a farm family just outside of the city of Torino and have since become good friends, we have been back to visit six times.

The Piovanno’s raise Piemontese veal under very specific guidelines, from raising the feed all the way through selling it in their own macellaria (butcher shop).  The macellaria is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday only and by Saturday evening they are ready for some rest.  Because we know this, we try to time our visits to arrive on Sunday afternoon after they have had a chance to relax.

Because the conference started on Thursday we arrived in Italy the Friday before so we could get over the jet lag and be prepared for the whirl wind of activity that accompanies a visit to the Piovannos and the extended Novara family.  The last several trips we have flown into Milan, rented a car, and explored some corner of northern Italy before we get to Torino.

This time we started in the far northwest corner, the Valle d’Aosta.  The Alps form its mountainous rim and the borders with France and Switzerland, including Monte Bianco (the highest mountain in western Europe at 15,771 feet), Monte Rosa and Monte Cervino (the Matterhorn).

A two to three hour drive from the Malpensa airport put us in the heart of the valley, the town of Aosta.  We decided to stay for two nights in Cogne, located in a higher valley, 16 miles further south.  An old mining town and now the northern gateway to the Gran Paradiso National Park.

The perfect place to recover from jet lag, see some great scenery and eat the first of many fabulous meals.

a killer charcuterie plate the perfect way to start

risotto with fontina cheese and bread

carbonade with roasted polenta

This was the view from our balcony as the cows came in from pasture in the evening.

The next day we had hoped would be clear and we could take the cable cars up onto the  side of Monte Bianco and it’s glaciers but it wasn’t so instead we toured the old Roman walled town of Aosta, the nearby ski station of Pila and the Fenis castle.

One of the old Roman arch entries to the town of Aosta

The Matterhorn is in the clouds

Fenis castle

Sunday we made our way to Torino for three days of visits with the family, followed by three more days of Terra Madre and family combined.  Monday we had planned to drive down to the Ligurian coast to San Remo, which is the cut flower capital of Italy, to pick up some special Poppy flower seeds which Betsy had been arranging from this side of the Atlantic.  It was unclear if we could contact the dealer so we bailed on that plan.

Instead we drove down through the Langhe hills and viewed the wine country, grapes in all directions.

We then made our way back to the farm via Carmagnola, which is famous for its peppers.  We stopped in at one roadside stand and they allowed us to walk out into their production houses.

It is the end of their season too and while the plants look tired, the peppers they were picking were beautiful.

Tuesday we got up early and went mushroom hunting with family and friends.  It is porcini season and we were up in the foothills in a solid beech forest.  Not a lot to be found but it was beautiful.

After the morning of walking the hills we toured the nearby Sacra di San Michele.  An amazing monastery perched on top of a rock outcropping that juts out into the valley that leads up to Bardonecchia and one of the Olympic ski areas.  This is one of my favorite sites we have seen in Italy, stunning.

The view up towards Bardonecchia

Wednesday was a slower day with a late afternoon visit to yet another of the castles, of the Savoy family, that surround Torino.  Our family is concerned that they are running out of castles to show us but I’m not worried.  Rivoli castle is high on the western side of the city with a grand view over it.  Now turned into a modern art museum it is still an imposing structure.

Essentially every evening we all gather at one location for a huge family meal.  “We” being up to fourteen, or more, various family members including uncles, cousins, mothers, brothers, friends, you name it.  In many ways these meals are the highlight of our trips both for the food and the conversation.  Betsy of course does much better than I do in conversation but this is really how we have come to love and better understand these people and their daily lives.  Usually it is at Kati and Michele’s farm but we have convened in other great family homes too.  This is one of the rare meals out, at their favorite local pizzeria.

Thursday and it is finally Terra Madre time.  The first day is mostly about checking in, getting your badges and the opening ceremonies.  It is also the first day of the Salone del Gusto.  The Salone is Slow Food’s huge specialty food show showcasing both the world wide Slow Food Presidia projects but also the specialty foods and regions of Italy.  Over 150,000 people attend over five days and it is crazy crowded.  This first day is the day to see as much as you can before the weekend hordes arrive.

We brought back this new small sauce tomato, a Presidia from Puglia, similar to the fabulous one we have been growing from Campania.  We will try and grow it next year and compare the two.

