Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #33, 11/1/18 the Italy edition

What’s been going on!

 Whew!  We are back and it has taken most of the week to recover from the return travel.  Another great trip to Italy where we had the best weather of any of our times there.  We started with five nights southeast of Turin in the Barolo wine country where we visited several large markets

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and ate some fantastic meals all with variations on the Piedmontse style of cooking which typically includes lots of raw beef, very fine pastas, hazelnuts and of course peppers.

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We then moved east to Emilia-Romanga for three nights where we saw several more markets and a few museums and had great meals in Modena, Parma and in the countryside.  There the food is centered on hams, prosciutto and parmesan cheese along with excellent pastas.

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After dropping the Barkers at the airport Betsy and I went back down to Turin to visit with our farm friends who we have not seen in five years.  They of course gathered the whole clan for a typical dinner with 17 people.  Exhausted from so much good eating we made our way back home.

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Jennie of course did a great job of running the farm while we were gone including the final pick of the pepper field and the taking down of all of the pepper support and removal of the plants.  There was a frost while we were gone, not cold enough to really kill warm season plants but definitely low enough to mark the end of their production.

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

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #32, 10/10/18

What’s been going on! 

A lot going on the next few weeks.  First we are ready for the next tropical storm rains coming today and tomorrow.  Greens are being picked this morning to spare them the bruising from heavy rain and splashing soil, peppers can wait until Friday.  The little tunnels are closed down just in case we get higher wind gusts than expected.  The good news is that this storm is moving fast and by Friday afternoon the sun will be out and I am seeing 49 degrees as the low for Friday night!  Definitely the silver lining.

Saturday will be the unveiling of the Carrboro Farmers’ Markets mini-museum celebrating the 40th season.  We had hoped to have it up a few weeks ago but hurricane Florence side tracked us a bit.  We are very excited about the timeline and all the pictures and documents that go along with it.  Our biggest market supporter Kelly Clark of Laser Image Printing and Marketing has worked very closely with us on all of it and it will be fantastic.  The Gazebo at market will be turned into the timeline museum this Saturday, make sure that you check it out and it will be a beautiful fall day!

No newsletter for the next two weeks as Betsy and I will be in Italy with our friends the Barkers.  Never enough research can be done on Italian crops and food.  Betsy says we will be on the red wine and prosciutto cleanse.  This time we are going back to the Piedmont and then over to Emilia-Romagna.  There is a farmers’ market every day to be explored along with seed stores.  I hope that we can make it to the Tomato Museum near Parma.  We will finish with a visit with our Italian farm family near Turin.  So look for Jennie and the crew on Saturdays and if you need anything don’t hesitate to send an email as all three of us will see it.  I will post pictures on Facebook and Instagram too.

Picture of the Week P1040429

The little tunnels all closed up for the impending storm

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

Food explorations with the Barkers III, Umbria

Following in the tradition of our two previous trips with Ben and Karen Barker (Terra Madre and Piedmonte, Italy 2006 and Northern Spain 2010) we again plunged into another food filled study, this time of Umbria.  Why Umbria?  Well it is very similar to Tuscany in scenery, food and wine but with fewer tourists.  The food traditions are maybe more simple and a direct result of what is in season, we would find out.

A slightly different approach this time as we would stay in one central location and travel out by day.  We wanted to have a place in a small hill town that we could return to in the evenings after the days adventures and big lunch.  If we wanted we could fix some simple evening food from ingredients we might find in the markets or walk the town and find something but not have to drive in the dark.  We found a nice apartment in the beautiful hill town of Spello on the slopes of Mt. Subasio which are covered with olive groves, it turned out to be exactly what we wanted.

The hills are carpeted with olive trees

The hills are carpeted with olive trees

We flew into Rome and in just over two hours we were in the heart of Umbria at our first lunch in the small town of Bevagna.

happy to out of an airplane

happy to be out of an airplane

a singular dish with farro

a singular dish with farro

It was a perfect start, sitting outside on a sunny afternoon, with several great dishes including a farro dish with pistachios, several traditional pasta dishes and a desert so good that Karen was determined to figure out how to reproduce it at home.

