Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #21, 8/22/12

What’s been going on!

The in-between season when summer isn’t over but the early summer crops are and the first of the fall cool season crops are a month or so away; especially when the frequent rains and heavy morning dew put the disease death blow on the tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and other cucurbit family crops.  Thankfully we have peppers to span the gap.

I had a chef, new to the area, comment the other day about the fact that he was being offered winter squash by local farmers in July.  I explained that if we wait here to plant them so that in theory they are ready in September or later the likelihood of actually harvesting any is very low unless one sprays them regularly with fungicides and insecticides.  The beautiful thing about winter squash is it is a storage crop.

So while we continue to plant and wait on the fall crops the dismantling of the summer crops begins.  The first of the earliest tomatoes have already been taken out and soon the rest will follow along with the trellis and second planting of celosia, mowing to follow.

Don’t forget about our remaining farm dinners this week.  Tomorrow will be a great set of dishes from Bret at Elaine’s on Franklin you can see the special menu here.  Lastly, Saturday, we are going to have a fun dinner at Panzanella in Carrboro where we are co-farmers for their monthly farm dinner along with our friend and graduate of Peregrine Farm, Joann Gallagher of Castlemaine Farm.

Picture of the Week

Some very tired tomatoes

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #20, 8/16/12

What’s been going on!

Summer break?  Sort of, depends on how you view such things.  The important part is that Jennie and Liz had full weeks away and are now back ready to roll fast and rested into the fall.  We managed a few afternoons off and couple of side trips and dinners out but there was just too much to do to completely close the blinds and not look out towards the fields.  Let’s call it the summer reset.

Anyway there are too many good things coming up that we have to be prepared for.  Somehow August has become Peregrine Farm Dinner month.  Three opportunities in the next week and a half to taste our products at three different restaurants and being the start of full blown pepper season all menus will be very pepper centric.  Beginning tonight at Foster’s Market in Chapel Hill we are the featured farm for their monthly farm dinner, the menu looks very southwestern.

Next on Thursday, we will be working with Bret at Elaine’s on Franklin where he will have a series of special dishes using our produce that will be available along with his regular menu.  He makes an awesome chile relleno and you probably will see some shishitos amongst other great dishes.

Lastly, Saturday the 25th, we are going to have a fun dinner at Panzanella in Carrboro where we are co-farmers for their monthly farm dinner along with our friend and graduate of Peregrine Farm, Joann Gallagher of Castlemaine Farm.  This menu will be wider ranging because they have the bounty of both farms to choose from.

We are trying to catch up with things around the farm that did kind of sit for two weeks, especially the mowing as the rains have made the grass out of control, of course both mowers decided to break down simultaneously so that makes it kind of difficult.  Planting for fall, final pepper trellising, the last of the tomato harvests are the main objectives, here we go again.

Picture of the Week

Beautiful Orange Corno di Toro peppers

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #26, 9/8/10

What’s been going on?

It is getting crispy and brown again out in the fields, at least where it is not irrigated. A few notable weather statistics from this summer. Because we all had our eyes focused on Earl last week it slipped by most people that both Raleigh and Greensboro set the records for the hottest meteorological summers (June, July, August) ever. RDU by two degrees! Most of these records are broken by a tenth of a degree or two, not whole units! The other record is still in play. Today will be the 80th day over 90, the record is 83 from 2007. We are already seven days ahead of the pace set in 2007, I am sure that one is going down too. I always like to think if we are going to suffer at least we should have a record to show for it.

Two reminders. Tonight is our farm dinner at Elaine’s on Franklin with Bret Jennings. What they are doing is a special pepper infused menu in addition to their regular menu so you can run either way. It looks might tasty to us:

FARM TO FORK W/ PEREGRINE FARM

SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2010

$45 per person

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fried shishito peppers w/ japanese sea salt

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chile relleno w/ local goat cheese, abels black beans, cotija, cilantro & salsa verde

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seed crusted n.c. tuna on olive oil mashed gold potatoes, spinach, cured lemon, fried parsley & sauce romesco

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spicy grilled marinated skirt steak w/ chilaquiles, corn & cactus salsa, cotija cheese & a chile-cerveza sauce

lemon verbena-jalapeno sherbet

Betsy and I will be there for sure, I will go just about anywhere for a good relleno!