This is a gallery of shots from the Salone including the requisite prosciutto and cheese shots, a copper pot set up for a cheese making class, a new red celery, the world’s largest sides of bacon and an olive harvesting demonstration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We managed to get about half way through before we had to take the 30 minute walk back to the opening ceremonies held at the Olympic Ice Hockey stadium.  A huge crowd with many speakers and a marching in of all the nations flags.

Friday and Saturday is a whirlwind at Terra Madre with workshops, the US delegation meeting, more forays into the Salone and other sights.  One of the things that happen is the impromptu world market that sets up in the Terra Madre hall, the people watching is mind boggling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each afternoon we shuttled several groups out to see our friend’s farm and macellaria.  Their farm is just south of Turin in the town of Stupinigi, famous for the hunting castle of the Savoy’s which is literally what they see when they drive out their gate!

This is the inside of the courtyard of the farm complex and the Piemontese breed that they raise.

This is Kati with our friend Mimo, from Missouri, in the macellaria.

The closing ceremonies are held on Sunday evening but we had to miss them because we had to catch a plane to Barcelona for the second leg of this adventure.  It was a sad good bye to all on Saturday night after another great meal that included Sarah, Sabrina and Anna, the rest of our Carrboro Farmers’ Market delegation.

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

3/23/06 Vol. 3 #2

I know, I am a day late again.  I told Rett the other day that my life is not my own right now!  Another busy week off the farm starting with a Friday meeting of many different groups involved in agriculture in North Carolina.  Ostensibly it was to discuss energy and farming.  It was really meant to get the many disparate parties at the same table to talk with each other.  You know the traditionalists and the forward thinkers.  Over the years we have participated in lots of these kinds of meetings and at first it was to assure the “conventional” ag folks that we didn’t have horns and tails.  Now with large scale agriculture in rough shape there is not much rancor at the table, just a lot of agreement that changes need to be made.  The discussion of energy use on farms was very interesting and depressing at the same time.  For us it is just a shot in the arm to continue to work on efficiency and other measures even more than we already have for years.  This was followed by the SSWAG board meeting for three days!  With market sandwiched in between we were really ready for a rest come Monday.  But Joann made us plant another 1500 heads of lettuce then we passed out!

Finally a good rain on Tuesday!  We had almost an inch and it came down perfectly.  Still we headed out to Raleigh on Wednesday to procure yet more pipe for the water works here at the farm.  In an attempt to catch more water from our creek, while it is still available, we are increasing the size of the pipe we use to gravity feed water out of the creek and into the lower pond.  From there we can pump it up the hill to the other pond and hopefully fill it up before it gets hot.  For years we have had an inch and a quarter line running for 800 feet, from the only deep place in the creek, down to the lower pond where the irrigation pump is.  I am talking Roman style water movement here.  It has given us a small flow which is adequate in normal conditions but in 2002 when the creek ran dry in June we realized it wasn’t enough. So we will now have a two inch pipe to give us much more water.

Back to farm work today as Rachel started back for the first day this season and along with Joann we began to get ready to plant the early, early tomatoes.  These are the Early Pick’s, Orange Blossom’s, and the first Cherokee Purple’s planted into our sliding tunnels.  The transplants look great and will be happy to get into the ground early next week.  First though we need to set up irrigation, fabric mulch and the trellises.  Next we have to slide the tunnels over them before we dare to plant them out in the uncertain weather of late March.  It is good to have the staff back as they are lots of fun and they yank us out of our winter mindset and back to normal farm life.  I will miss that second cup of coffee though.

Came home today and in the mail was a copy of our alumni magazine from Utah State University.  Low and behold was an article on us and the farm.  Here is a link to it on the web for those with lots of spare time (it’s really not a very long piece).  I have know idea what the “bioneer” thing is about but…

Picture of the Week
Lettuce marching to the horizon

3/23/07 Vol. 4 #1

Oh my!  The first market is tomorrow!  Every fall I say I will put out a newsletter once a month to keep you all up to date on our off season antics and somewhere in December I get distracted and drop the ball.  That usually means we are so busy doing off-farm things, that when we are here, it is difficult to find time to get a newsletter out.  This winter has been just such a time.

Betsy’s trip to Kenya, in December, to look at the cut flower industry there was thought provoking.  Some of the largest cut flower farms in the world, including the largest rose farm, are clustered around Lake Naivasha, northwest of Nairobi.  Primarily run by Europeans they were big, but not with the infrastructure or the diversity we have found on farms in Europe.  Primarily for export, they concentrate on a few crops and use a lot of hand labor in sometimes very rudimentary facilities.
Kenyan post harvest facility

The fact that they paid their help $1.50 a day was appalling to Betsy.  When she was in Ecuador a few years ago they also used a lot of local labor but treated them very well.  At the end of their trip they toured the Rift Valley and the Central Highlands around Mt. Kenya, with a guide, and saw many amazing natural things.

