Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #25, 10/13/20 The Election Issue

What’s been going on! 

It has been an enjoyable and reasonably busy three plus months.  The weather, particularly in August, was so horrible with high humidity and heat that it limited our field work but we have picked away at various cleanup projects, tried to keep up with the mowing (impossible at times) and are close to having all the beds ready for planting for next winter/spring, just a little composting left to do.  The fall cover crops have never looked so good due to the copious rain and we will soon be planting the Anemones and Ranunculus.

Betsy has spent an incredible number of hours working on the local elections and with the Alamance County Democratic Party, keeping up the website, calling seniors to tell them about absentee voting and many other duties.  I have helped some as well but hers has been almost a full time job most days which brings us to the next 3 weeks leading to Nov. 3rd and our election message to all of you.

Most of our focus has been on getting local candidates elected as that is where the change has to begin, especially here in Alamance County.  We need better people on the school board, the county commissioners, in the NC House and Senate.  We absolutely have to have a change in the US Senate and the White House.

We all have to vote and make sure everyone we know votes!  There can be no excuse.  We have no control now over what will happen with the Supreme Court, that die was cast in 2016 when too many people didn’t vote and that mistake will hang over the nation for the next two generations but we can make headway going forward, if we vote.

Here is what you need to do now.  If you are registered to vote and have gotten an absentee ballot, send it in or deliver it in person to your Board of Elections immediately, don’t wait.  It is almost too late now to get an absentee ballot as it takes up to 10 days for them to get it to you.  Follow the directions exactly, including the kind of pen to use and where to sign and witness, etc.  Do not try and deliver it at either an early voting or regular voting location as that just slows down the voting lines. 

It is best if the absentee ballots are at the county Board of Elections by the last week of October.  If you live in a state like North Carolina which prepares to count absentee ballots as they come in, before Election Day and includes that count in the Election night totals great.  If you live in a state like Pennsylvania or Wisconsin that doesn’t start counting them until Election Day or after, only vote absentee if you have no other choice or are very concerned about Covid 19.  We want as many votes as possible counted on Election night.

If you are not registered to vote or know people who are not then, in North Carolina and many other states, you can register and vote at the early voting sites.  If you are not registered to vote don’t wait until Election Day, as while they will let you vote a provisional ballot, it is basically a vote that will not be counted.

Make sure you vote early!  The forecast is for this to be the highest turnout election since 1908 and the lines will be long, even with early voting but you have many more days to get it done including Saturdays and some Sundays in certain counties.  Early voting in North Carolina starts this week on October 15th and continues until the 31st.  Do not wait until November 3rd unless you absolutely have no choice.

We need to have massive, overwhelming numbers vote so that there is no question as to the outcome and this is where this relational organizing comes in.  More people will vote if we contact people that we have a relationship with versus total strangers and they in turn contact people they know who might be on the fence about voting.  The nearly 800 people who get this newsletter is one example of this.  There is another whole texting campaign where you text three people you know who may not have voted yet and ask them to text three people they know.

There are many other things that we all can do like phone banking, literature drops, poll watching and more but if we all just do two of the things above- voting early and getting people we know to vote then the outcome will be huge and we will not have to protest in the streets after Election Day like in Belarus.

Betsy and I have voted in every election for the past 44 years, no matter where we were and this is, without question, the most important one yet.  In the 17 years we have put out this newsletter this is the first time it has not just been about the farm but unusual times require unusual actions.  VOTE!

Picture of the week

The last of the peppers, beautiful cover crops, the first fall color

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #24, 7/2/20

What’s been going on! 

We want to thank everyone who left kind notes and comments, bottles of wine and other good things last week as well as emails and other communications.  For those who were confused (or didn’t read close enough) about if it was our last market ever the answer is no, just for this season and 2020, we will be back in January for what we do intend to be our last season.

