Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #30, 9/21/17

What’s been going on!

One of those weeks where the calendar is packed.  A lot going on with the various nonprofits that we work with and serve on their boards.  Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) had a full day facilitation training that was a great learning experience and the tools will come in handy.

There was also a retirement party for the last of the founding NCSU faculty members for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS).  We have worked with this group for nearly 25 years first to envision what a big organic research farm could be and then advising along the way as it has grown into a national leader in food and farming systems.  We have been honored to be associated with these people and they have always treated us as equal members of the team.

Tonight is the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s Harvest Dinner at the Market.  A great evening with food from many of the chefs who shop at and support the market.  It is a fund raiser for various market projects but more importantly it is a wonderful way to visit with farmers, chefs, customers, volunteers, town officials and anyone who loves the market.  I think there may still be tickets left.

Next Thursday is our Harvest Dinner at the Eddy Pub in Saxapahaw.  They do a series of dinners throughout the year, each focused on a single farm that supplies them with ingredients.  Next week is our turn and the food and people will be enjoyable.  Fall starts officially tomorrow and it is always a busy time but it sure is starting with a bang.

Picture of the Week


Fall crops really looking good!

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #23, 7/10/13

What’s been going on!

It’s Tomato Week!  Three big tomato centric events this week and near the peak of our harvest.  First up Thursday is our farm dinner at Foster’s Market in Chapel Hill, this year with Flo and Portia from Chapel Hill Creamery, the menu looks great (can you say caprese salad?) and there may still be some spots left but you better call today.

Second on Saturday is the big annual Tomato Day at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market with over 70 varieties to try, a raffle and several dishes to sample including an heirloom tomato gazpacho made by Seth Kingsbury from Pazzo Restaurant from our tomatoes.  Betsy usually dreams up something for us to sample too, maybe a Green Cherokee tomato juice?

Lastly on Sunday is a fun, tasty and educational afternoon at our Heirloom Tomato cooking class at A Southern Season.  This is the fifth year we have worked with Craig LeHoullier, known as NC Tomato Man and the person who introduced Cherokee Purple to the world and personally keeps over 1400 varieties of tomatoes in his collection.  We talk about the different kinds of tomatoes, growing them and of course cooking and eating them.  Still spaces left but hurry.

The rains seem to not want to stop and our thoughts go out to all of our farmer friends who are having increasing problems from too much water.  More flooding for farms in the mountains to diseases and fruit splitting getting worse with every damp day.  This is one of those seasons that you just grit your teeth and work through.  You should savor every tomato that you can this summer and be glad that you don’t grow them for a living.

Picture of the Week


Beautiful Lisianthus

What’s going to be at the market?

The lack of sun is the limiting factor in the flower department but this is what we should have.  It is the peak of the queen of cut flowers, Lisianthus, maybe one of the best looking crops we have had in years, tall with thick stems and lots of colors.  It is still Lilypalooza, lots of long lasting fragrant pink Oriental Lilies and yellow and pink Asiatics too.  Brilliant Zinnias.  Beautiful Bouquets of course.

Maybe the peak of our season?  Plenty of reds with both the sweeter Ultra Sweet and more balanced Big Beefs.  A good amount of Cherokee Purples.  Smaller but fair quantities of of most of the other colors- yellow with Orange Blossom and Kellogg’s Breakfast and the higher acid Azoychka, German Johnson pinks, bi-color Striped Germans, Green Cherokee too.   A good mix of sauce tomatoes with both the Italian Oxhearts and beautiful Romas.  Fair amount of Sungolds, Blushes and SunMix cherries.

Cucumbers.  Sweet Red Onions and the Long Red of Tropea Italian cooking onion.  Basil for the tomatoes!  The first of the pepper crop with Shishitos, Padrons and Serranos this week.

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.

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #18, 7/20/11

What’s been going on?

A quick newsletter today, too damn hot to not get out there early. We had a great Tomato Day at market last Saturday, great crowd, perfect weather and lots of tomatoes to taste and sell. If you were there you know how pleasant an experience it was. We also had a very pleasant Farm Dinner at Panzanella on Monday with a good turn out to taste the seven special dishes that Jim and crew made out of our produce. It was all good but I really liked the bright fresh taste of the tagliatelle with sungold and Roma tomatoes. It was good to see everyone who came. One more summer farm dinner this Thursday (tomorrow) at Fosters Market in Chapel Hill. Tim is using both tomatoes and peppers this year. It was a fun event last summer and Betsy and I will be there and I am sure I will talk a bit about the tomatoes in the dishes.

