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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #3, 2/14/19

What’s been going on!

We want to thank everyone who sent kind words and support for the Barker family!

We have more news to share and we have been waiting until the time was right to do so.  We have talked about this with some folks over the last few months and we are sad to say that Jennie will not be staying on with Peregrine Farm.  This was a very hard decision for her and we completely understood her position and supported her while feeling very sorry that she was leaving.

After eight years with us she came to realize that in the long run, without a business partner, she would not be able to run this operation by herself.  We concurred that it is nearly impossible to farm alone and while Betsy and I are currently still around we would increasingly not be here and eventually completely.  A secondary factor was that being alone out here in the country is difficult too.

What the three of us were trying to do in transitioning the farm to a non-family member was very difficult and a very high bar to achieve.  Only half of family owned businesses make it to the second generation and only half of those to the third and most of those are not farms.  I think about this several times a week when I drive by a local farm that has a sign out front that says “Since 1774”, that’s right, two years before the Declaration of Independence!  Who knows what infinitesimal part of a percentage point that farm is amongst all farms who succeed in passing the farm on.

We are proud of what we did accomplish and of the work we did to build a situation and relationship with Jennie.  Our legal and working model was excellent and Jennie did an incredible job of taking over the reins and running the farm.  But if you are not happy in your situation then a change needs to happen.  Betsy and I have been fortunate to have each other to work alongside all these years and have loved this place and the farming life but as I frequently say “there are reasons that farmers are only one percent of the population”.

The three of us knew from the beginning that something could happen that would make our plan not work out and so we have always had Plan B which we alluded to in our series of pieces on farm transition.  First we will say that we are not going to look for another person or persons to pass Peregrine Farm, the business, on to; it is simply too late in our lives and takes too much energy to build the relationship needed.  We have always said that Jennie was the only time we were going to attempt this and are a bit sad that the farm business will not survive us but the land will.

There are big changes afoot with Plan B and we are excited about them.  Next week I will layout the whole picture of what we are calling Peregrine Farm 7.0.  In the meantime if you run into Jennie in town (fortunately she is staying in the area) give her a warm greeting and thank her for growing such great produce for you!

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First light of day on a tunnel of Little Gem

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #2, 2/7/19

What’s been going on! 

It is with extremely heavy hearts that we have to share the loss of one of our closest friends and the sweet side of the Triangle and North Carolina’s greatest food couple.  Karen Barker passed away this past weekend after complications from a year and a half battle with cancer.

We first met Karen in 1984 when she and Ben had just started in the kitchen at the old La Residence in Chapel Hill, she bought some of the very first raspberries and blackberries we produced.  We followed them out to The Fearrington House supplying them with berries for her increasingly incredible deserts and when they started the Magnolia Grill in Durham in 1986 we were there with berries, flowers and vegetables.

Our relationship grew over the three plus decades into a rare one-of-a-kind with both our professional sides which we wrote about in 2012 when they closed the Magnolia Grill and in the last dozen years with our personal travels together to explore some of the great food places in the world.  It was Karen’s crazy, relentless reading and research that took the four of us to amazing off the beaten path food experiences as good as or better than the famous Michelin starred places.  We now know how special our last trip together in October was.

Of course it was more than food.  There were long, usually late at night, conversations about all subjects from running intense hands-on businesses to the Me Too movement.  Karen always had deep insight and thoughtful commentary that we will miss dearly.

Yes she was awarded the Best Pastry Chef in the United States but the sweetest part of Karen was always her calmness, sly smile and sideways glance that sent a message that only you knew what that meant.  We will miss her terribly as colleagues and friends and are heartbroken for Ben, Gabe and the family.

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 Enjoying each other’s company in Spello, Italy

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #1, 1/3/19

What’s been going on! 

Happy 2019!  Here we go into our 38th growing season, our 34th at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market and the 16th year of writing a newsletter; still almost impossible to comprehend that it has been that many years.  One way that we can gauge it is by the numbers of customers that we have who are the sons and daughters of folks who have shopped with us for a long time.

We were reminded of this last week as we were out visiting our dear friends Ben and Sarah.  Ben began coming to the Farmers’ Market with his grandmother probably back in the late 80’s and maybe sometimes with his mother who still shops every week with us.  You may remember Sarah as the Farmers’ Market manager from 2008-2012.  They now have a beautiful daughter who will be the 4th generation of Ben’s family who we will help feed and nourish!

We went to see them last week partly to help Ben get our old tractor started.  Two years ago our original tractor, that we bought in 1982, suffered what seemed to be a non-repairable hydraulic leek, or at least very hard to get parts for as three mechanics turned us away.  We bought a new tractor instead and planned to sell the old one for parts.  Ben and Sarah had bought a piece of land and needed a tractor for mowing and other jobs.  Ben is a good mechanic and felt sure that he could fix it so we gave our old standby to a good home.  Well it was a difficult task to find the parts but he did and finally after two years he has a solid working tractor.  Maybe it was that food of ours he was fed all those years?

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4th generation Peregrine Farm eater on a play date, testing out the newly refurbished tractor

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #39, 12/21/18 The Winter Solstice edition

What’s been going on! 

