Welcome to the News of the Farm

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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.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #17, 6/13/18

What’s been going on!

Wonderfully cool day yesterday and we took the opportunity to finish seeding an acre of summer cover crops of pearl millet and cowpeas.  I spent Monday getting everything mowed and getting the soil ready in various fields, the rains that came with the cold front fortunately missed us which allowed the seeding to go forward.  With good moisture in the soil they should sprout quickly and give us a good smothering stand.

The first real tomato harvest on Monday and Jennie spent a good amount of time carefully showing Lacee and Jacob exactly how we pick and sort tomatoes.  How much color is enough, how to separate the full ripe, part ripe and seconds from each other.  What to do with damaged fruit.  Which boxes to use and how to pack them to protect the tender orbs.  It is a long two months, with thousands of pounds of fruit, so it is best to get everyone on the same page from the beginning.

The sweet red onion harvest is happening today and tomorrow.  A bit tedious pulling each one, sniping the roots off and the neck making sure to leave an inch or so to dry.  Put into ventilated crates and stacked in the shade covered greenhouse to cure but not in the direct sun so they don’t get sunburned.  Look for them at market in a few weeks.  Tomatoes, onions, cukes, basil and peppers, seems like summer is finally here.

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Tomatoes coming to a plate near you!

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #16, 6/6/18

What’s been going on!

Let the mowing begin!  Change of seasons at the farm and we have mowed down a half an acre of spring crops so far and all the grass that is going wild all around the fields.  Finally a beautiful and dry week, just in time as we were getting backed up on planting and cultivating.

The staff has already cultivated the most urgent beds and planted another 6 or 7 with summer flowers and late lettuce.  We covered the last two Big Tops that will protect the middle planting of crested celosia and some summer lettuce.  Soon it will be time for the big red onion harvest and then the spring crops really will be finished.  Once we pick the last blueberry this week life will settle down into our regular summer schedule.

The Farm to Fork picnic was a great success and it was good to see many of you there and to run into other farmer friends who were also there representing their goods and pairing with local restaurants.  Too much food to possibly sample it all.  As always we had an enjoyable time with our friends at Pizzeria Mercato and their cold cucumber and octopus salad with crispy, spicy chickpeas was a huge hit.

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Amazing Annabelle Hydrangeas

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #15, 5/30/18

What’s been going on!

Almost to June and the Farm to Fork Picnic is nearly here this Sunday.  A little different set up this year, back to just the actual picnic this weekend with the other events spread out across the year.  It makes it much easier on everyone involved- farmers, chefs and eaters.  The last two years, with three events all on one weekend, wore everyone down.  Still at the Fearrington Village for the shade and cover from rain in case that occurs.

The event is an important fundraiser for beginning farmer training programs at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and the W.C. Breeze Family Farm Agricultural Extension & Research Center.  Betsy and I serve on the Board of Advisors for CEFS and have been very involved with this event from the beginning.  We are again paired with our good friends at Pizzeria Mercato.  Tickets are still available and it is guaranteed to be tasty and fun.

May rains bring June tomatoes or something like that, it is for sure bringing lots of big blueberries which has been our main focus all week, we have been picking every day except Saturday trying to beat the rains and get them off the bushes in peak condition.  This is the peak week and so far the rains have held off every morning and we have just enough pickers to get the job done but we will be happier when we only have to pick tomatoes!

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Damp Blueberries

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #14, 5/25/18

What’s been going on!

Wow!  Memorial Day weekend already, how did that happen?  One of those weeks with lots going on and further complicated by all the rain, as we knew it would. Nearly 5 inches for us but we did manage to get all the peppers in the ground on Wednesday and Thursday so we are now ready for the next tropical depression coming our way for the weekend, at least Saturday doesn’t look too bad but Sunday and Monday wet.

Past the peppers the blueberries came on much faster than we had anticipated with this cool spring and we had to start picking on Wednesday.  The one good thing about the rain is that it came just at the right time to make the berries nice and big.  Beautiful crop and we will try and get as many picked for market as we can.

It didn’t help that months ago I had agreed to two events one on Wednesday and another on Thursday, the only dry day in the past seven.  Wednesday morning, very early, I was again in Raleigh speaking on behalf of farmers and other self-employed people who fall into the health insurance gap for the expansion of Medicaid.

Yesterday I was up early to do the required tractor work so we could plant the last of the peppers and then had to drive to the other side of Raleigh to talk about pastured turkey production at an Extension conference.  No we are not raising turkeys again but there are relatively few who do and I was an easy target.  Then I rushed home to get back on the tractor to cultivate the winter squash before we lose them to the sea of crab grass that has sprouted from the rains.  Glad all I have to do today is pick blueberries!

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Peppers happy to be in the ground, heavy mulch of rye and vetch

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #13, 5/16/18

What’s been going on!

