Hmmm, let’s see what’s the news? HEAT!!!! Talk about a rude start to the summer, bang, here I am. The 100’s really pushed the blueberries and Friday we could only get two out of six rows picked there were so many and turning blue in front of our eyes. So Monday we called in the troops and had eleven of us out there going hard. We did manage to get through those four unpicked rows and the fruit quality was really good. Thank goodness they are blueberries and not blackberries. When it gets that hot blackberries actually get sunburned and get white sections on the berries where the color has cooked out of them, technically it is called “leaking” (I am not making this up). So now we are caught up and Monday was the peak day of the season. We can now easily manage the rest of the season (only another ten days or so) with four additional pickers. Whew! As is our standard practice we do not work out in the fields after noon and this week it has been hard to stay out there until noon. Betsy and I have been out early letting the turkeys out, irrigating and picking other crops before the blueberry picking begins at 8:00.
Two interesting extra curricular activities this week. The first was a Slow Food co-sponsored event at Meredith college with the Durham-Chapel Hill Dieticians group. Two short films about local food were viewed and then a panel discussion followed. It is always interesting being the farmer on a panel of other food related folks. Great questions about our local food system but barely enough time to just begin to scratch the surface. Yesterday I went to the State Legislature to speak to a group of legislators about organic agriculture in North Carolina. This Organic Legislative breakfast was just that, it started at 7:30 a.m. in the cafeteria, in the basement of the Legislature building. While they ate organic food brought in from North Carolina farms, myself and three other farmers told them about our experiences as organic producers. This is the second year that Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and other sustainable ag non-profits have put on the breakfast. The idea is not to really press them for anything in particular but to just make them aware of organics and sustainable farming and hopefully more comfortable with the idea. As I went to get coffee I overheard several of them saying to each other “Who knew we had organic pigs here in North Carolina?” Nothing like a pork product to get a politicians attention.
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Turkeys and Hydrangeas
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.
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Happy three day old Broad Breasted Bronzes
Wow, I almost forgot to write the newsletter this morning! I woke up thinking about the turkeys and then just forgot that it was Wednesday. We had one of those turkey events yesterday that makes one question why we raise them. Most of the time the birds are well behaved and get along fine, but as they get older they become teenagers and lose all common sense occasionally. Just like teenage boys the toms get full of themselves and can start picking on each other. The problem with turkeys is once they draw blood they just keep at it until their victim is dead or disappears. Such was the case as I went out yesterday evening to feed and water them. I found two birds cowering under the roosts with the backs of their heads all bloodied, one seriously. I separated them out to the hospital pen to heal and the others don’t even know that they are gone. It is one of the things about raising any livestock; injuries, sickness and death occur more often than one likes. It is something that you have to get used to, ready for and become somewhat hardened about. It is just not the same kind of emotion as when a hail storm comes or a disease kills your tomatoes. Fortunately these two should recover completely and will be reintegrated with the flock with no further troubles. From now on though we have to keep a closer eye on them as you never know when they will get crazy.
We had a good evening on Monday at the Panzanella farm dinner. Great turn out and the dishes they made with our produce were very nice. It is hard to beat a good tomato and mozzarella salad or pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, just two of the dishes they offered up. For us one of the best parts is seeing everyone who came out to eat food with our produce and to spend time with our own assembled group. We always end up with a large table surrounded with our current staff, some former staff and other friends. We carried on, told stories and hopefully weren’t too loud. The next farm dinner features Chapel Hill Creamery and their great cheeses.
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Dan and Cov cleaning up the lisianthus for the last time
It must be tour season as we have had 3 different college classes over the last two weeks. Now we get a lot of tourists over the course of the season but this many is unusual even for us. The first group was the greenhouse vegetable production class from NC State. We were the last stop for the day and they had seen traditional heated greenhouses, and unheated tunnels but as usual when they got here they had to rewire the brain because we look like nothing they have ever seen before. First we have the sliding unheated tunnels with a 12 year crop rotation to make sure we maintain excellent soil health. Then we walk by the passive solar transplant greenhouse with no additional fossil fuel generated heat, certainly not the standard as taught at the university. Finally we talk about the Big Tops with no side or end walls just the roofs to keep things dry, looks like a greenhouse structure but?…
The second class was from the Sustainable Farming Program at Central Carolina Community College where many of the things we do here have been replicated like the passive solar greenhouse and another take on the sliding tunnel. This days subject was tomato and pepper production and as we have two tunnels with beautiful tomato plants growing and a greenhouse full of tomato and pepper transplants they are able to see the whole show, short of fruit to eat. The final group was the Organic Crop production class also from NCSU, the idea that they have such a class is somewhat amazing and an indicator of how far we have come. Again we are the last stop but this time they have been to several similar operations and it is harder to get their attention with talk of cover crops, rotations and beneficial insect habitats but I try.