Well the turkeys graduated from High School with flying colors last Friday. It was time to move them to the field and this group is so brilliant that we actually walked/herded them the 400 feet from the brooder to the blueberry field where they will hang out under the bushes for the next several weeks. We usually catch them, load them in the truck and drive them down and then set them out into the field, but this group has behaved so well that I thought it would be less stress on them to walk them down, it was.

The final test was the first night, had they adopted the new mothership? They had spent a few nights in the portable shelter but in front of the brooder they knew as home. It is always a first time learning experience for the birds but once they get the hang of it, they act like they have done it for years. At dark I went out to herd them into the shelter and close the door for nighttime security. I rounded the corner and they were all pre-loaded and ready to sleep, and they have done it every night since, amazing! So this group is well on the way to graduate degrees!

Picture of the Week

They have already thrown their mortar boards off into the bushes

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #3, 4/6/11

What’s been going on?

April always seems to be filled with events and this month is no exception. Only five days old and we have already had two college classes out to tour the farm and talk sustainable agriculture. Thursday Ben Barker from Magnolia Grill and I will be teaching a class at UNC called “Sustainability: Both sides of the Kitchen Door” where we will be talking about our businesses, sustainability and our 26 years of working together.

Monday night was the launch party for our friend Sheri Castle’s beautiful new cookbook “The New Southern Garden Cookbook“. You will know Sheri from cooking demonstrations at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market and have maybe taken a cooking class from her as well. She will be doing a cooking demo and book signing at market on April 30th and will be at the farm on Sunday of the Farm Tour (the 17th) to talk veggies and sign books too!

Definitely cookbook month, April. In addition to Sheri’s book our friends and customers Sarah Foster of Foster’s Market and Andrea Ruesing of Lantern Restaurant both have new books out. Sarah’s book “Southern Kitchen is an all-inclusive collection of Southern cooking in which simple feasts meet artisanal ingredients” Andrea’s first book is “Cooking in the Moment, a Year of Seasonal Recipes” also promises to give lots of tips for those who are shopping farmers’ markets and eating local food. We haven’t had a chance to leaf through either of these books but I am sure they will be great.

There are a lot more events coming this month but the big one on the horizon is the 16th Annual Farm Piedmont Tour, April 16th and 17th. Founded by Betsy, Weaver Street Market and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) it is now the largest tour of it’s kind in the country. Hard to find time to farm when all this is going on. Better start cleaning up now for the tour!

Picture of the Week

A frosty morning in the turnips, hopefully the last below 32 degrees

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #19, 7/14/10

What’s been going on?

Well we are extremely glad that the extreme heat wave has broken and for the rains we have gotten. Things were getting really crispy out there, plants and people. Our creek ran dry ten days ago and the pumping pond is down to the point that I will need to begin running water into it out of the upper pond (mostly recovered from the mysterious self drain) or the well. These rains will give me a few days respite and time to get the alternatives hooked up. 102 degrees last Wednesday at market was a bit much too!

Last Thursdays Farm Dinner at Foster’s Market went very well and the wide ranging group, including lots of kids, seemed amazed at all the different kinds of tomatoes. This week is the Carrboro Farmer’s Markets Annual Tomato Day, something like the 15th one. This years theme is about the origin of the tomato from South America with three dishes representing the tomato as it moved around the western hemisphere. There will also be a display of most of the different tomatoes available at market, many of the vendors will be sampling their fruits, music and kids stuff too. Dia del Tomate, be there!

Of course in classic Peregrine Farm style, we will have very few tomatoes to present beyond our wonderful reds as the peak of heirloom production has passed and is dropping precipitously. Most of the restaurants we supply will not be getting heirloom tomatoes this week, just not enough to fill their needs. Otherwise it has been a normal mid summer week, a little mowing, some work in the peppers and the first plantings for fall. This week we put in the Brussels Sprouts and Celery for Thanksgiving and the first of the late summer lettuce to be harvested in late August.

Picture of the Week

Just planted Brussels Sprouts and Celery for Thanksgiving

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #6, 4/14/10

What’s been going on?

Green, green, green. Looking out the office window it is now impossible to see down to the lower field as the trees are almost all leafed out. The Hickories are still slowly sending out their new leaves but everything else is far along. Still the lime green of immature leaves, not full sized and still very tender and susceptible to strong winds and cold snaps. They are not the hard, glossy, dark green leaves that can stand up to summers heat, still the innocents of spring.