Looks like a long gray week, hard to tell how much rain we will actually get but we have to at least plan like we might only be able to do certain jobs on the farm.  Jennie and crew hit it hard Monday and Tuesday trying to get as many dry jobs done as possible.  Cultivating while the soil is dry and ideal for weed killing, planting before the rains, pruning tomatoes, a job not to be done on wet days for disease purposes and more.  At least it will not be as hot as it has been.

The last big planting project of spring happens this coming week, pepper time.  In another nod to the impending wet weather we did the final tillage on the beds that we cover with landscape fabric and then laid that fabric so we will be ready to plant next week.  Those beds are only half of the pepper field as we the plant the rest into untilled soil covered with a huge cover crop mulch of rye and hairy vetch.  That half we will prepare next week after the rains which will make the soil much easier to plant into.

While the season has been delayed with all the cool weather, the heat of the last week has gone a long way towards playing catch up and this week’s harvest will be a big one that will have to be done around the rains and hopefully not in the rain.  Cool weather makes for beautiful cool season vegetables so we have to hope for a few more weeks of moderate temperatures to pick the best out of the field.

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Maybe the best Sugar Snap Pea crop we have ever grown

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #12, 5/9/18

What’s been going on!

Well the packing shed project was completed last week and a coat of stain rolled on it too.  With it all tucked up before the weekend rains I slipped off to the mountains for one last hiking trip before the leaves were on the trees up there.  Leafless above 3500 feet and the wildflowers were really getting ready to put on a show.

Back home and my morning walk around the farm showed that the crops are really jumping and Jennie (and crew) are doing a great job in both planting and keeping everything really clean.  There is a lot of beautiful produce ready to roll out of the fields this week to the market and even more shortly behind that.

The big planting of tomatoes, which has been in the ground for two weeks, has turned the deep green they get once their roots have really taken hold and are being feed by the rich soil we prepared for them, with the warm weather coming this week they will really begin to grow.  The early planting already has lots of small fruits set and are equally vigorous.  Even though this spring has been odd, late and cool the farm has never looked better at this time of year!

Pictures of the Week

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Jennie and crew harvesting for Wednesday market

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #11, 5/2/18

What’s been going on!

We made it to May, a glorious week and things are beginning to move.  As director of maintenance and soil management I have been busing on both fronts.  We have had a backlog of building repairs that I have been slowly working on, partly waiting for conducive weather conditions.   A few weeks ago I replaced some weather beaten siding and replaced some decayed wood on the passive solar greenhouse and then rolled a coat of stain on the whole structure.

This week I have torn into the side of the packing shed to do the same resuscitation from too much water hitting the side of the building.  Once finished we will have gutters installed to correct the problem.  There are three or so other similar repair/replace projects on the list for some time this year and then I will have been around all the buildings and that should hold them for another 20 years.

On the soils front we have some beautiful cover crops at or near peak growth so it is time to mow them down and get ready for the cash crops that will follow or plant yet another soil improving cover crop for the summer.  In a perfect world we wait until the legumes are at least at half full bloom when they have pulled all the free nitrogen out of the air and it fixed into the plants themselves.  We are about a week past that point with the crimson clover and about two weeks away for the hairy vetch.  Happy soils.

Don’t forget to vote this week in the primary!

Pictures of the Week

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Packing shed surgery

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 Awesome crimson clover at full bloom

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #10, 4/25/18

What’s been going on!

Bam! And it’s green, even on a gray day the intensity of the new leaves is staggering.  A long damp period but it looks like it will finally turn starting Saturday for a beautiful week to come.  Sometimes it is difficult to find enough work to keep the staff busy at times like this but not this week.

Two big projects that actually benefit from cloudy conditions happen this week.  The first was the culmination of a week of activities, the big tomato planting.  It starts with covering the Big Tops and the final soil preparation, then running out the drip lines and covering the beds with landscape fabric.  144 metal T-posts are then driven and the fence trellis is hung to support the plants as they grow.  All that happened last week but we waited until the really cold weather passed to plant.  Monday was a perfect day with overcast but warm conditions and no wind means no stress on the plants as they get used to their new home.

There is always the weekly seeding in the greenhouse to do but the real job this week is moving the 3000 pepper seedlings up into bigger containers for their last month before going into the field.  We start so many seeds that space in the germination box is at a premium so we start them in tiny cells and then move the best looking ones up.  Again a cloudy day is perfect to help them overcome the stress of being pulled out of one container and tucked into another.  Don’t get me wrong, we will be happy to see the sun return but sometimes it’s okay to be cloudy.

Pictures of the Week

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Life in a Beech grove

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Peas and Onions like this weather too

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

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.

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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!

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Some bodacious, tender and sweet spinach heading to market

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