Which leads to this weekend, the 14th annual Spring Farm Tour. Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-6:00 each day. Our annual opening of the doors to the general public to come see the farm. Many of you have been on the Farm Tour before and it is a great opportunity to see many of the folks who sell at the Carrboro Market. Thousands of people go on the tour and it raises thousands of dollars for the work Carolina Farm Stewardship Association does. Sponsored by Weaver Street Market, who does an incredible amount of work to promote the tour and local agriculture, it is easy to go on the tour. Just pick up a map at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market or Weaver St. Market or many other local businesses and go to first farm that you want to see (we are #33 on this years map). The best deal is to buy a button ($25) which will be your pass for as many people as you can stuff into one vehicle, for as many farms as you want. 40 farms this year so you will have to choose, it is hard to do more than 3 maybe 4 farms in a day. In the mean time we have been mowing and picking up around the place and it’s looking pretty shiny around here, nothing like having hundreds of house guests all at once to make you buff up the joint! Come on out and see what we have been up to, the weather looks to be warm and beautiful!
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A beautiful spring morning, the Lettuce field and the Big Tops all covered
We survived the Farm Tour but just barely, it was damn hot! We had good and interesting tourees as always and despite the heat they seemed to enjoy them themselves and the farm. We spent so much time late last week getting irrigation set up that we didn’t get tomatoes planted until Monday of this week but the big planting is now in the ground. “Only” fifteen varieties this year, sometimes you just have to go back to your base and do what you do best, plus it gives us a few more plants of all the kinds we all love best. Plenty of Cherokee Purples, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Aunt Ruby’s German Green and more, can’t wait. With this dive straight into summer we are now running hard to get things planted and keep up with what has been in the ground and waiting for some heat to really start to grow, weeds included.
Just wanted to let you all know about a meeting you might be interested in next Monday the 4th. For some years now we, at the Carrboro Farmers’ market, have been talking about forming our own “Friends” organization like many markets around the country, to help support the market and work on community issues around sustainable agriculture. The Friends of The Carrboro Farmer’s Market is being developed as a tax exempt organization to undertake charitable and educational activities related to agricultural issues. We want to hear your ideas of what you would like to see from a Friends organization and explore opportunities for you to be involved in its formative stages and future projects. Come join us for fun evening and help build greater support for sustainable agriculture! The meeting is going to be held at the Carrboro Town Hall (where market is held) at 7:30 p.m. This meeting is open to all, so if you have some ideas you’d like to share, please come and bring a friend. If you’re interested in attending , please email email@example.com
On another farm front, as you know we are very proud of the people who have worked for us and especially the ones who have gone on to start their own farms. You may also know that we have helped several get started by letting them use part of our land to grow their first crops. We are pleased to announce yet another farm start up with Cov’s debut at the Wednesday Farmers’ Market last week. He is using a half an acre in our bottom field and is producing some beautiful stuff down there. Look for him in the other shelter on Wednesdays.
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Cov at his first market, farm name yet to be determined
Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain. Good thing we had a rain day yesterday as we are all just now recovering from the Farm to Fork picnic on Sunday. It looked like a good time was had by all despite the heat. Not so hot that you just stood there panting but definitely the sweat was running down my brow. 70 plus farmers and chefs cooked and served up an amazing array of small bites from every kind of vegetable pickle to collard green kimchi and barbecued shrimp with bloody Mary sauce to cabrito tacos with heritage corn tortillas. A pre-event estimate of 650 people were signed up to attend, including the farmers and chefs, not sure if they all showed but a nice chunk of money was raised for the new farmer programs at the Breeze Farm and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.
