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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #9, 4/18/18

What’s been going on!

Another sad passing and tick of the clock.  Sunday there was a huge gathering of the friends and community of Tony Kleese to celebrate his life and accomplishments.  Tony died way too young after a short battle with cancer but also after a life full of commitment to building a better agricultural system which you can read about here.

Tony was not quite as old as many of us old rats in the sustainable ag barn but quickly jumped in and became involved in so many areas.  We first met around 1989 when he was starting a farm east of Raleigh and we went to see it on a farm tour.  That farm did not succeed and he also farmed in the mountains for a while but he quickly learned that the best use of his energies was to organize and teach farmers.

We worked together on many projects over the years including the Board of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Assoc., teaching classes at and helping to form the Central Carolina Community College Sustainable Ag program, teaching workshops around the southeast together and he was the one who coaxed me into going to Jamaica to work with his Jamaica Sustainable Farm Enterprise project.  He even worked for us here on the farm for a short while in the early 90’s.

As many of us who, mostly inadvertently, helped lead the way to a more local and sustainable food system begin to age out or pass on it becomes ever more apparent just how fortunate we are in the southeast and particularly in North Carolina to have such a foundation of farmers, non-profits, researchers, organizers, markets and eaters who began to come together in the 80’s and work towards change.  Tony was certainly in that vanguard and will be sorely missed but his energy and spirt will live on.

Picture of the Week

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Classic Tony (in the middle) working with Jamaican farmers

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #8, 4/11/18

What’s been going on!

First day of the Wednesday market for the 2018 season is today, 3:00-6:00, it looks to be a beautiful afternoon.  The mid-week market run by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Farmers’ Markets, Inc. (that is our official name) has been at the Town Commons since 1997.  There has always been a mid-week market but it has moved both locations and days over the years and until 1997, was the Chapel Hill part of the equation.

The first location was at East Gate shopping center and was held on Thursdays from 1982-1986 and was a good market but the Food Lion grocery store began to object so it was moved to behind Mariakakis restaurant for two years until a better location could be found.  With the development of East Chapel Hill High School and the Cedar Falls Park across the street it was moved to the park in 1989 where at first it was on Thursdays but eventually moved to Tuesdays.  The mid-week market never really recovered from all the moves and when the Saturday market moved to its beautiful permanent location in 1996 we asked the Town of Carrboro if we could have a mid-week market there too.

We waited a year so we could settle the Saturday market into the new Town Commons properly before we brought the mid-week market over and became an all Carrboro channel.  The market organization did briefly operate the Southern Village market on Thursdays from 2004-2009, marking the return to a Chapel Hill location but it proved  not be a strong market so we once again consolidated our efforts back at the Town Commons.  Now 22 years later the Wednesday market continues to be a solid, if modest market day, with a great selection of vendors and products.  See you there!

Picture of the Week

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Some bodacious, tender and sweet spinach heading to market

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #7, 4/7/28

What’s been going on!

Roller coaster, up and down, feast or famine however you want to describe the spring weather would be accurate.  For weeks we were too wet to even get soil prepared but we managed and are actually right on schedule as far as planting goes but behind harvest wise due to the unusually cool March temperatures.

Then the winds of March arrived and finally some warmer days and we became dry enough to have to set up the irrigation. So last week was water week, prime the pump, flush out the thousands of feet of underground pipe leading to the fields, pull out the headlines and hook up them up to the valves, roll out the sprinklers and drip lines…  It is always this way but we hope to go as long as possible before having to put out the irrigation lines, just more stuff in the way of tractor work and cultivation and another system to check.  Leaks always leaks.

Same with all the row covers for plant protection, we had rolled all those up too so we could get in and cultivate and set up the irrigation but will need to pull a few back out to cover the really sensitive crops for Saturday nights plunging temperatures, just the tomatoes, early peppers and basil but still another one step forward, one step back dance move of spring.  In a while we will be complaining about the heat!

Picture of the Week

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A dew covered Cherokee Purple plant warm inside the tunnel

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #6, 3/30/18

What’s been going on!

Forty springs means a lot of produce and flowers have passed through the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.  Yes this year is the Market’s 40th season!  It is sometimes hard to imagine that a group of farmers could consistently organize themselves and set up every Saturday for that many years and do it so well.  Now Peregrine Farm hasn’t been there from the beginning, we are only in our 33rd year, but we can completely appreciate the effort that has gone into starting and building the institution that the Carrboro Market is.

For those who don’t remember, our first 17 years were in the parking lot on Roberson St. behind the Armadillo Grill.  That location was just leased from Carr Mill and when they decided they might sell it we worked closely with the Town to find a new permanent home for what had become an essential element in the fabric of the Town of Carrboro.  We knew that we needed to stay near Downtown but a location could be hard to find.  Fortunately the old ball field next to Town Hall (which used to be the elementary school) was available to become a town park.  It took nearly eight years from the first discussions, through design meetings, to fund raising efforts and finally construction before we moved to the Town Commons in 1996.