The unusual warmth of January threw us off our usual deep winter pattern of time in the house reading and doing desk related tasks.  We knew it was too early to plant in the fields even though it was very tempting.  Between meetings we puttered around on various small projects including, of course, getting seedlings started in the greenhouse.  Early in the month I was the keynote speaker at a sustainable ag conference in Maryland, a good group that I had not experienced before.  The end of January Betsy and I both went to Louisville, KY for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) conference.  This is one of the best farming conferences in the country and the best in the south.  Over 1200 attendees made for a very active time.  I presented at several workshops including giving a day long short course on organic vegetable production.

We came home, ready to get to work in the fields and the weather decided to change to winter.  That threw us off balance again as we held back on planting some crops out into the fields until it warmed up a bit.  The extended cold weather and dry conditions also made it hard to get soil prepared in a timely manner as the cover crops that we depend on so much for soil improvement grew larger than normal in the warm early winter and then wouldn’t decompose when turned into the dry cool soil.  We would turn them under a month in advance, as usual, and then a month later on planting day till the bed again to prepare for seeding and they looked like we had just turned them under the day before.  In the end all the early crops look pretty good just behind where they were at this time last year.  The rest of the leviathan rolls forward as always.  The sliding tunnels are all moved as of yesterday and the first tomatoes go in the ground on Monday.  The huge array of tomatoes and peppers have been seeded in the greenhouse and are beginning to come up, 22 varieties of toms and 25 of pepper this year!

On a sad note we lost a dear friend last week just as market is ready to start again.  Faye Pickard passed away unexpectedly.  Miss Faye as we called her (and that was her email address too) has been one of our diehard regulars since our first market in 1986.  One of the early shoppers (you know who you are, there before 8:30) on Saturdays she always was there unless she was off to be with her grand kids.  She loved Cherokee Purple tomatoes the most and we always saved the first ones for her, sometimes even before we had a chance to eat one!  As a true southern lady she grew up eating out of the garden and was determined to introduce her kids and grand kids to the pleasures of eating good fresh food.  She had succeeded as she would tell us stories of her kids asking her to bring tomatoes from the market or the grand kids eating cucumbers right out of the bag as she would come in the door!  I try to impress upon audiences when I speak about markets that it is more than just selling your products, it is really about the relationships you build with your customers, they become a part of your farm too.  Miss Faye was certainly a part of ours.

Picture of the Week
Italian Ranunculus inside one of the sliding tunnels with Lettuce outside

9/26/07 Vol. 4 #27

So once again the end is here, one more Saturday market.  Just as the finish line is in sight, the starting line appears.  Yesterday we planted the first seven beds of flowers for next spring- Sweet William, delphinium, scabiosa and more.  Today leeks go in for next spring too.  This is one of the main reasons we stop selling at this time of year so we can concentrate on growing for next year.  Sure it’s also about the improved quality of life that comes with a reduced schedule and enjoying the fall weather especially after this brutal summer but it is equally about getting ready for next year.  The coming year is really made the preceding fall as we prepare the soil with mineral amendments and raise up the beds we will plant next spring then seed them down with nourishing cover crops that will protect and improve them over the winter.  We will slowly plant flowers and vegetables to overwinter too so they will be ready for those early markets next March.  Finally we are planning and ordering seeds and plants and dreaming of new things to entice you and interest us.

Then there are the projects we can only do in the off season and the meeting season begins all too soon as well.  The big project has already started, the final addition to the house, a living room.  The mason will finish the foundation today so that it will be standing there waiting for me to strap on the tool belt in two weeks to frame it up so it can be dried in before it gets cold.  This means the rest of the winter will be filled with interior and exterior finishes, I promised Betsy that I would have the construction done by the time we were 50, I figure a year late is not too bad.  The meeting and speaking calendar is already full too, beginning next week when the national cut flower meeting is in Raleigh where Betsy is an integral player and I will be giving a presentation.  Two more conferences in North Carolina in November including the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s meeting in Durham, where I am giving multiple talks.  December takes me to South Carolina to speak at the Vegetable Growers conference.  January is too full, with trips to Tennessee, Missouri (where I am the keynote at a vegetable growers conference there) and Kentucky.  Late February I am off to speak at the Georgia Organics conference and March might take me back to Missouri.  Betsy is thinking about heading to Italy in February for a cut flower conference there and then to see our friends while I am hopefully hiking out west.  In between all of this will be sheetrock and trim and painting and flooring; I wonder when I am going to get to read those books on my side table?  We will keep you updated on all of the off season activities will a monthly newsletter.