People ask “But what about the tomatoes!?!”  Yes there are tomatoes left on the vines and we are picking them as usual but now what is left are going to four restaurants, friends and family and to a food bank.  This planting of tomatoes will produce for about another 3 weeks, maybe 4, to the end of the month but the volume and quality slowly drops off to nothing.  Already the Cherokee Purples and Greens are near the end of their fruiting.  There will be plenty of tomatoes at market, you will just have to find your new favorite producer.

“But what will you do with all your time?”  As Betsy likes to point out we have 26 acres, 4 main buildings and 6 more outbuildings- there are always things to work on, maintain and enjoy.  This summer and fall we have a few large projects including painting the house roof, working on the greenhouse roof, some small projects around the house to go along with cover cropping and soil maintenance, getting the tunnels ready for next season and the endless mowing.

The one thing we won’t be doing much of, we are sad to say, is travel.  We hadn’t planned to do any big trips until after the election in November as we both, but primarily Betsy, are very involved in the local campaigns as we have to get the current bozos out of office, then we can go away with some confidence.  We cannot say too often or too loudly you all must VOTE! And you have to get everyone you know to vote.  On top of that you need to contribute money, volunteer and we are recommending everyone apply for an absentee/mail in ballot.  With Covid-19 it will take some pressure off of the local precincts and be a safer alternative.

It has been possibly the best six months we have ever had business wise.  The warm winter and generally good and long spring led to consistent crops with very few failures or waste.  Combine that with the incredible demand, driven by all of the change to people’s lifestyles because of Covid-19 and it has been a remarkable half a year even if it was a strain physically and mentally.  We sincerely hope that all of the people new to the Farmers’ Market and purchasing local food will continue their new and improved buying habits and not just revert to Food Lion or Costco for all of their produce and meats as the pandemic eases.  We know that a lot will slip back to those old habits but we encourage you to think about how important it is to you, your health and the health of the local food system and economy.

Finally to update our fundraising to contribute to Campaign Zero to help end police violence in America, we ended an impressive month helped with yet more large donations from Ellie and Jim, Jean, Lydia and others.  The final total for the month was $1397 and we rounded it up and have donated $1500!  Thank you all, you have been amazing but don’t stop there in the fight for racial equality!

This pandemic is going to be with us for a long time yet, many months at least and well into next year I am afraid.  We all need to do our part, you know the three W’s, to get this mess under control.  We are pretty much self-isolating for a few weeks and then will begin to have people over for socially distant visits.  We may show up at market to do some shopping but we plan to spend large parts of everyday in what Betsy refers to as the Summer Palace and you can visualize us there, reading, working and enjoying the beauty of the place.

Picture of the week

P1050618Betsy’s hammock is ready on the screen porch, the grill and chairs set on the deck, the creek is babbling away below and the wine is poured!

What’s going to be at Market?

Not us and we will be radio silent for the most part but expect a newsletter from time to time.

Stay safe and well and we 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. 17 #23, 6/24/20, Last market of the season

What’s been going on! 

The last week for our 2020 season and some of you may say what?!?  Especially for the 100 or so folks new this spring to the newsletter, this has always been the plan and part of our semi-retirement, you can read about it here.  It has been 27 weeks since the start of our season but the last 16 weeks since the coronavirus took over the market and our life has felt like a sprint.  60 year olds don’t sprint anymore and we are more than ready for a long break.

We have taken our job of providing the community with healthy food and flowers for the soul during this unsettled time as an important service.  Building an online store, doing curb pickups for those especially vulnerable and essentially changing most of our market practices to pre-orders and sanitation has been interesting, exciting, stressful and not as much fun.

We have been proud members of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market for 35 years and could not be more gratified to see how the market, the Town and all of the customers have responded to the Covid-19 restrictions and changes.  Like you we miss the interactions, the conversations about food, farming and life.  We miss introducing people to new vegetables and flowers, how they taste, how to use them.  We miss the hugs.  That being said we have also been overwhelmed by your support, kind words and smiles through the masks and car windows, keep it up!

Look for a newsletter next week with some further thoughts about the season and what we have planned for the summer and fall.  If we don’t get to see you on Saturday, take the virtual hug.