 

 

 

here come the humgry Americans

here come the hungry Americans

We rolled the last few miles over to Spello and checked into our apartment and then made our first foray around town.  First to the macellaria to procure some salumi for the house and then to the enoteca to make sure there was wine in the house.  The Enoteca Properzio, run by the Angelini family, turned out to be almost a nightly visit as we tasted our way through the Umbrian wines that Ben wanted to try from research he had done at home.

Irene and Roberto Angelini with Ben

Irene and Roberto Angelini with Ben

The next day, well recovered from jet lag we mostly spent the day wandering around town

steep hill town alley

steep hill town alley

but did drive a few miles out to the valley town of Canarra for lunch at a small husband and wife run osteria, Perbacco.  Canarra is known for its production of red onions and the menu featured them in many dishes.

pasta with red onions and anchovies, a Betsy special

pasta with red onions and anchovies, a Betsy special

Monday was the first of our markets to check out in the town of Marsciano, supposedly one of the biggest markets in Umbria it was mostly clothes and household items and not much food.  We did start the practice of having a porchetta sandwich at each market we went to, think of it as the morning sausage biscuit but much better.  Porchetta is an Umbrian specialty of a whole, herbed, roasted pig which is sliced onto thick rolls and there are porchetta trucks everywhere.

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We did buy a few seeds to try and I was glad to see that our broccoli raab looked every bit as good as the stuff on display there did.

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A word about markets in Italy.  There is usually a weekly market in every small town, bigger towns may have a twice a week market.  Most of the vendors have these special market vehicles with sides that open up and they move from town to town loading and unloading each day (unfortunately the produce also reflects this).  Most of the produce is from Italy and labeled where it is from but there are very few local farmers.  Over the years we have been seeing fewer and fewer local growers at these markets.  Increasingly we are seeing special once or twice a month markets for local producers only, usually on Saturdays.  We think that they are feeling the pressures of these bigger mobile market vendors and food more easily available from all over the European Union.

We moved on up the valley to Deruta, one of great pottery producing towns, especially for the brightly colored and intricate Majolica ware.  This was a ceramic guitar made for Carlos Santana and the tiles were fantastic.

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We ended up at the oldest producer, the Grazia family has been making pottery since the 1500’s and we got a personal tour by Ubaldo Grazia, the current head of the family.

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Here in his office and museum.

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We saw all areas of their production including their new kiln with the first firing of custom beer bottles for a local craft brewery.  Ubaldo was very excited about this new product.

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A fair lunch in Torgiano but the food and wine highlight of the day was a long relaxed evening down in the cellar of Enoteca Properzio.  A slow rainy Monday evening allowed much personal attention from Irene, Lucca and Roberto the patriarch.  Betsy was in her best Italian speaking form and once they found out we were chefs and farmers the plates of bruschetta, pecorino cheeses and prosciutto started coming along with “special” wines to be tasted.  It was a memorable night.

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Tuesday dawned clear as a bell, ideal for our drive up into the Mount Sibillini National Park.  On the way through the mountains there were lots of freshly dug potatoes being sold on the roadside  and we also passed several big trout farms.  The lunch goal was the tiny hilltop town of Castelluccio perched on a small rise in the middle of the Piano Grande

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a huge valley where they raise incredibly tiny lentils.  This is a panarama of just half of the valley you can see the lentil fields below, you can click on it to make it really large.

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Lentils, trout and sausages were mandatory.

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After lunch we dropped back out of the mountains to the town of Norcia, the real goal for the day.  Norcia is maybe the most famous town in Italy for it’s cured pork products and we loaded up with things to eat back in Spello and to bring back home.

does this man look like someone nicknamed Pig Padre?

does this man look like someone nicknamed Pig Padre?

A bewildering selection to choose from

A bewildering selection to choose from

Norcia is also the home of twin saints Benedict and his sister Scholastica.

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Back home in Spello, we spent the end of a beautiful day out on the private patio overlooking the valley with large plates of all the charcuterie, cheese and fruits we had purchased.

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Wednesday we started with the small market in Spello (and a porchetta sandwich), the highlight being the fresh fish truck and some of the very first olives of the season.

Ben drawn to the porchetta truck

Ben drawn to the porchetta truck

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Ben spotted the October beans along with the new olives and artichokes

Ben spotted the October beans along with the new olives and artichokes

Our friend Jim Stock of the Haw River Wine Man had made connections for us to do a winery tour at Tabarrini vineyards.

