8/13/08 Vol. 5 #21

Well the break is over and we managed as relaxing a time as we have ever had during “the summer break”.  There is usually a little too much farm work to do to really feel like we had time off.  This time though, while we did go out every morning and do some chores for a few hours, it was never a forced march.  Dan did come out on Wednesday to help me pick tomatoes so we could do a small delivery that day and because it had to be done.  Wednesday was really the only real work like day though.  We lounged around in the air conditioning and watched movies, went out to eat almost every night  (and many lunches too!), I even got to run up to the mountains for a night and just sit and look at the view.

The highlight though was definitely the 90 Indian civil servants who arrived on Tuesday afternoon in two buses when it was 98 degrees!  This group of officials from the Indian Administrative Service, which is the highest  tier of civil servants in that country, was here for two weeks hosted by the Duke Center for International Development.  While in North Carolina they were studying how government policy relates to service delivery and infrastructure development.  One of the things they specifically asked us for was to see some US farming techniques.  Now we have hosted a lot of tour groups over the years and many from foreign countries but this group was unlike any other!  They were like a fourth grade school field trip with their energy and questions.  As they rolled off the buses they immediately surrounded Betsy and me and started rifling questions as fast as we could answer.  No subject was passed over.  How long have you been farming, what is that crop, how do you irrigate, what is your income, how many taxes do you pay, where to you sell your crops, and on and on.  Betsy’s favorite question was do you sell to Walmart?  There was no organized guided tour as they were all over the place and then 45 minutes later they were on the bus and gone.  Wow, did that just happen?  It was so much fun that we told the Duke organizers to bring more!  Next up in a few weeks Chinese officials.

Now it’s back to the salt mines, but the end is in sight.  We even began the long dismantling process yesterday, taking out the first flower trellises and pulling up irrigation lines.  We are very glad to see some rain moving in today because thing were beginning to get crispy again.  One note, our Panzanella/Weaver Street Market farm dinner is this coming Monday the 18th from 5:30 to 9:00.  The menu will be pepper and tomato heavy, perfect!  I am hoping for a stuffed poblano and probably a fresh tomato sauce on pasta among others.  I believe that 10% of the proceeds go to the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.  Hope to see you there.

Picture of the Week
Cov and Dan working in the Brussels Sprouts on a rainy day

4/22/09 Vol. 6 #5

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!

Picture of the Week
A beautiful spring morning, the Lettuce field and the Big Tops all covered

8/26/09 Vol. 6 #22

My notes tell me that a year ago today we were having the remnants of Hurricane Fay moving over us and we had 6.75 inches of rain!  It is so hard to imagine that kind of rain event now.  It was good to get the half an inch that we did receive last Saturday and don’t really want to get six inches of rain in one shot, just a bit more now and then.
We’ve had an interesting visitor this week from the ranch at Heifer Project International in Arkansas.  For those of you who are not familiar with their work it is a non-profit organization that works to end world hunger and poverty but in unusual ways.  Based on the concept of “teach them to fish and you will feed them for a lifetime” their original and most known effort is to give a young female animal, a heifer (female cow) for instance, to a family with the understanding that when it has off spring that they then give them to other members of their community and so on.  It has spread to teaching these communities and peoples about how to care for animals, small enterprise development, sustainable agriculture and so on.
Ryan Neal has been the manager of their teaching garden and CSA for three years and hopes to eventually move on to run his own farm.  In that time he has had many interns and help train many of Heifer’s program partners in sustainable/organic vegetable production.  One of his training tools is a CD-ROM that I made with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) titled “Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing in the South”.
After viewing it many times and implementing some of it’s contents he wanted to come see the farm in person, so for two days this week he came and worked and visited with us.  A hard time of year for us to have visitors as there is not a lot to see on the farm as most of the crops are quickly disappearing for the season.  Hopefully it was beneficial for him.

Picture of the Week
The peak of pepper season is approaching!

9/23/09 Vol. 6 #26

It has been one of those weeks where you just have to go with the flow, hence the newsletter a day late.  Betsy and I live a pretty quiet, paced life, really.  People would not believe it with this past weeks schedule.  As I was returning home from Virginia last week, Betsy tells me a group of Uruquayan agricultural researchers was coming the next day (Wednesday), OK fine.  In the end they went to see another farm as they had been here two years ago, also fine.  Thursday was a group of 25 Chinese civil servants, with interpreter, in the light rain, all in suits and smoking like chimneys.  They were very interested in how the government affected our lives.  How much tax do you pay?  How much does the land cost?  Can you cut down all the trees if you want too?  This is a common question from foreign visitors amazed we have all these huge trees and don’t really plan to cut them down and use them.

Friday was a film crew from UNC Public TV.  We had been having erratic conversations about them coming out to shoot for a piece to be on North Carolina Now (it is supposed to air in early December) but hadn’t heard from them in the last few days and thought maybe with the chance of rain they might not show.  As we went out to start the harvest for market there was a van and two cars, cameras at work.  All day and at market on Saturday morning they were omnipresent including when I went to cut lettuce and found the ground hog had helped himself to what was left, under the breath swearing was involved but not caught on camera.

Saturday my brother Jon, from Missouri, rolled into town on the way to the beach.  We had a family meal and then the next day they headed to the beach for a week.  We were going to go down for Monday and Tuesday but I had forgotten I was supposed to do a round table book review for the Independent on Monday afternoon.  Just Food by James McWilliams subtitled “Where Locavores get it wrong and how we can truly eat responsibly”.  He has lots of interesting points and references but in many ways missed the point on sustainable agriculture and how it works.  The review is supposed to be in the first week of Octobers issue.

Tuesday and Wednesday we just gave it up and went to the beach, sure it rained but we got to visit with family, eat a lot and take a few quality naps.  Now we are back in the saddle, with the end of the season in our sights.  This is our last Saturday market for the season.  There are tears of joy and sadness.  We are always ready to change into our off season personas but at the same time we miss seeing everyone at market.  We cannot thank all of you enough for supporting us, the market and local agriculture.  Without you we would not be able to farm the way we do, thank you.

Picture of the Week

This sums up the week, a little blurry with lots of cameras looking at us