Picture of the week

P1050606The only thing left in the field is a bed of lettuce and some callaloo, planned obsolescence!  Soon to be planted to cover crops.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #22, 6/17/20

What’s been going on! 

Just when you thought the weather this year couldn’t get any crazier we set a new record for the lowest high temperature at Raleigh of 61 degrees.  All this rain, no sun, cool temperatures make it really hard for warm season crops like tomatoes to grow and ripen.

Traditionally the second week of early tomato season we pick twice as many as the first week.  Monday, in between the rain showers, I managed to pick a few more pounds than last Monday but certainly not double and I am not optimistic about how tomorrows harvest will go.  One saving grace is that all the tomatoes are under cover, to try and grow tomatoes outside in these conditions is disheartening at the least, disaster mostly.  We grew all our tomatoes in the open for 20 years and once we moved indoors 20 years ago we never looked back. With climate change intensifying the weather extremes it will only get crazier.

A few people say that the indoor tomatoes don’t have the flavor that field grown ones do, that they need to struggle a little like wine grapes to develop the most flavor.  I disagree.  Taste in tomatoes is partly variety, partly plant size (the amount of foliage) and partly the soil they are grown in and how they are watered.  The worst examples are the Florida winter field grown tomatoes which are small plants, raised in very sandy soils with terrible genetics, they have no flavor. Second are some of the greenhouse tomatoes grown in bags of “substrate” (not soil), irrigated and feed with synthetic nutrients, under low light conditions.  Some of them at least have some better taste genetics bred in.

Most tomatoes grown under high tunnels by small farmers are grown just like field tomatoes, in the same rich organic soil as the field just with a layer of plastic over them to protect them from early season cold and excessive moisture.  The most flavor comes from a variety with good flavor genes, a large plant with good foliage to photosynthesize lots of sugars and other compounds that go into the fruit, a good balanced soil to provide the right nutrients and careful irrigation.  Too much water washes out the flavor, just like in melons.

We spend a lot of time on managing our great soil with cover crops, compost and minerals, have spent years trialing and choosing the most flavorful varieties and most importantly are very careful in how much irrigation water we give them- especially when ripening.  What we really need now is some sun and warmer temperatures!

To update our fundraising to contribute to Campaign Zero to help end police violence in America, we had another impressive week helped with more large donations from Ellie and Jim, Karen, Lydia and others.  The total for the month is now at $702.  Thank you all!

Picture of the week

P1050593Even this lone sunflower can’t brighten this gray week.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #21, 6/10/20 The Tomato Issue

What’s been going on! 

If you want tomatoes there is a lot of info below, read carefully. 

The tomatoes are coming!  The tomatoes are coming!  Normally this heralds one of our favorite times of year but this year I have had many sleepless nights trying to figure out how we are going to safely and effectively sell this wonderful crop.  For decades we have relied on our customers to pick out the fruits they want, bag them and hand them to us to weigh.  We can’t do that with Covid-19, we cannot let a bunch people handle the tomatoes.

Everyone has their idea of what the best tomato is- size, firmness, ripeness, etc.  This year you are going to have to rely on us to be the experts (because we are) and make that decision for you.  We will not pre-bag tomatoes either, that is a waste of time, energy, resources, is not good for the fruit in the long run, and you don’t really get what you want.  We want the stars of the summer season to shine as much as they can.

Here is how it will work:

Online– we will only put part of the harvest in the online store to make sure we have some available for those who want to see them and buy them at market.  We pick Monday and Thursday mornings and will update the online store again Thursday afternoon once we know how many more we have in stock.  If they are sold out on Wednesday, check back on Thursday.

We will put limits on how many can be ordered online.  You will order by variety and by the pound.  Most of the varieties are about 2 fruits to a pound but can be 1 to 3.  We will do our best to get the weight close to the amount you order.  If you order larger amounts, expect some part ripe fruit in the mix to ripen later in the week on your counter at home.

Email Pre-orders– tell us what you want and we will have it ready at market for you.  Same pay instructions as below.