We had fun, as always, working with Amy Tornquist and Glenn Lozuke from Watts Grocery and Sage and Swift Catering. We presented a beautiful trifecta of Treviso radicchio leaves with a small piece of Glenn’s house made pancetta topped with some of the first tomatoes of the season; a colorful hand held bitter, salty, sweet salad. Glenn had boned out an entire pig, stuffed it with herbs and hot roasted it, all night, in a traditional porchetta style and it was amazing. The third part of the trifecta was a lemon ice cream with a blueberry swirl in tiny little corn meal cones, each with a blueberry in the bottom.
Back here in farm land the rain is holding us up from getting things done. Blueberry picking was canceled for yesterday and I hope we can get a full morning in today. We began the onion harvest on Monday but it is too wet to continue until maybe Thursday, it is bad to harvest them when wet and muddy, too much danger of ending up with rotting onions later. We need to cover the last of the Big Tops this week so we can plant the late tomatoes, the transplants of which are really ready to get into the ground. Looks like we will blast into summer on Friday when it goes straight to the high 90’s, that’ll dry it out for sure!
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Pig with snout on the left, radicchio salads in the middle, tiny little ice cream cones on the right.
We are beginning to get caught up around here but the record setting blueberry crop continues on. Into a fifth week, we have never picked for more than four weeks and that has only happened a few times. Today is the last official pick as there are very few berries left and the birds sense it, every time I walk by there is great fluttering away of all kinds of winged thieves. We always get behind during the blueberry picking fiesta and that combined with the rains compounded the amount of projects needed to be done. Thankfully this week has been dry and reasonable for getting stuff done.
Two fun things going on this coming week and in the near future that you can help with, both will benefit the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. First up is 3 CUPS, the wine, coffee and tea store on S. Elliott Rd. is donating 5% of its sales next Monday through Thursday (June 28-July 2) to the market. It was kicked off last night with a social at the store with a number of vendors from the market and a few customers, very kind of them to host us and do this benefit. For more information you can see it here
The second is you can go to and vote for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market as your favorite market. We have a really good chance to win $5000. This money would allow the market to do some really important projects that we have on our list of things to do to improve the market. Voting continues until September 17th. We are currently in fifth place and moving up rapidly, please vote and help us win!
The onion harvest was completed yesterday and we have never had better red onions. They are now curing in the greenhouse and will be at market from here until Labor Day. The last of the Big Tops was covered last Wednesday and the late planting of tomatoes went in the ground on Friday. The change of seasons continues as most of the spring crops are mowed down now and I have begun to prepare soil for the seeding of the summer cover crops. From here on in we get into more measured summer pace, no frenzied days trying to get things done before the next rain or spring cold front, just calm management of the summer crops.
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The Spring flower block disked up ready for cover crop seed
Still reveling in yet another cool July morning, temperatures in the high 50’s and low humidity, what a treat! We did get a bit of rain on Monday, and I raced around to finish the summer cover crop planting. A week and a half ago (July 4th weekend) in anticipation of the best chance of rain in weeks I rushed around and seeded an acre of summer covers, as a light rain was falling. It turned out to be all the rain we would get that day, Arghh!! Just enough water to get some of them to come up but not all. Mondays half an inch of rain was hopefully enough to bring the rest up, looks like another chance of rain tomorrow too.
With the drought, the varmits are moving in to take advantage of the juicy plants and fruit. The squirrels are really out of control in the tomatoes and in some of the transplants for late summer production. Something, squirrels we think, got up onto the benches where we had lettuce and Brussels sprouts transplants in the seed flats and ate the tops off of all the Brussels sprout plants and much of the lettuce too. So the hunt continues with daily afternoon rounds, so far the tally is four groundhogs and five squirrels.
Everybody is beginning to ask when we will have peppers and begin roasting at market. Well the easy answer is the roasting will begin, as usual, the end of August when we have an abundance of colored bell peppers. The answer to when we will have a good supply of peppers at market is harder. We have been working in the pepper field this week and the plants look amazing, maybe a good as any crop we have ever grown, but for some reason almost all of the early blossoms made no fruit. Some times it is a result of high temperatures and resulting bad pollination but we have just not been that hot, my best guess is the heavy pounding rains a month ago actually knocked the blooms off the plants. That being the case it will be late this month before we have many green bells and the same for anaheims and poblanos. The good news is that with such vigorous plants we should have more, better quality, fruit later in the summer than usual.