Lots going on this week, with plenty of extracurricular activities to boot. Too many meetings- Rural Advancement Foundation International board, Friends of the Carrboro Farmers Market, and Farm to Fork Picnic. Today I am teaching a class on sustainable soil management at the community college, Friday we have a class from Elon College coming here to learn about small farms. Next week a Farmers Market board meeting and another community college class on tomato and pepper production. Hard to get the farm work done.

This coming Sunday afternoon I am co-teaching a class with Marilyn Markel, the head of Southern Seasons CLASS cooking school, and Craig LeHoullier who is one of the nations leading authorities on heirloom tomatoes. Craig, who is from Raleigh, maintains a seed collection and has grown somewhere around 1400 different tomato varieties, he is the one who introduced our favorite tomato to the gardening world, Cherokee Purple. This class is a combo of general spring vegetable growing talk and then specifically tomatoes as it is nearing the perfect time for planting. Marilyn with be cooking up a number of dishes using our spring greens and other veggies. I think there are still seats left.

Speaking of events, the Farm to Fork Picnic is just over a month away on May 23rd. Tickets are going fast with over half of the 600 sold already. This is a great food event pairing the areas best chefs and farmers together to raise money for new farmer programs. This year we are paired with our friends Ben and Karen Barker from Magnolia Grill. The annual Piedmont Farm Tour is also coming up, April 24 and 25. Get your buttons the ticket to the tour.

The Viburnums are at their peak, ahead of schedule, what a crazy spring

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

1/25/10 Vol. 7 #1

What’s been going on?

A new year, a new decade and a mid winter newsletter. Betsy and I hope everyone has passed the long cold period and dark days comfortably. Quite an amazing cold snap, certainly not the coldest temperatures we have ever seen but we can’t remember so many days at or below freezing here on the farm. We do remember the last time it did happen back in 1977. We were in college in Utah and read, with amazement, as the reports came in that it was so cold in the East, that the Ohio river was frozen so hard it popped the coal barges out of the water and power plants were running out of coal! As folks who heat with wood, we burned an amazing amount of wood this January too.

The cold and wet weather that began in December has driven us into the house for most of the last two months but we have been productive while clanking away at the computer. All the seeds have been ordered and Betsy is beginning to fill up the greenhouse with transplants. Having taken most of the winter off from teaching/speaking engagements has given me time to finally work on and get up and running. A combination of website and blog you can now find information about the farm all in one place. I will continue to send out the weekly newsletter during our market season and it will also now be on the website as well. The blog portion of the site will also allow us to post other items as they occur to us, it will allow people to comment on posts and it has archives of past newsletters too.

Please go to the site and check it out, there are many links to our favorite groups, places that buy our produce and to pieces about the farm on the web. We will be adding more information pages as time goes along. If you would like to subscribe to the website and blog you can do that too, look for the subscription box on the lower left of the website. If you do subscribe and would prefer to get the weekly market newsletter that way instead, just let me know and I can take you off this email list so you don’t get double newsletters. Who would have thought we could be drug into the 21st century!

We haven’t spent all of our time by the fire or in front of the computer. We did manage to get the house painted, a well house built over the well at the greenhouse and the firewood cutting season has begun. We had a great turn out again for the Triangle Slow Food New Years day meal and gathering. 200 folks enjoyed a relaxing time and great southern traditional New Years food including collard greens from us. Betsy and I also had another fun weekend at the Southern Foodways Alliance weekend for the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans and Chefs several weeks ago in Tennessee. Now that it might stay warm for a few days in a row we are beginning to plant a few things in the sliding tunnels and generally getting mentally ready for spring. We will see what Punxsutawney Phil and the rest of the groundhogs say next week.

Picture of the Week

It’s not all hard at work! Seed catalogs on the left, cats holding Alex down, and a glass of wine on the right.

Hope to see you all at the market soon!

Alex and Betsy

5/17/06 Vol. 3 #10

The endless lettuce season rolls on.  At least it feels endless these days as I go out to cut four mornings a week.  The staff arrives each morning and I brief them on the days jobs and end with “of course I will be cutting lettuce if you need me”.  Mondays and Thursdays I cut for delivery to Weaver Street Market, Wednesdays and Fridays I cut for the markets and the restaurants.  Usually two, sometimes three, hours each morning.  We are now into the fourth week with one big week left to go.  Lettuce is one crop that I do all the harvesting of.  It is such and ephemeral plant that it takes sometime to develop an eye for which head is large enough and tender enough to cut.  In a few days the heads that I pass over will be big enough to then take, in a few more days they will be too far gone, getting tough and bitter.  The hotter it gets the faster this progression occurs.  The weather of the past few weeks has been about as ideal as we get in North Carolina as far as lettuce is concerned so the pressure has been off a bit.  It is easy for me to train the staff on what is the right size of turnip to pick and how big a bunch is but the lettuce thing is more like “is this flower at the right stage to harvest?”, it is subjective (hence the reason why Betsy cuts almost every flower stem on the farm).  Twenty four heads to a case, six cases and hour if I have to search around, ten cases and hour if the planting is really uniform, that is one head every fifteen seconds!  I am counting the seconds until the season is done.