At Market– The tomatoes will be displayed on our front table, you will indicate what size and how many you want, we will pick them out and weigh them.  If you are paying with cash the total will be rounded to the nearest dollar, usually up.  We are taking no coins at market.  If paying by credit card then we can charge the scale price.

The line will form around the side of our stall, out into the grass.  You will be able to see what is available as you move along, please have an idea of what you want before you get to the front.  Know that many varieties will sell out early.  Imagine that you are at a market in Europe where you are not allowed to touch the produce.

Suffice it to say that our tomatoes are better than any you have had since last summer and probably since you ate one of ours.  We have a very limited supply this week but it will increase quickly over the next two weeks.  Patience my friends, patience.

To update our fundraising to contribute to Campaign Zero to help end police violence in America, we had another impressive week helped with more large donations from Ellie and Jim, Johanna and others.  The total for the month is now at $455.  Thank you all!

Picture of the week

P1050585A tunnel full of cukes and basil

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #20, 6/3/20

What’s been going on! 

What a crazy and disconcerting week with the death of George Floyd and all the demonstrations and violence around the country.  You all know that I essentially never talk about anything other than the farm in this newsletter but these times are truly unusual.  Betsy and I were twelve in 1968 but we were still very aware of what was going on then, Betsy especially so as she lived not far from Newark, N.J..

There is not a lot we can do from here on the farm but we were inspired by our friends and fellow farmers Jillian and Ross Mickens at Open Door Farm who have decided to donate all of their online store credit card processing fee gifts to Campaign Zero.  Campaign Zero is a police reform campaign that advocates for research-based policy solutions to reduce police brutality against people of color.

We will be doing the same thing for the month of June with all of the “tips” above the processing fees from our online sales.  As they said, it won’t be a ton of money but it is the least we can do and with generous gifts from Paige and Bob to kick if off and the generosity that you all have given us, it will be a start.  We will keep a running total both at the online store and here.  So are we are at $232

It has been a beautiful week to be on the farm and we have been getting a lot done and it is an excellent diversion from the news.  It is the transition now to warm season crops as we mow down all of the early crops like Peas, Broccoli Raab, flowers and lettuces.  The tomatoes look great and we had our first BLT on Sunday!  Cucumbers are really beginning to produce and the basil that we thought we had lost to the downy mildew seems to be okay.

Picture of the week

P1050582Early rays of sun on the tomatoes surrounded by the electric netting to keep the critters away.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #19, 5/27/20

What’s been going on! 

Another damn rainy week!  There is a great stress reducing factor when you can look back over four decades of farming and know that it can always be worse.  In our first season farming we had just planted four acres of blackberries and raspberries, 20,000 feet of row.  We were living in the tent next to the 20’X20’ tractor shed when after a March and April dry period it started to rain in May and didn’t stop the whole month, 15 inches of rain fell in those thirty one days.  Nearly every afternoon there would be a thunderstorm with great downpours.

The result was a biblical scourge of weeds that germinated in the berry rows.  We had turned over soil that hadn’t been farmed in years and unleashed millions of weed seeds that had lain dormant.  We had no equipment to deal with it and had not yet been able to mulch the rows.  After mowing the six foot tall growth in the aisles between the plants, standing on the tractor so I could see down into the mass so as to not mow the young berry bushes, I spent the month of June hand weeding circles around each of the 10,000 plants so as not to lose them followed by weed eating the remaining growth.

We were humbled by the power of nature and only by the shear dent of our stubbornness did we save those plantings and continue on to be successful.  We vowed never again to be caught that way.  So this seven or eight days of rain this month is just another blip in the long history of weather events here at the farm.  Needless to say it has slowed crop growth and nearly decimated the blueberry season but it is what it is.

Picture of the week

img055 - CopyIn this old grainy picture you can see the river that formed every afternoon that May, you can also see the weeds growing in the background

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #18, 5/20/20

What’s been going on! 