I was President of the market Board leading up to and during the move and we were ecstatic with our new permanent home.  It was a tight fit as we had grown to an 80 space market but working with the Town it all worked out.  23 years later I am once again President of the board as we prepare to move back into the newly renovated market space after 5 long winter months.  The improvements are vast.  One of the biggest goals was to improve the drainage and grass so that it does not become a muddy moonscape after rains.  They have buried huge drain pipes and graded in such a way to catch all the water.  The grassed areas under where vendor’s trucks and displays will be have been reinforced with a special grid to hopefully prevent wear and tear.  New water permeable walkways, a bathroom building, new playground and market storage building, new lighting and electrical hookups for the vendors that need power.   Refurbished shelters and gazebo to make it all more usable for special events both for the Market and other Town events.  It will be awesome!

Technically the construction is done this week but we cannot move onto the new grass until April 14th so that it has adequate time to become solidly rooted and can take truck traffic.  Until then the good news is that the new parking lots will be open as well as the bathroom building.  We will be able to park some vendors in the south side parking lot and near the playground but will probably still have a few folks in the main parking lot next to Town Hall.

Just as our amazing customers and market supporters followed us from Roberson Street to the Town Commons 23 years ago, we have been equally proud and appreciative of how they have been flexible and unfazed during this renovation chaos!  It is only a short time now and just in time for the blooming of the spring market.  Join us next week April 7th for the official ribbon cutting ceremony at 9:00 a.m.

Picture of the Week

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The ground breaking for building the Town Commons in 1995, Alex on the left was 15 😉

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #5, 3/23/18

What’s been going on!

 First week of Spring, really.  Looks like after another round of snow flurries this weekend, the forecasters are threatening 70 degrees on Wednesday!  It is always hard to get full work weeks in this time of year when the weather is so uncooperative and cold.  Only so much fence maintenance, mulching and chainsaw work to do.  Once it warms up and dries out some there is always more to do with the crops in the field as planting and growth all speed up.

Today is tunnel sliding day for the earliest tomato planting.  I always feel that once we slide those tunnels over the prepared beds and trellises and get those plants in the ground then spring is really here, despite what the weather is doing.  Maybe it is just the thought of finally eating a good tomato again after nine long months.

We have been sliding these tunnels for over 20 years now and there is always a lot to do leading up to the actual moving including getting a few extra people here to help.  Back when Betsy and I were younger we could do it with only four people but these days it takes six, not sure what that means?  We are talking about starting to replace the old tunnels beginning this fall with new models that are easier to move, better technology for old and young bodies.

Picture of the Week

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Jennie with a big pile of mulch on a cold morning being moved to the Blueberry field

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #4, 3/16/18

What’s been going on!

Good trip to New Orleans the beginning of the week and the focused meeting of experienced cut flower growers was an interesting look at where people are in their operations and in planning for the future.  For the most part we are much farther down the road in that planning than anyone else who was in the room and our talk about what we are doing with Jennie was well received.

Back at the farm the staff has started working more each week with this past week really the true beginning of their season. We almost always start them with getting ready for planting the early tomatoes in the sliding tunnels.  While they have helped plant onions and early lettuce, some pruning and mulching of blueberries it is the bed preparation and building tomato trellis that really marks the full emersion into the Peregrine Farm style of production.

Starting with two new people takes a bit more time but Lacee and Jacob are jumping in with enthusiasm and picking it all up quickly.  Both have worked on some other farms but come from two different back grounds, Lacee more from the restaurant world and Jacob from academia having just graduated from NCSU with a masters in Agroecology.  Together we should once again have a great team this year!

Picture of the Week

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Jacob and Lacee putting down landscape fabric

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #3, 3/9/18

Betsy and I are headed to New Orleans next week to a cut flower conference to talk about our farm transition to Jennie so what better time for the next part in the series about our farm transition process.

The early Plan

In those weekly meetings through the summer of 2012 we talked about our needs and desires and we talked hard about money.  The first thing we needed to know was how much money did Jennie need to make, what was her budget and could this tiny farm afford it and keep Betsy and me alive too?  She went home and carefully calculated what her expenses were if she could live on the farm without rent, utilities and health insurance but with her school and car loans.

The number she came back with was surprisingly close to what we paid her as a part time hourly employee.  We then said well let’s come up with a plan to make that additional income.  Since 2000 we had been going to market only about 30 weeks a year and not growing fall or overwintered crops so Jennie came up with a crop plan for fall and winter production with estimated yields and income which showed we could cover that gap and some.  We all agreed to go for it that fall and see if it could be done.  These were also early tests of her thinking processes and practicality.