???????????????????????????????Good wine and discussion and then onto lunch in Montefalco at L’Alchemista.  The featured item here was the black celery grown in the area.  Not really black but a really dark green because they hill the base up high which forces the plants to make extra chlorophyll in the leaves.  We also had the some of the first olive oil pressed this season, incredibly green and flavorful.

Black celery stuffed with sausage

Black celery stuffed with sausage

Thursday was another rainy day but we were off to Orvieto, built up on top of a volcanic ash hill it is known both for it’s huge and beautiful duomo and it’s underground caves carved out of the volcanic material.  Originally made by the Etruscans there is a fascinating tour you can take down into them showing how they lived and worked underground especially when under siege, most intriguing were the pigeon nest holes which was a main food source for them, they outlasted the Romans for two years this way.

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The duomo is striking for both its black and white horizontal stripes but also it’s very ornate front façade.

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It was also market day and this is where we saw more local growers than anywhere else the most interesting items being the wild greens and herb mixes.

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the olive and dried bean guy

the olive, nut and dried bean guy

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Friday was our last day together and we had several things we wanted to get done.  We had been told by several Italians that the best of all the olive oils were the first pressed from Spello and that they should begin pressing any day now.  We (Betsy) asked all around town about were the mill was, finally we were walked out to a patio that overlooked the valley and the mill was pointed out to us at the bottom of the hill and sure enough we could see they were working.  First thing this morning we drove down to the mill where we sampled the first oil of the season and then proceeded to buy more than a gallon each to take home.

olives being loaded into the press

olives being loaded into the press

beautiful green olive oil

beautiful green olive oil

look how green it is, delicious

look how green it is, delicious

That task done we headed north to Assisi to see the town and the bascilica of San Francisco (St. Francis).

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Even in the shoulder season the town was full of tourists and pilgrims here to see the home of the saint and the namesake of the new Pope.  A beautiful town and day we spent the morning wandering through it.

did I say hill town?

did I say hill town?

All week we had talked about how good the first meal in Bevagna was and we decided we needed to go back and eat at Trattoria di Oscar again.  It turned out to be the best meal we had the whole trip.  This tiny restaurant (five tables inside) is run by the chef husband and his wife.  This day Filippo was actually the host and waited the tables as well as overseeing the kitchen.  The first day they gave us a hand written daily menu in a notebook that had the past menus in it was well, it was fun to look at what was recently offered, today he just recited it to us.

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We were fortunate to get one of the five tables as they turned people away.  Once again when they learned that we were chefs and farmers the world opened in a different way.  We came to realize that we are not the standard American tourists and that our personal stories are interesting to them as well.  A great long meal with some new wines.  Good pastas, pigeon, quail and lardo wrapped pork and more.

Grilled quail

Grilled quail

pork wrapped pork

pork wrapped pork

walking through Bevagna

walking through Bevagna

We headed back to Spello for one last sunset and a final visit to the Enoteca before packing up.  It has been a great week.

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We now joke that we will start an Italian food tour business.  Karen will research the restaurants and other sites to see, Ben will choose the wines and drive, Alex will co-research markets, other places to visit and navigate and most importantly Betsy will speak the language for us to open the secret doors.  I think we need to test drive the model a few more times before we take paying customers (wink).

Saturday we parted ways with the Barkers headed to Tuscany for a few days and we drove on up to Piedmonte to visit with our friends up there.  Three days and nights full of family meals and visits in the different homes with the usual great food and conversations.  The Piovannos have mostly cleaned up from the lightning strike fire that took out one of their barns this summer but still have to replace the tractors that were burned up.

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this is what it looked like before

this is what it looked like before

Eventually we had to start the long trip home, after 22 hours we finally walked into our house, I think now the transit home is harder than the jet lag going over.

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #35, 11/1/13

What’s been going on!

We’re baaack! and still a bit mentally groggy from both travel and the amount of things waiting for us when we got home.  Jennie did a great job while we were gone, probably better than we would have done, it’s all the emails, phone messages and such that we are digging through.  We had a great time and will have a full report coming next week but wanted to get a newsletter out before market tomorrow to let you all know what was going on.