Finally we want to thank all of you who have sent kind messages through out the year in response to one grousing or report of yet another obstacle we have encountered and reported to you.  It is our hope that through the newsletter that you get a feel of what everyday life is like on a small farm like ours.  Sure there are hard things that happen but majority of our work is calm and rewarding.  The good news is that after all that has happened this season (late freeze, drought, no blueberries or turkeys, poor and late spring crops) we have roared back and have had the best season we have ever had (as far as gross income).  That is a tribute to a resilient, sustainable farming system we have developed over the years, of which all of you are no small part, thank you again for your support!

Picture of the Week
Construction begins

3/21/08 Vol. 5 #1

Happy first day of Spring and Easter!  Alright so once again the winter has zipped by and I have managed to be so busy that I didn’t get one newsletter out.  I would have to say that this has been one of the most densely packed winters we’ve ever had but we did get a lot done and find some time to have fun too.  Dominated by the construction on the house, which has occupied most of my brain power since October, and punctuated by trips away to conferences, before we knew it, it was time to start planting again.  People always ask who do we get to do the construction work and then look quizzical when I say we do all the work.  We did hire a mason to do the foundation and to build us a fireplace and an electrician to make sure we don’t burn the house down but everything else we do ourselves.  It takes a bit longer sometimes but the end product is exactly what we want and Betsy is an excellent assistant.  The whole project has turned out great and is “almost” done.  Some entrance steps and a few other outdoor things remain but I hope to have them done in the next week or two.  The funny part is we keep asking ourselves “who’s house is this?”

There were too many conferences and farm related meetings away from the farm this winter and I will have to have a word with my agent about over booking.  We try to schedule just one a month but sometimes things pop up after we have committed to another group and we just can’t say no.  The highlights for us are the new and interesting people we meet who are changing the face of food and farming.  Our own “home” conference of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association was a good starter along with the 1200 attendees at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group’s conference in Kentucky.  As always I had fun at the Georgia Organics conference a group I have worked with for many years now, it is pleasing to see it grow from a group of 20 or 30 to over 600 this year.  The most unusual meeting and highest honor for us was to be inducted as fellows in the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans and Chefs.  An offshoot of the Southern Foodways Alliance, this new group brings together those folks, from across the south, who have been working for a long time in food and farming for a weekend to be able to share ideas and experiences.  Betsy and I are still trying to figure out exactly how it all works but it is certainly an interesting group of people.

On the farm things are moving a pace.  The greenhouse is full of transplants, believe it or not, we seeded peppers yesterday.  Almost all of the lettuce is planted in the field now as are the onions and most of the spring vegetables.  The peas are up and look better than last years poor stand.  The little sliding tunnels are full with early greens and flowers and today we will slide the last three so we can plant the earliest tomatoes and melons in the next week or two.  We are thankful for the rains we have gotten in the last month but we still need more.  One pond is full but the other one still is six feet down.  We will begin to fill it from the creek (which only started to flow again on New Years eve) in the next few weeks.  To be honest we are still very worried about whether there will be enough water for this season, we are planting like there will be but know that if the drought persists we will have to make decisions about what to water and what to let go.  The staff started this week and so now we really know that the winter is over!  No more late mornings with another cup of coffee, no more random unscheduled days, every week is full with a plan now.  Welcome to our 27th growing season!

Pictures of the Week

The finished livingroom and incredible anemones

3/28/08 Vol. 5 #2

Busy week, the last out of town conference trip of the season combined with typical spring chores.  Who would have thought that I would be in Kansas City twice in the span of two months?  In January I flew in to be the keynote speaker and a conference presenter at the Great Plains Vegetable Growers conference, a new group to me and I had a fine time.  In the back of my head was the knowledge that the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) was having their 20th anniversary meeting in late March, also in KC.  For us, once the market season starts, we just don’t go away, too much to do.  But the SARE program holds a special place in my heart and in the development of Peregrine Farm.  SARE is the federal government’s effort at promoting sustainable agriculture through an innovative grants program and then information dispersal.  Split into four regions of the country, I spent seven years in the 90’s as a farmer representative on the Administrative Council  of the Southern Region which reviews the grants and oversees the operation of the regional program.