This is certainly a capper for a couple of weeks of dramatic weather turns.  We are looking at 4-5 inches of rain over this four day stretch and it is really throwing a wrench into the farm works.  It is one thing to cut lettuce in the rain (a task I have done, unfortunately more times than I wish to count) but to pick fussy crops like blueberries and sugar snap peas is untenable.

We picked blueberries as hard as we could on Monday, it also appears to be the peak week for this year which makes it doubly frustrating.  No picking yesterday, today or probably tomorrow which loads the work onto Friday, already busy with the normal market harvest.  We do have a few people lined up to help but we will never get to all of the berries.  We did sneak out yesterday, in between showers, to pick damp peas which is never a good practice as it will spread the pea enation virus up and down the rows but the pea crop never lasts more than two weeks anyway.  80 pounds of beautiful peas and we will try do the same tomorrow if the rain will let us, you have to pick them at just the right size so they cannot wait.

Everything else looks good in the fields and tunnels, we appear to be past the production gap we have had the last few weeks.  We actually needed some rain but not this much for this many days.  Our last planting for the year went into the ground Monday and we are now in the count down to the end of our season with just six more markets.  Hard to believe it is Memorial Day weekend!

Picture of the week

IMG_20200519_143107865_HDRNot sure what is scarier, the rain or the Scare Eye balloon?

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #17, 5/13/20

What’s been going on!

Well the cool week has lived up to the hype.  We did bring out the row covers on Saturday night to add an additional layer of protection over the tomatoes, cucumbers and basil as additional insurance.  While 28 degrees is the point at which real damage occurs we want these warm season crops to not miss a beat at this time of year.  Sunday morning it was 30 degrees near ground level outside the tunnels but 37 degrees inside.  Yesterday morning it was 31 or 32 degrees outside and 38 inside and everything looks great and we have now rolled up the row covers hopefully for the final time this year as we are now headed into the furnace.

The cool weather has definitely slowed down the growth of some crops, like lettuce, so it looks like we will again have a production gap for this weekend but with the warm temperatures coming things will catch up quickly.  One crop that is way ahead of schedule are the blueberries which are a good ten days to two weeks earlier than normal.  We will pick the first ones this week!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, no farmers anticipated what would happen this spring when planning the cropping schedule last winter.  We, and most farmers, plan with the knowledge and information from years past.  Our production has been carefully balanced with past sales at Farmers’ Market and orders from local restaurants, we have decades of data that tell us pretty accurately what you all will reliably buy.  Some local farmers have by now increased plantings of some crops but most of it is baked in.  I thought that this piece from the NYTimes did a good job of describing how flawed the current food system is and how growers like us have worked outside of it.

Picture of the week

P1050511This is diversity, saponaria flanked by a new lettuce planting and sugar snap peas

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #16, 5/6/20

What’s been going on! 

I try not to make this the weather report page but you know that is what dictates farmer’s lives and sometimes, especially in the spring, it is the news.  A very unusual May cold snap coming Saturday night, an extreme version of the classic blackberry winter which we have every May but usually with lows only down into the low 40’s or high 30’s, we have forecast lows on Sunday morning as low as 31 degrees!  We will be watching this one closely but will undoubtedly have to pull out the row covers to add an additional layer of protection over the tomatoes and cucumbers even inside of the tunnels.  And the wild blackberries are not even blooming yet!

This blast of cold is one of those crazy swings due to the polar vortex breaking down as it moves towards summer.  There was a really good article in the Washington Post in March that talked about how intense the polar vortex was in the arctic this winter (which contributed to our warm winter) and when a vortex with such strong winds breaks down all kinds of unusual weather can be the result.

The generally cool weather for the start of this week has slowed down some crops in the field especially the flowers which are not blooming as quickly as we would like for the Mothers Day weekend.  Betsy refers to it as like milking a chicken, you go out every day and cut the few stems that have opened but you don’t get much.  If you need to reserve some bouquets email us and we will put you on the list or let you know if we will have them by Friday afternoon.

Picture of the week

P1050509Sugar Snap Peas blooming like crazy, peas in two weeks!

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