Big event at the Market this Saturday.  The Market is having a fundraiser for our sister market in New Orleans and all of the farmers and fishers who where devastated by hurricane Katrina last fall.  Like the Carrboro Market which was open two days after hurricane Fran crippled this area in 1996, the Crescent City Market was up and running only weeks after the water receded in New Orleans.  Markets are an important social component for towns and cities as well as sources of food.  Muffulettas and Gumbo prepared by a dozen Triangle chefs will be available to go for $10/serving, for more details go to the Carrboro Market websiteAll proceeds will go to the Crescent City Markets and their efforts to bring their vendors back into production.  Come on out for the good food!

It has been the normal orchestrated chaos this week with more planting of summer crops, more zinnias, sunflowers, celosia, cucumbers and another planting of Cherokee Purple tomatoes.  Weeding, trellising of flowers and vegetables, mowing, harvesting and on and on.  The turkeys got so wild last week that we had to trim the wing feathers on all of them.  After chasing the little miscreants all over the farm, including one that spent the night out because we couldn’t catch him at all, we decided we had to make sure none of them could fly until they learned better behavior, maybe this is where the term “grounded” came from that our parents threatened us with as kids.  Well this was no idle threat for these birds!  They go out to the field permanently tomorrow.

Picture of the Week
Sugar Snap Peas already loaded up with many more blooms on the top of the plants

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

5/21/08 Vol. 5 #10

Undoubtedly the event of the week was the Slow Food potluck here at the farm on Sunday.  I was a beautiful sunny late spring day with temperatures in the 70’s and a breeze.  Betsy and I had mowed the place up and we had set up tables in what we call “the stand” (formerly our Pick-Your-Own stand) which is under the shade of three huge tulip poplars and a willow oak.  Looking out over the fields and gardens and right up next to the lettuce field and the fava beans.  At 4:00 cars began to roll in and by 5:00 there was quite a large group assembled.  The skies were getting fearsome looking and I ran in to check the radar, lots of red and purple!  I ran back out, climbed on a chair and announced that everyone needed to grab their potluck dish and go down to our house.  Just as everyone made it inside it began to dump rain, with thunder and lightning.  Fortunately we had just put that living room addition onto the house this winter and have lots of kitchen counter and a dining table we can put lots of leaves in.  The kitchen counters and the table were covered by food dishes and the food line snaked around the room like a conga line.  In Slow Food parlance the local chapters are called conviviums as in convivial- “fond of feasting, drinking, and good company; social, jovial”  we were certainly that!  Great food made with local ingredients and I think that everyone was able to move around the house and visit with each other.  As the rain stopped and people made their way back to their cars and home they also took short self guided tours of the farm.  Not exactly as planned but fun still the same.  We didn’t get a count of how many folks came but I can tell you we had over a hundred forks and there were four left unused!  Someone said it should have been the picture of the week but I couldn’t get to my camera.

Not without some nervous pacing around, we managed to get all the peppers in the ground this past week, hallelujah!  Wednesday the guys got all the black landscape fabric laid over the nine raised beds that I reserve for all the hot peppers which I think need the extra warm soil to do well and the fussier sweet peppers than need better drained soil.  As I headed off to market they proceeded to plant all of those nine beds with 26 different varieties.  That task alone of making sure that each variety is placed in the right location so we can know what it is and make it more efficient come picking time.  I leave them a detailed map of what goes where.  That job done we are only half finished planting.  The rest of the plants, all of the red bells and most of the yellow and oranges are planted directly into killed cover crops.  A slower process and we were held up by wet soil from what is beginning to feel like rain every other day.  Finally yesterday it seemed like it was dry enough and we needed to get them in before the next rain.  With speed and precision the three of us went about it and all went well, another nine beds all tucked into the mulch.  In total nearly 2400 hundred plants and they all got rained in last night, perfect!

Picture of the Week
Dan and Cov poking the last peppers plants in the ground