The other thing to not forget about is reserving your turkey for the Holidays, as it will slip by faster than one thinks and the orders are rolling in.

No more Wednesday markets for us, just not enough produce to fill out two markets well. We are moving into the full dismantling phase of fall farm chores as well. Only four rows of tomatoes left, the first of the Big Top covers come off today, the little tunnels are getting cleaned up and the all the wood oiled for the winter. By the end of next week the only things left in the field will be the peppers and a few rows of flowers. If it would just rain a bit we could begin to get soil ready for cover crops.

Picture of the Week

The green irrigated peppers, the dry mowed fields, the big poplars turning yellow and dropping leaves

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #20, 7/21/10

What’s been going on?

Big day on Monday, the cousins finally met each other. The Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys turned five weeks old and graduated to the field. Most turkey moving days are fairly quick as we just open the fence between them and the next field and they just head in there with a little herding. This one is always more complicated. It takes extra fences, multiple groups and shelters to be moved farther than just the next paddock.

In general the pattern is to move the flock from the bottom of the farm to the top, always trying to move up hill into clean ground. Hard to do sometimes when the cash crops are in the ground. The Bourbon Reds have been hanging out the last two weeks in the lowest production block with the first zinnias of the season (no longer being cut) for shade. They were going to meet in the Blueberry field. First we set up two net fences, in a U shape, around half the Blueberries to herd them into. Next open their existing fence and herd them past the basil, through the “Stand” and Betsy’s flower beds, across the driveway and into the new enclosure.

Next take down the net fences that have surrounded them and erect them around the rest of the Blueberries and the open end of the U now holding the Bourbon Reds. They are so happy rooting around under the bushes for new eats that they don’t even know the “door” is actually not there! Onto the Bronzes, we take the big truck with shell and back it up to their temporary paddock in front of the brooder and catch the 66 little fat birds one by one and put them in the bed of the truck. Slowly we drive across the farm and back up to the net fence surrounding their half of the Blueberry field and grab them again, one by one, and set them down into their new “big” home.

Finally we drag the shelters from their respective locations to the end of the berry block, move all the feeders and waterers up near the shelters, set up the water hose and fill waterers. The Bronzes, being totally wide eyed at the big world have just hunkered down under the first blueberry bushes, far from their shelter and waterers. It is quickly headed to the 90’s today so we slowly herd them up the field to their food and water so they can find it, “OK now we are home” they say. Done. For several weeks now, the country cousins and the city cousins will run up and down the blueberry field with a net fence between them, staring and talking to each other. At some point we will run them together and hope that it will be a happy family reunion and not a gang fight. We’ll see.

Don’t forget the next two Peregrine Farm tomato/food events this coming week. First up on Sunday afternoon is the A Southern Season Cooking class, Tomatoes From the Vine with Marilyn Markel and heirloom tomato guru Craig LeHoullier. Craig is the one who introduced Cherokee Purple to the world and is a wealth of tomato knowledge. These classes are always fun, relaxed and the menu looks great.

Monday night is our Panzanella Farm dinner, still working with Jim on the menu but it will feature both tomatoes and peppers in special dishes that will be in addition to the regular Panzanella menu. This is always a nice evening with lots of locals and market regulars coming into the restaurant. Maybe we’ll see you there.

Picture of the Week

Good fences make good neighbors

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #18, 7/7/10

What’s been going on?

July is a tomatoey month. Sure there are other fruits and vegetables out there to eat but the real focus of the month is all things tomato. We have four tomato dinners and events on our schedule alone, plus our tomatoes are featured on the menus of at least five local restaurants. It is a lot of pressure to put on just one crop from the farm and I do have to give plenty of praise to Betsy’s lisianthus and celosias as they are a big part of our business this month too.