There are a number of Peregrine Farm related dinners coming up in the next month that you might be interested in. The first is next Tuesday, the 21st, at 18 Seaboard in Raleigh. A tomato focused event, Jason is coming up with dishes around each of the varieties we grow. The second is our annual Panzanella farm dinner on the 27th, it looks to be equally divided between tomato dishes and pepper dishes, it is always fun.
The last two are cooking classes at A Southern Season the first is a lunch class on the 28th with Marilyn Markel who runs the cooking school and the second is an evening class on August 6th with Ricky Moore of Glass Half Full, again focused on tomatoes.
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A beautiful field of peppers, some plants shoulder high
A late newsletter this week, too many extra curricular things going on and yesterday it was just too much more to pile onto the mornings agenda. The Farm Dinner at Panzanella was very pleasant and well attended on Monday night and Jim Nixon and his crew turned our produce into some really great dishes. We hope that everyone who came had a good time and it was great to see all of you. Equally I had a good time working with Marilyn Markel at a lunch time cooking class at A Southern Season on Tuesday, good food and great questions from the participants, many now new to the newsletter. I will be doing another class with Ricky Moore from GlassHalfFull in a week, on Thursday evening the 6th of August.
We have almost made it to another summer break. Twenty weeks ago the market season began for us. Twenty straight weeks without a day off and while it has been the most pleasant of springs and summers weather wise there is still a fatigue that settles into the brain whether the body is completely worn out or not. To that end, after market this Saturday the break begins and we will not be at market next week (the 5th and the 8th) while we and the staff do nonfarm related activities. We give the staff a week off with pay so they can feel comfortable in taking sometime off and usually they do some traveling but this year they seem to be just staying close to home. For us we usually just hide out and try to not answer the phone but this year Betsy is headed to Colombia (South America) to visit cut flower farms and a friend of ours who is down there on sabbatical. I will get a day or two of hiking in and then be here keeping things growing. So no newsletter next week as I will rest that part of the brain too.
In the last days running up to “The Break” we have been busy getting started on the falls crops and even some for next year. More lettuce has been planted (under shade cloth to keep it cool) for late August and September harvest. Turnips and Radish were seeded yesterday for early fall too. Celery is in the ground for Thanksgiving and soon will be joined in the shade house by Brussels Sprouts and Collards. Cov and Glenn started the seeds for the first of next years flowers Sweet William, Gloriosa Daisy and the small yellow flowered Triloba that Betsy just started cutting last week from last years seeding at this time!
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Nothing like the colors of Zinnias
Just a week to go until that finest of American holidays, Thanksgiving. I think it is really the anticipation of all the great food but the food does seem to mark the entry into the “in the house” months. That time of year when it seems right and comfortable to be inside more than out. Long cooking sessions, a constant fire in the woodstove, catching up on a years worth of reading.
We have been busy both here on the farm and off. The cover crops look great and that nearly five inches of rain last week finally got the creek flowing again. We have gotten almost all of Betsy’s overwintered flowers in the ground and they look fantastic, Dutch iris, anemones, ranunculus, gloriosa daisy, larkspur and others. With our decision not to leave the country this fall, we have been invigorated and motivated towards projects around here. I have finally had time to finish up the rest of the exterior trim on the house and will actually start painting tomorrow! Betsy has been working in the recreational flower beds, pruning, planting and mulching. The glorious fall weather has made it even more enjoyable.
Away from the place we have had the usual fall meetings to attend. Betsy made a quick trip to New York for the Cut Flower growers national meeting and we both have had plenty of local meetings to attend including a couple of very pleasant dinners with Eliot Coleman and Will Allen (who was here to speak last week). I have even managed a few early season hiking trips including a once in a lifetime trip down the Paria river canyon in Utah. So no we are back for the holiday season before we head off after the New Year for more events.
I just came in from harvesting carrots and leeks for next Monday night’s Panzanella Local Thanksgiving Dinner. This farm dinner is featuring multiple farms and the menu looks really good but no turkey, just to spare us before the big day. Here is the menu, we will be there Monday night as well.
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Beautiful stuff for Thanksgiving, Boston lettuce, Collards, Lacinato Kale, Celery, Turnips, Spinach, Carrots, Beets