Welcome to the News of the Farm

Just to help you get the most out of these posts, here are a few tips.

All posts have been categorized by year, or crop or some other way.  If you want to look at all the posts that talk about tomatoes, for example, you can either click on that category in the right hand column or on the word tomatoes at the bottom of the post.

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And of  course any of the words highlighted in orange are links to other information that will open in another page.

Have fun!

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #10, 4/19/17

What’s been going on!

Thanks to all of you who sent kind words about last week’s newsletter. The pundits are giving HB662 a 50% chance of getting through the Legislature.

Jennie and company have been hard at work this week getting ready for and planting the Big Top tomatoes.  They pushed hard to get the landscape fabric down and half the trellis up by last Friday so the NC State folks could come out and plant their research plots.  For the second year, so they have good replication, all of the Cherokee Purple have been grafted to root stocks that have root systems that take up more water than normal.  Last year’s trials produced some interesting results so it will be good to see if they produce similarly again.

The beginning of this week the rest of the trellis has been erected and the other 12 rows and nearly 800 plants have gone in the ground.  Perfect weather to transplant the last two days with overcast and a bit cooler to better let them get past the shock.  A couple of new varieties this year including one that we brought back from Sicily last fall.  The early tomatoes in the little tunnels are flying along with lots of blooms and growth.  Tomato sandwiches soon!

We are not on the Piedmont Farm Tour again this year but Jennie is suggesting that we do it next year.  It is a great fundraiser for Carolina Farm Stewardship Assoc. and a good way for people to see the farms that they know from farmers markets.

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Some of the research tomatoes with special irrigation set up and soil moisture sensors

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #9, 4/12/17

What’s been going on!

First, we will be back at the Wednesday market today, 3:00-6:00!  Beautiful day and enough produce to make a show.  Come see us!

An unusual morning yesterday.  Strange times require new things.  I was asked to go to the General Assembly and participate in a press conference for the roll out of a proposed bill, by Republican legislators, for the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina.  Let that sink in.

When the NGO folks who contacted me said they were going to try to expand Medicaid to NC and asked if I could speak to the needs of farmers for health insurance I thought someone was pulling my leg and then realized they were serious and I said sure.  All of the bluster and horse trading around health care legislation in DC and here is disheartening, mostly misguided and very real and scary for us.

Farmers, like many small businesses, have to buy their own health insurance.  We don’t have the luxury of working for the school system, or a big drug company or the state government.  Farming is the sixth most dangerous occupation.  The number one reason that farms go out of business is not a crop failure or a hurricane or export market pressures, it is because someone gets sick or hurt and they can’t pay the medical bills and have to sell the farm or declare bankruptcy because they could not afford insurance.

It is one of the main reasons that something like 90% of all farms have someone with an off farm job, partly because many farmers don’t really make enough money to be profitable and so they can get benefits through their off farm employment.  We are some of the rare birds that don’t have off farm jobs, we make our entire living from these four acres!  We have always managed to afford health insurance, knowing we needed to for the possibility of something happening, that is why it is called insurance.

The Affordable Care Act has been a dream for us, good coverage at affordable prices.  Before the ACA, our insurance costs were getting beyond our reach up to 10% of our gross farm income.  If we had to buy in the open market today it would be nearly 25% and we would not have insurance until we can get to Medicare, 4 long years from now.

I told them that if they really cared about growth, jobs and particularly the rural economy as they all profess then this was as much a jobs bill as it was access to health care for the working poor.  17% of all jobs in NC are in agriculture and small business creates the majority of new jobs.  While this legislation fills but a small gap it is at least a glimmer of hope in a sometimes very dark discussion.

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Lots of beautiful lettuce on the way

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #8, 4/7/17

What’s been going on!

Crazy blustery days and maybe the last cold snap?  I doubt it.  We are slowly working our way towards planting the big array of tomatoes under the Big Tops but even that is two weeks away because we know what can happen if we try and plant too early.

We did move the last of the Big Top hoops over the tomato field and ran the top webbing that ties all the hoops together and keeps them vertical.  This coming week we have to pull the plastic over the whole shebang, need a good still day!  Then the final soil preparation before we can cover the beds with landscape fabric and finally build the trellis.  By the end of the week we should be ready to plant.

A pretty normal spring week with some planting, some seeding in the greenhouse, lots of cultivation (partly so we can concentrate on tomato prep next week), building cucumber trellis and other chores and we are still trying to get all the firewood split.  We have so much wood cut that it will take at least another 2 days to finish it up but we will be warm for two winters to come!

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Even the airy pea trellis is billowing in the wind

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #7, 3/31/17

What’s been going on!

A gap is coming, a gap is coming!  In most normal springs we are able to move fairly seamlessly from the protected production of the little tunnels to the wild outdoor production of the open fields.  After years of fine tuning the planting dates, especially for crops like lettuce, we finish harvesting the indoor crops just as we pick the first ones out of the field.  Not so this year.

The crazy warmth of January and February allowed the indoor crops to grow much faster than normal and then the return to cooler temperatures in March has kept the outdoor crops on their normal schedule for first harvests starting in mid to late April.  The anemones and ranunculus have had a steady march of production since late January, several weeks earlier than last year.  Most of the lettuces have matured almost a month ahead.

So after this week expect a bit of irregularity at market as we coax the field crops along and pick that last of the early production.  Some years we are surprised by how fast the outdoor crops can catch up but just like the late winter was, fast and then slow, the early spring appears to be following the same song.

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The beautiful long view, the lushest cover crops in years

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #6, 3/24/17

What’s been going on!