The first dinner is actually tomorrow at Foster’s Market in Chapel Hill. Foster’s Farm dinners are family style and the menu looks great, why not let someone else cook when it’s this damn hot? Betsy and I will be there to visit and talk tomatoes, we’ll see you there. Through out the month we will be carefully making sure we have enough fruit to cover all of these events and the restaurants. On top of all this we have to ship tomatoes to Alabama next week as part of a fundraising donation we did for the Southern Foodways Alliance! We have never tried to ship tomatoes before, somehow we need to make sure they don’t arrive as juice! Hopefully this continuing heat won’t cut production short.

It was turkey moving day yesterday and it seemed uneventful until this morning. We move the birds to new fields every two weeks or so depending on how big they are (how much manure they will drop) and when the next field they need to move to is ready. The past few weeks they have been down around one of Betsy’s recreational flower beds with shade under some ornamental trees. We moved them right next door to the field that had the onions and the first zinnia planting. The old zinnias provide them shade but not as much fun as hanging out in the trees.

This morning I could see from the office window that a couple of birds were outside of the fence. Not unusual in the morning as they first stretch their wings. Betsy comes in and says we have a mass escape, sure enough 26 birds decided to sleep in the trees last night instead of on the roosts in the shelter, should have shut them up last evening to make sure. Fortunately they were all happy to run through the woods and then be rounded up and herded back into the fence. I’ll make sure they stay in tonight!

Picture of the Week


Turkeys drifting through the woods, their white tarped shelter is in the background

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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!

8/3/05 Vol. 2 #22

After 21 Saturdays Peregrine Farm’s marketing season is three quarters of the way done!  Whoopee!  While the market itself continues on until Christmas we decided in 2000 to stop at the end of pepper season and not to grow the fall cool season crops.  With a sustainable view of  our world we know that the most limiting part of our system is labor, and especially for us is our quality of life.  We realize that if we cannot renew ourselves then eventually the whole thing will grind to a halt.  This also represents the social part of the sustainable triangle.  The economic part of this decision came by looking at the numbers it took to go until Thanksgiving, and the return, we decided that it wasn’t worth it for us.  Turns out we were right, we make more now that we don’t market for the additional seven weeks or so than we did before.  Part of that is we personally are in better shape to manage the main season (see part one) and the other is the third leg of sustainability, the environmental side.  We forgo the fall crops, let the soil rest, get our soil improving crops planted just right and put the farm to bed for the winter in better shape, ready to go for the spring.  Of course as you know, 27 or 28 weeks of marketing doesn’t mean we have the rest of the year off, we are just working on other parts of the system.

Also after 21 weeks straight it is time for a break.  We have always taken a break the beginning of August after the early tomatoes wind down and before the peppers kick into full speed.  After the ugly hot weather of July we give the staff a week off with pay and we slow down a bit so we can all pull on through to the end.  So to that end we will be at the markets this week and then take the week of August 7-14 off.  No markets next week and no newsletter.  Nothing exotic for us while we are off, maybe the the beach for a few days, and maybe a few other excursions close by.  There are still the turkeys to keep an eye on and plants to water but by and large we will be lounging with our feet up!

Good news of the farm front though, turnips, radishes, lettuce all for September are in the ground.  Brussels Sprouts are planted for Thanksgiving and the leeks go in this week too!  Good rains last week have made all of these crops very happy.  By the way tonight, Wednesday, Panzanella restaurant (another of Weaver Street Markets businesses) is having another of their “Featured Farm” dinners where they have a special menu built around what the featured farmer has in season.  Tonight it happens to be us!  We took them lots of tomatoes of all kinds, cucumbers and peppers.  I know for sure that one dish will be poblano peppers stuffed with their house made chorizo sausage!  It should be an enjoyable eating experience.  Betsy and I will be there after market to eat our way through the menu, come by and see us!