The first day of winter, woohoo!  Yet again a gray and wet day as we are on our way to or have eclipsed already the wettest year ever recorded depending on the weather station you look at.  We are well ready for this season to be finished.  When I left two weeks ago I had no idea that we would get 11 inches of snow plus rain and ice.  I felt guilty as Betsy was home doing a great job of keeping the little tunnels cleaned off and the power went out for a day and a half.  Just to cap off the year.

A good walk in the desert and time to reflect on where we have been and where Peregrine Farm is going.  Despite the crazy weather season it has been a pretty good year thanks to the dedicated folks we work with and to all of you who support us no matter how bad the conditions at market might be or sometimes how irregular the harvest might seem.  We are grateful for such a brilliant community.

We are appreciative of the time we have spent with Jennie and honored to be able to continue to work this beautiful and productive piece of the earth.  We really hope to see you tomorrow at market to wish you a warm and enjoyable Holiday season.  If not we will see you sooner than it seems in February!

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The bones of the farm, ready for winter

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #38, 12/5/18

What’s been going on! 

Three more markets and then the 2018 season will be in the books.  Of course the 2019 season is already underway with flower bulbs in the ground and flats of lettuce up in the greenhouse.  We spent parts of the last two days preparing beds in the first of the sliding tunnels to be planted and next week the first lettuce plants will go in to hopefully be ready for mid February.  The 38th year of growing for Peregrine Farm has started.

Looks like a really cold and damp stretch ahead with high temperatures hardly rising above 50 degrees for nearly 10 days and maybe snow on Sunday and or Monday?  Colder than we have been used to lately and more like December used to be years ago.  This is when we are happy to have crops growing undercover in their little terrariums.  Our days now have a steady beat of opening and closing tunnels, covering and uncovering crops.

No newsletter next week as Alex will be out walking in the desert.  Look for Betsy and Jennie at market with the last beautiful produce of the season.  We will all be there on Dec. 22nd for our last market of this year and to wish you all a happy holiday.

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A blustery day with the last of the outdoor crops covered for the impending cold

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #37, 11/30/18

What’s been going on!

Was Thanksgiving only a week ago?  Seems like a lot more living than that has occurred in the last 7 days!  We hope you all had a great holiday and are ready to go because here comes December and before we know it will be Christmas.

Some really cold mornings here this week in the low 20’s but we have been able to take advantage of the warm afternoons to get some seasonal work done.  A few weeks ago we planted the anemone and ranunculus bulbs into beds that we had prepared in advance, before all of that crazy rain.  Today we pulled the sliding tunnels over them to warm them up and get them growing.

Of course there is always some repair/maintenance that has to be done with those tunnels before we can move them.  Only 5 boards had to be replaced this time for the two tunnels but there will be more I am sure before we move the other four in March but for now everything is in good shape for closing things up tight when the really cold weather arrives.

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The new wood being installed.  This tunnel will slide off the lettuce and over the anemones at the far end.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #36, 11/19/18

What’s been going on! 

Just a quick reminder and clarification newsletter.  We look forward to seeing you tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, from 3:00 to 5:00 at the Pre-Thanksgiving market.  We have it on Tuesdays so folks can avoid the last minute madness that happens on Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  The weather looks beautiful although a bit breezy.

We will not be at market Saturday after the holiday so the next time we will see you it will be December!  If we don’t have a chance to speak tomorrow have a great, safe, and delicious Thanksgiving!

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Plenty of beautiful Lettuce for Thanksgiving!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #35, 11/15/18 Thanksgiving

What’s been going on!

Holy crap!  Enough with the rain already, we are over 5 inches for this week.  Of course the Haw River backed up into the bottom for the third or fourth time this year, so many I have lost count!  Starting tomorrow it looks to be dry for at least ten days but with below normal temperatures.  We will take that because we have two markets coming up and lots to do.

Best food week of the year in front of us and despite the weather we still have a fair amount of delicious produce for the holiday tables.  Not only will we be at Saturday market as always with a full table but don’t forget the Tuesday Thanksgiving market from 3:00-5:00!  The weather looks great for both days.

The last Farm to Fork event of the year is coming up on Dec. 6th and it will be just outside of Chapel Hill at Lavender Oaks Farm.  This is part of our Sustainable Speaker series and we are really pleased that this year it is our friend John T. Edge the Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance.  The ticket includes dinner from eight different chefs and will be a really tasty and inspiring evening, get your tickets while you can.

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 This is the creek just below our house and it has already gone down 3 feet!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #34, 11/8/18

What’s been going on?

So it looks like the first killing freeze of the season is finally going to hit us on Saturday night, only a few weeks later than usual.  The National Weather Service is calling for 28 degrees at the farm, it usually takes 27 or 28 degrees to finally kill the warm season crops like peppers or the toughest of warm season weeds.

I can say that to a person the market farmers are more than ready for this stage of the growing season to be over with.  Universally everyone we talk to has had a difficult growing year with generally too much water and erratic weather.   Following 2017, which was a banner year, it has made it even harder to work through the strangeness of 2018.

That doesn’t mean we are done for the year, the crops left in the ground now are solidly established and short of (which I should probably not even whisper) an extreme dip into really cold weather should all be happy to the end.  We are hoping for a least a few weeks of mildish weather to complete some projects that we just didn’t get to earlier in the season when it was just too ugly to contemplate starting them.  Fall always seems to tumble down this way.

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A radiant fall day

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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.

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