At the same time we worked on a five year plan and loose agreement between the three of us that outlined the general principles (and questions we needed answers to) that had come out of our meetings.  The timeline was through 2016 when Betsy and I would turn 60 and in 2017 we would begin to reduce our hours in the field.  It included dates for when Jennie would begin to receive various benefits and shares of stock in the corporation.

The first benefit we needed to provide was a huge one, a place for her to live on the farm.  We designed a comfortable one bedroom apartment above a workshop on the other side of the farm from our house that she could be happy in for some years to come.  In October we poured the foundations and started building.  By July 2013, she moved onto the farm and began to receive a salary that reflected her budget.  We then continued to proceed with the rest of the plan.

Yet to come becoming business partners and learning to let go…

Picture of the Week

P1040103 There is more produce coming soon, really

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #2, 3/2/18

What’s been going on!

Scary windy day and looks like it might still be a bit blustery tomorrow at Market too.  March is always a windy month but this is a bit more than normal.  It is additionally difficult this time of year because most produce farmers have huge covers out to protect young plants from sudden cold or to help with germination and plant survival.  These big sheets of fabric or plastic love to get airborne in high winds so a lot of energy and effort will be expended to weigh them down.  Don’t want to see them fly off to the next county.

Betsy and I had a great trip to New Mexico and Arizona.  We planned it around a visit to one of our original shareholders and big supporters of Peregrine Farm in its inception and early days who now lives in Tucson.  We flew into Albuquerque so we could tour some and eat lots of green chile!  It took us a few days to drive over to Tucson and then Dottie took us to some really beautiful places.  Of course we also visited the best of the Tucson Farmers’ Markets.  Really nice market near the peak of their season with lots of vendors including one roasting peppers!  He did not grow his own and said they were from Mexico at this time of year.

On the farm, Jennie and crew have been going hard composting beds and getting the first outdoor crops in the ground.  The peas are up and look good, same with radishes, turnips and lettuce transplants too.  So we are off and running after the really long, wet stretch.  The record warm weather last week helped a lot but it is a bit unsettling for this early in the season.

Picture of the Week

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Row cover trying to blow off, peas and more looking good

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #1, 2/14/18, A New Year

What’s been going on!

Wow!  That was a long winters nap but we are still alive and will be coming back to market this Saturday!  It has been a busy month and a half with lots of meetings, travel and time around the woodstove too.

We all had quiet and enjoyable holidays and then Betsy and I had our annual trip to the Southern Foodway Alliance’s Taste of the South event and meeting of the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans and Chefs the first weekend in January.  Jennie got away a couple of times and then she and I went to the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group conference in Chattanooga where we presented, for the first time ever, our experience and tips about farm transition.  That was only the first 3 weeks of January.

The weather has been busy and challenging too.  That 200 hours of below freezing temperatures the first week of January pretty much killed everything we had out in the field while the crops in the tunnel mostly escaped unharmed but that is why we have not been at market lately.  The ten inches of snow followed by what has been too much rain, has made getting ready for spring field planting difficult to impossible.  We have been taking extraordinary measures including huge tarps, to try and dry fields out so we will be ready to turn some soil this coming week.  Cross your fingers.

Jennie has been busy in the greenhouse seeding and in the sliding tunnels planting and seeding early crops. She has also been tweaking the annual crop plan, ordering seeds and generally getting everything ready to roll into spring.  We are also happy to say that we have found two new folks to work with us this season and are excited to have them start next month.  Here we go again!

Pictures of the Week

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Another gray day, trying to keep soil dry

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Anemones are back!

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #40, 12/21/17 The Winter Solstice edition

What’s been going on!

It is always good to go away and view life from a distance in a you can now see the fields for the pepper plants kind of way.  Nothing like a long walk in a completely different environment like the desert to open your mind and thoughts.

As the 36th season rolls to a finish and the 37th already underway in the greenhouse and fields we have a lot to be grateful for.  I am eternally grateful to be with Betsy, to have shared this place and journey with her all these years (and she lets me go away hiking too!).  We are grateful for Jennie’s presence, hard work and partnership with us so that the Farm will continue into the next generation.

We are grateful for this amazingly beautiful and productive piece of land set in a community that values what we do every day.  And we are especially grateful for all of you who eat our food and support our efforts to create a more sustainable agricultural system and local economy, you are the nourishment that allows us to continue to strive to do better.

We hope to be able to greet all of you at market on Saturday but if we don’t have a chance we wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and the rest of the holidays.  We will see you in the New Year for sure!

Picture of the Week

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Jennie and her hard work

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