First three important updates: 1. Tomorrow is the first day of the Saturday Carrboro Farmers’ Markets Winter hours, 9:00-12:00 starting with the bell (no sales allowed before 9:00).  2. All the turkeys are now reserved.  3. We will be roasting peppers tomorrow, probably for the last time for the season.

When we got home we were glad to see the cover crops coming up well despite the dry conditions since we seeded them, hopefully we will get some rain today.  We also knew that we had the killing freeze last Friday night (25 degrees here at the farm) and the peppers are now black and dead.  We choose not to go through any kind of heroics to cover a quarter acre of plants as we think the returns are marginal this late in the year for the difficulty in involved.  Jennie did strip the plants of all available fruit and we now have a cooler full that we will have available for the next few weeks.  The rest of the crops look really robust but continue to slow down their growth with the shorter and cooler days.

We did make it to a number of markets around Umbria and I would have to say that while we saw a few interesting items they did not look as robust as we have seen before and never as beautiful as our own amazing Carrboro Market.  I am not the only one who thinks this.  We have a number of customers each year who have returned from a trip to Europe and come back saying that our market is every bit as diverse and the products better looking than what they saw there.  Reminds us of how fortunate we are here in central NC.  I will expand on this when I get the full post done but we did see a few new crops but unfortunately missed the black celery festival but did manage to eat some.

Picture of the Week

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This was one of the better local producer displays we saw

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #34, 10/17/13

What’s been going on!

Success!  It took just about everything we had but we managed to get all the soil worked, cover crops seeded and flowers for next spring planted.  Just another piece of a strange weather year to work around including only a few hours of sunshine in a ten day period.  Soil didn’t work up as nice as I would have liked but good enough and ready for the winter and all of next year.  This is maybe the most important week/job of the year as it sets the farm up for the whole next season.  All the tomato and pepper beds for next year are set, the lettuce beds for early spring are up, and on and on.  Two acres all ready, 200 beds just waiting to be planted sometime before next June.  Whew!

If that hasn’t been enough there has been plenty of other meetings, classes and other things going on.  We did have a great cooking class at A Southern Season last night focusing on peppers.  Our now frequent co-presenter at these classes, Craig Lehoullier, more famous for tomatoes than peppers was again fun to work with as he is just about as crazy about peppers as he is tomatoes and comes from a home gardener perspective.  The Cooking School staff did a great job with all kinds of dishes including a delicious Chile Poblano relleno in nogado sauce.

So tomorrow Betsy and I get on a plane for Italy and are we ever ready!  Once again into a food filled exploration of Umbria with Ben and Karen Barker.  Nearly daily stops at the best farmers markets in the region to search for potential new crops, display techniques, seeds; and then afternoons spent eating the local food and seeing the historical sights to be followed by leisurely evenings “reviewing” the day’s activities.  A week with the Barkers and then our usual visit with our farm family near Torino which is always a treat.  We will come back with many stories, hopefully a few new ideas, until then Jennie is in charge and will be at market the next two Saturdays.

Picture of the Week

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Another grey day but a farm ready for next season, doesn’t look like it now but this will be a field full of lettuce next spring!

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #30, 12/15/10

What’s been going on?

Cold, cold, cold! 12 degrees this morning, second time in a week. This is just amazing and another record setting weather phenomenon. It has been hard to get much done outside so it is good we didn’t have any big projects we needed to get done. It is the beginning of the meeting season and I have had three board meetings in the last month and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association conference so a little time at the desk has been welcome and needed. Soon we will have to buckle down to plan all of next years crops and order seeds, followed quickly by the time to do the end of the year books. Good thing we have plenty of fire wood to keep us warm with all of this indoor time.

We hope you all had tasty and sumptuous Thanksgivings, we thought the turkeys and produce were some of the best we have had. As promised I finally have had time to get the travel reports up on the website on Italy and Terra Madre and the Spain food explorations. I know some of you have already been to the website to see them but others will hopefully enjoy.

The winter looks to be filling up with the normal greenhouse work and other farm chores and further extra-curricular activities. The seed catalogs are just now starting to arrive in the mail and so our thoughts are turning to what new crops we will find to try this coming season. We do have the five new peppers from Spain and the new tomato from Italy for sure. Betsy already has the first Lisianthus plants up in the greenhouse and lettuce was seeded this week. All too soon it will be Ground Hog Day and spring will be peaking around the corner. If we don’t see you at market this Saturday, we hope that you all have a warm and satisfying winter.