Picture of the Week
Rudbeckia Triloba in full glory

7/26/06 Vol. 3 #20

This has been one of those weeks when people begin to ask “when do you have time to farm?” as I go from one meeting to another.  I have to admit that I have not spent as much time in the field this summer as I usually do.  Mostly due to the on going wrangling at the poultry plant and the Growers’ Choice Cooperative I have been running around central North Carolina a lot.  We knew heading into this season that this was going to be the case but felt that we could handle it this year because our staff is so good.  It has been!  We are extremely fortunate to have a group of people who have been with us for several years and begin to know the system as well as we do.  We joke that Joann understands my handwriting and speech patterns better than Betsy does!  When I scrawl the restaurant orders down, with my own abbreviations, Betsy will show it to Joann who knows exactly what it says.  Most mornings now, as they arrive at the farm, we sit under the little shed we use to store straw in and go over that days jobs.  I usually can say we need to do X,Y and Z and they head off to spend their mornings without me at their side.  Picking tomatoes, trellising flowers, weeding Lisianthus they now know how to do it as if it were their own farms.  Of course Joann has her own farm, Castlemaine, and Rett has just left us to move to his new farm in the mountains.  Will is starting a new farm down in Chatham county and Rachel is in her third year working on local farms after her boyfriend Lee worked for us before that.  We have always tried to create a working situation here where, as they learned the system, we let them operate it without excess supervision.  Just enough to make sure the quality and efficiency is there but not so much that they feel micro managed.  Generally we have managed to successfully hit that balance, sometimes we miss the mark but never with disastrous results.  It is difficult in our situation in that we can’t have permanent, year round help.  Because we are seasonal we have to make the job as enticing and rewarding as possible and become efficient and effective teachers so that they can get up to speed quickly without the frustrations that can come with learning something new.  We have been very lucky with staff for many years and this year they have made it possible for me to be distracted by off farm projects, I can’t thank them enough.

It is a little eerie when you go to deliver produce and there are life size posters of you by the door.  Tomorrow night (Thursday) Panzanella restaurant and Weaver Street Market are having another of their local Farm Dinners this one featuring us!  This one will benefit the Sustainable Farming Program at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, five percent of the proceeds will be donated.  This is where I taught the Sustainable Vegetable Production class for six years and many of our excellent staff have taken classes there.  The format is they have a number of special dishes made from the featured farms produce along with their regular menu.  Yesterday we delivered a huge array of produce for Peter McKloskey to work with.  Five kinds of tomatoes, Poblano, Anaheim and Serrano peppers.  Red Torpedo Onions from Italy, Cucumbers, those great Galia Melons and of course flowers for the dining room.  I know that he is going to stuff some of the Poblanos and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Melon for dessert.  Every summer we threaten to have an on farm open house and dinner during tomato season but never seem to be able to get around to it (I wonder why?), this is the next best thing and we don’t have to do the cooking!  Come on out and enjoy the produce of the season.  5:30 to 9:00, no reservations necessary.  Betsy and I will be there eating too (are you kidding, our food and we don’t have to prepare it!).

Otherwise it is business as usual on the farm.  Tomato picking twice a week, peppers once a week, with plenty of maintenance in between.  Tying up tomatoes and peppers, fighting back the encroaching weeds, mowing, mowing, mowing.  Betsy is of course cutting flowers everyday.  It is kind of like the steady buzz of the crickets at night, it just goes on and on.  The turkeys are all now in the Blueberries, divided by a section of fence.  This is the “get acquainted” period where they can talk to each other through the fence but the bigger birds can’t pick on the little (and strange to them) ones.  In another 10 days or so they will all run together and it will be like old home week, by then they will just think of each other as cousins they haven’t seen for a year but will feel comfortable hanging around with!

Picture of the Week
A foggy morning as the cousins stare each other down