Extremely unusual for a government program, it is very participatory and diverse.  The Administrative Councils have representatives from universities, industry, NGO’s, state and federal governmental organizations as well as farmers.  They discuss and debate the future of agriculture and how to direct that future towards more sustainable solutions via the carrot of grant monies.  Not only was I exposed to the newest cutting edge ideas in farming and the leading minds in sustainable ag but also how this kind of group operates.  The politics and relationships involved, how to manage large groups of diverse opinions to come to decisions, where the money goes.  In the end I was elected to the august position of council Chair (I think I left the room at the wrong time).  This took me to the National Operations meetings where I was able to work with my counterparts from the other regions.  In all it was a very formative time for us.  So late March be damned, Betsy particularly thought I should attend partly for the conference sessions but also to see old friends.  Off I flew early Tuesday and returned late last night tired but glad that I did attend infused with new ideas and renewed contacts.

Here on the farm the staff and Betsy have been making great headway.  The early tomatoes and cucumbers were planted on Tuesday, waiting until just after what we hope was the last night in the mid 20’s.  As it has become more common in recent years we are having to do variety trials to find a replacement for a longtime favorite vegetable.  This time it is the early red tomato we have relied on for great early production with great flavor.  Most tomatoes are not suited to planting this early and the ones that are, usually don’t have very good size or flavor.  Burpees Early Pick hybrid is the one we have grown for years and it has performed reliably but in today’s modern seed industry they have decided to discontinue it’s seed production, damn!  We had some seed left and are growing it alongside three new varieties in the hopes of finding good replacement.  In a few months you will get to taste the results.  Big cultivation and weeding week, looks like they got everything cultivated while I was gone.  Weed control is all about timing and the soil conditions were ideal this week.  If all goes well, that will be the last time we have to do any cultivation on the early spring crops.

Picture of the Week
Newly planted tomatoes

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

3/26/09 Vol. 6 #1

The calendar says it’s time for us to start another market season and winter’s death grip on spring appears to be having it’s fingers pried off one by one, Punxsutawney Phil and Sir Walter Wally were right on with this forecast.  We are doing our best to ignore the fact that it is much colder than usual and continue to plant on schedule including the first tomatoes into the sliding tunnels today! It has been an interesting winter and while we have done quite a lot, the amazingly cold and sometimes very wet conditions have kept us inside more than normal and we feel very fat and sluggish coming out into spring.

Over the next few weeks I will give you more details of our winter adventures but the highlights include trips to Texas, Tennessee (twice), Pennsylvania, and last weekend to Georgia.  Last weekends now almost annual trip (for me) to the Georgia Organics conference was even better because I finally convinced Betsy to go with me which is the reason we were not at market last weekend for our traditional start.  There were a number of events surrounding the conference that were also enticing to Betsy, several Slow Food related things and we both were interested in a full day workshop on farm transition.  Farmer friends of ours hosted this all day session as they have just begun the process of transitioning their farm to a younger farmer.  While we are not quite yet ready to go there, we do need to begin thinking about what we will do with this place in the end so we are very interested in how it is working for others around the country.  As usual I also gave several workshops during the conference and the conference wrapped up with a grand banquet for 1200, held under a huge tent, capped by a keynote talk by Michael Pollan of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” fame.

Here on the farm our 28th growing season is beginning to happen at a much more rapid pace.  The staff started last week so now there is no excuse to stay in the house for another cup of coffee.  Cov is back for his third year and we are very happy for that.  New this year is Glenn who has made several stops at other farms over the past few years and is seriously looking at farming as a career after getting a non agricultural degree at UNC, a perfect fit here at PF.  So far we have moved the hoops for the Big Tops, slid the little tunnels to their summer positions (where the tomatoes are being planted right now) and planted a bunch of lettuce and flowers.  We are on schedule as far as planting and seeding goes, but the cool soil temperatures are holding things back, with some crops not happy at all.  We already had to replant the first outdoor Japanese turnips and the first planting of Sugar Snap Peas looks really bad.  On the bright side the beets, carrots and others have come up really well.  As soon as it dries out after this rain, we will need to begin cultivating like crazy.

Picture of the Week
Anemones say it’s spring anyway