Picture of the Week

Some cold lettuce and turnips under the floating row cover.

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

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.

11/6/04 Vol. 1 #28

Well we’ve been back for ten days but a combination of too many things to deal with and not enough time or energy to overcome the pile until now.  Let’s talk Italy!   We had a great time!!!

The whole trip is still kind of a blur and we are still processing all that we saw and did.  In many ways it was what we expected and then there were the parts that completely overwhelmed us.  The actual Terra Madre event that was the catalyst for us going was amazing and also crazy.  It was like the Olympics and the United Nations all at once, almost 5000 food producers from 128 countries with seven languages being translated at once!  The logistics of such an endeavor are mind boggling and as one would expect a few crumbs fell between the cracks at times.  This lead to the workshops being somewhat challenging (read mostly not great) but the people watching and people meeting made up for that.  The delegates where encouraged to where their traditional dress (which made us North Americans look mighty pasty!).  The African women with their jewelry, the Peruvians with the hats and bright colors, the native Brazilians with the feather headdresses, the Kirghiztani herders with their tall felt hats and more.  Then the impromptu market place that sprung up on the floor heightened the sense that we were not in Kansas!

The Peruvians
The closing ceremonies with Prince Charles!

The most unexpected and by far the best part was where Betsy and I stayed.  We had been told that it might be a farm stay.  To us that most likely meant an organized agritourismo, used to housing foreigners.  After being in transit for 27 hours and mostly awake for 33 straight hours we were dropped off in the dark in front of a classic Italian brick and tile roofed facade.  Greeted by our farm family who spoke no English except for the uncle (Oscar) and we who spoke about six words in Italian.  For five nights we had the best time, learning and laughing and eating the most amazing meals we would have in the country.  With lots of patient help translating from Oscar and his son Diego, pictures we had brought with us, and a large Italian/English dictionary we managed to get the gist of what both sides were saying.  This fourth generation farm produces artisan meat from raising the grain, to feeding it to the special Piedmontese beef and hogs, all the way to selling it in their own butcher shop down stairs.  This was some fabulous meat and salami and we were treated to many great traditional dishes each night as we would sit down to six and seven course meals (molto bene!).  Michele and his wife and son, Kati and Lorenzo, worked long hard days (duro giorni) and had just opened their house and farm to us.  We became friends and hope to see each other again.

Oscar, Alex, Betsy, Diego, Kati, Michele our new Italian family

The inside of their beautiful courtyarded farm

Needless to say as we waved goodbye on the seventh day from home (with not much sleep and too much stimulation) and made our way to the train for the rest of our trip we looked forward to time alone to think about all that had transpired and some much needed rest.  Over the Maritime Alps to Sanremo on the Riviera de Fiori in search of the largest cut flower market outside of Holland.  It was not to be easily found but we managed to get the right bus and walk through it but long after the days business was over.  Next trip!  We did have a nice time walking the streets and climbing the rabbit warren alleys of the old town.  Finally another train ride back to Milan for the night and then the long trail home.  As we were on the shuttle bus back to our car at the airport in Raleigh it seemed hard to believe that we had been on the subway in Milan that same morning.

The Riviera from our hotel room

I would like to say that we came home with many great new things to produce for market but there was just nothing that jumped out at us, there are surely things that we will incorporate into what we do and maybe some of the seeds we brought back will be new treasures!  The experience was one we will never forget and we want to thank all of you who made it possible!

Things here on the farm looked great when we returned, Joann can run the place without us just fine.  The turkeys are all sold and are headed off on Monday to be processed.  Look for a newsletter in two weeks just before the special Thanksgiving market on Tuesday the 23rd from 2:00-6:00pm.  The rest of the vegetables and flowers for Thanksgiving are coming along nicely too.

3/2/05 Vol. 2 #1

They live!  I have been trying to sit down and send out an update for months!  Just an indication of how our winter has been going, way too busy for a couple of folks who are supposed to be “taking it easy”!  I would like to think that I have gotten caught up on all of the things that we need to do but I know that would just be a bold faced lie!  As a friend of ours once said “our recreation is getting in the way of our recreation”!