So busy last week after all of the cold and windy weather and three nights near or at 20 degrees we had one day to push hard to uncover it all and plant more before the rain that came in on Friday night and Saturday, hence no newsletter.  Most everything seemed to survive the cold, some things burned here and there and the blueberries are still an unknown until they finish blooming (or not).

A big spring week, our new staff began their voyage with us on Monday and not only have Laura and Kyle slipped right into our system but Jennie is doing a great job in directing them.  Two new folks at once is always hard as there are twice as many questions and tasks to think about.  We have for years operated with four of us but in Betsy and my attempts to slow down a bit we have added a 5th to cover some of the things that we used to do.

Rest assured there are still full days for us, like yesterday when we slid the last two of the little tunnels to their new position over the early tomato beds.  Sandwiched on either side of that was firewood cutting and irrigation pump repair.  As head of maintenance, any day I don’t go to Lowes is a good day, yesterday was not one of them.

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Laura, Jennie, Oscar and Kyle- an all-star team for sure

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #5, 3/10/17

What’s been going on!

Oh hell, here we go again.  We made it through last week’s cold (coldest 22) without any real damage.  Still unsure about the blueberries but everything else, especially the ranunculus, look good.  Now we are looking at potentially three nights in the low 20’s!  The bit of snow is of no concern, just the cold temperatures.  Back in go the hoops to cover the ranunculus, fortunately all the row covers are still out in the field.

We did slide one of the little tunnels this week to plant the early cucumbers under but we are postponing putting them in until after this cold, along with more kale and some other crops.  Spring always has some of this stop and go weather but never quite this extreme and it becomes wearying after a while.

Next week we should slide the last two tunnels in preparation for the early tomatoes.  While the specter of early tomatoes is heartening and makes us dream of more steady weather, Jennie has been working on seeding the big array of tomatoes for their late April planting to the field.  Same central group of all-star varieties along with a few new trial ones, 21 in all this year.  Always something to look forward to.

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A tunnel full of lettuce with the row cover ready to deploy

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #4, 3/3/17

What’s been going on!

Well our gut instincts were correct, be wary of a warm spell in early spring!  The forecast for tonight is 23 degrees here at the farm, followed by 26 Saturday night.  Colder than we really want to see but most things should be fine especially with some floating row covers.  Betsy is a bit concerned about the amazing tunnel full of Ranunculus that are just now sending up thousands of stems.

A fairly normal late winter week with both indoor and outdoor work.  My annual visit with the accountant, so they can do the end of year taxes, is always a bit like going to the psychologist.  I leave feeling like I have done a thorough job in record keeping but unsure how it will all end up.  I know we are an anomaly to him but he is fascinated by our small business and how it all goes together, especially now with the Jennies transition and its effect on the business.

Planting goes on, as well as cultivation.  The big project right now is to finish up the removal of two huge trees we had to take down.  We had both a big hickory die and a monster red oak starting to die that we needed to drop before they did damage dropping limbs.  The oak is the biggest tree we have ever had to deal with, 36” at chest height.  We have taken care of all the brush and I am just about done cutting up the rest into firewood.  Hey at least we have enough firewood for two winters now!

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Beautiful tunnel of ranunculus just hitting stride

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #3, 2/24/17

What’s been going on!

Let the real spring games begin!  But I can tell you that into our 36th spring that this is just not right, doesn’t feel right and certainly statistically is not right according to the National Phenology Index but here we go.

We have been planting (really mostly Jennie has been planting) for weeks now following our usual schedule with the knowledge that it could turn seriously cold at any time, remember last year when we lost all the blueberries to a late freeze?  We are at a point in the calendar now that it is full speed ahead, let’s hope for the best.

With lots of plants in the ground that means they need regular water, normally we rely on fairly consistent spring rains but not so this spring so yesterday, Feb. 23rd!, I had to fire up the irrigation system to get water to the four fields we have crops in, can’t rely on pulling hoses any more.  Many years we don’t have to do this until April.

The winter conference and travel season is over now.  Alex had another good backpacking trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas followed by several presentations at the Georgia Organics conference in Atlanta last weekend but we are all back now and busy not only with planting but also the last of the chainsaw work and other clean up chores.  Yet another season underway!

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Newly irrigated lettuce on a slightly eerie foggy morning

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #2, 1/27/17

What’s been going on!

A quick note to let you know that Betsy and I survived the March on Washington and will be at market tomorrow.

The crowds were staggering and we were exhausted when it was all over and we finally got home at 2:30 a.m. but glad we went.  Below are pictures you didn’t see of the masses.

Pictures of the Week

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On the Metro

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Headed towards the light and the huge crowds

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #1, 1/20/17

What’s been going on!

Wow, what a start to the New Year and our 36th season.  Betsy and I left on Thursday before the first weekend in January for our annual Southern Foodways Alliance gathering knowing that there was a winter storm coming our way but the forecast was for only 1-3 inches of snow.  Eight hours later when we arrived in Tennessee the potential had blown up to a possibility of 10 inches!  In the end Jennie did a great job preparing for the storm and in keeping the tunnels clean of the eventual 4-5 inches of snow and sleet but our fingernails got shorter in the interim.

As we returned we had to do further preparations for the two nights of single digit temperatures.  For the most part the crops inside the little tunnels survived well but the last of the outdoor crops are toast, melting masses of vegetation in the 70 degree days that followed.  We have been busy both in the greenhouse and in planting the first of the lettuces in the tunnels just yesterday.

Jennie will be at market on Saturday while Betsy and I will be in Washington for the Women’s March.  I have never used this space for any kind of political messaging, feeling strongly that the intent of this newsletter is to let you all know about life on the farm and what it takes to do this thing we love.  Suffice it to say that we feel like many of the things that we have worked hard for over the last four decades are in danger and we now must be vigilant.

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Newly planted lettuces and more beds ready to go

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