Let’s see, since our last newsletter we have both had several major excursions and many minor ones.  In December Betsy and I both flew to Texas where I gave an all day workshop for the Austin Farmers’ Market.  We have good friends there who are large cut flower growers and we held the workshop at their farm.  After five days with them, including a quick side trip down to Mexico, Betsy flew home and I headed on west to Big Bend National Park.  I have been going out there, to hike, for over 30 years (starting when I was in high school in Houston).  We had a great 60 plus mile walk across the desert and up into the mountains.

In January I went to New Orleans for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) conference.  I didn’t have to give any workshops this time around but as a board member we are always busy.  The end of the month Betsy flew back to Italy!  A professor friend of ours is doing a sabbatical in the main cutflower growing region there and as we weren’t very successful in October in seeing much flower production this gave Betsy a great chance to get on some farms.  After several days in and around San Remo she took the train up to see our Italian family, the ones we stayed with in October.  I am not sure that I may not lose her to the Italians!  We have had lots of other extracurricular distractions sandwiched in as well, workshops to give, grants to review, etc.

On the farm we have been trying to pay attention to business but quite frankly have been having a hard time as we have been having too much fun!  We have managed to get quite a bit of work done on both the house and the packing shed.  The weather has made it difficult to get any planting done in a timely manner and we are running a bit behind with some crops.  Betsy has the greenhouse full of transplants and we have managed to get the first 3000 or so lettuce plants in the ground as well as seeding some other flower and vegetable crops.  If it doesn’t warm up soon I am not sure what we will have to sell the first few markets.  We are using all of the tricks that we have to get things to grow faster but really we just need some normal March weather.  The high tunnels are protecting flowers and vegetables (spinach, lettuce, turnips and more), in the field we are covering the lettuce with huge floating row covers of spun bonded polyester.  These 30’X100′ sheets are very effective but also can try a marriage!  Imagine trying to put these out in the kinds of winds we have had the last few days!

We are planting several new things this year and are excited to see how they work out.  I have a new planting of asparagus going in, new blackberries, rhubarb, and artichokes as well as new varieties of peppers and tomatoes to try.  Betsy has thousands and thousands of tulips and lilies planted along with other new flower cultivars.
Believe it or not the first market is only two weeks away, March 19th!  Yikes!  I will send out another newsletter just before then to let you know if we will be there and what we might have.

11/19/05 Vol. 2 #29

Wow! has it really been two whole months since the last newsletter?  We have been running hard and fast as well as having lots of fun!  The trip to Holland and Italy was very informative and beautiful.  The week we spent in Holland was mostly focused on cut flowers but we did manage to go to several markets looking for new and unusual things.  We were able to visit with many farmers and plant breeders and I think that Betsy has found a few new things to try.  The horticultural trade show was over the top!  Dutch agriculture is so fastidious and high tech that I can’t even begin to approach that level of obsession!  Italy was much more relaxed and we didn’t get on as many farms as we would have liked to but still saw many new things.  Our Italian family, that we stayed with last year when we went to the Terra Madre Slow Food event, was great and Betsy’s hard work at learning Italian paid off in much better understanding of each other.  We rented a car this time and spent many days driving through the countryside and going to markets.  We found a few new ideas that we will try and incorporate here this year.  One of our missions was to go to the Slow Food headquarters in Bra, Italy, and visit with the people who are organizing the next Terra Madre conference for next fall (2006).  It appears as if we will be able to go back again, Betsy has even volunteered to help with whatever they need including some basic interpretation!
Alex amazed at the technology!

Peppers in Italy

Here are the farm we got all of the soil preparations for the winter finished with near perfect results, never has all of it worked up so beautifully with the exception of this on going dry spell.  The cover crop seeds that I planted a month ago have just barely sprouted.  We are running that fine line now of getting them established before the really cold weather sets in, which can kill them before they have enough roots underneath them.  The turkeys went in for processing before we left for Europe and came out looking good.  The Heritage birds were slightly smaller than last year and the Broad breasted Bronzes were also smaller which is great for those of us who don’t normally eat 26 pound birds!  The flash freezing process went smoothly and they came home yesterday in fine condition.  The processing plant project goes on and on.  In general it is working about the way we had hoped for but every day there is something that breaks down or needs to be worked on.