Peregrine Farm News Vol.17 #14, 4/22/20 Earth Day!

What’s been going on! 

Earth Day!  Hard to imagine is has been 50 years since the first one.  Betsy and I were eager young foot soldiers in the environmental movement back then which eventually lead us to our choices in college degrees and to become sustainable/organic/regenerative farmers.  We wanted to save and improve the environment around us and the planet as a whole.

Back in the 70’s the work and the problems were more obvious, you could see the pollution in the air, the water and on the ground.  We all knew that what we were doing to the planet was not sustainable and great changes were made.  Today there are still vast problems but they are more invisible and insidious and harder to correct, the largest and the culmination of most of the problems combined is of course Climate Change.  I thought this article in the NY Times summed up well where we are today.

While it would be great to be able to have an effect on the planet, we can only control what is immediate to us, you know “Think globally, act locally”.  We have focused all these years on how to make Peregrine Farm the most sustainable and environmentally sound place and business that it can be.  We are constantly thinking about the ways we do things, the materials we use, the way that we interact with the greater world around us.  In this unusual time of Covid-19 it becomes even more important that we don’t lose sight of that goal.

We want to again welcome the many new subscribers to the newsletter and eaters of our food that have joined us in the last weeks, we hope that it is one of your “act local” efforts.

Picture of the week

P1050491The last of the clover and wheat cover crops that improve our soil.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #13, 4/15/20

What’s been going on! 

Thank you to everyone who called, emailed and texted us on Monday to make sure we were okay after the tornado passed near us.  Everything is fine here on the farm, all we got was some heavy rain.  We were up very early preparing and watching in case we did have to get into our safe place but both storms, one a confirmed tornado, went by to the northwest of us about five or six miles away.  Knowing the storms paths we, like you, began checking in with all of the farmers and others that we know in those areas and so far everyone we have talked with had no damage.

The only other tornado we have had near us was 26 years ago when one passed right over the mill in Saxapahaw and took the roof off.  Back then it was still a working yarn mill and that was the end of its commercial life.  It sat idle for some years before the renaissance that has become the miracle of Saxapahaw began.  Now the old mill is full of apartments, restaurants and the renowned Saxapahaw Ballroom music and event center.

Thank you again for everyone’s patience and understanding of what seem to be constant changes in the market routine as they are mostly out of the Market’s control.  Last week’s change to one entrance and exit and a limit on how many people could be in the market area at any one time was sprung on us late on Thursday by the Orange County Health Dept. while it is not ideal and might be tweaked some more this week you all were great at working with the change.  If you see our new market Manager Maggie give her a big thank you for handling so many changes and challenges in her first month with such grace and skill!  I can say that the Carrboro Farmers’ Market is doing an exemplary job of social distancing and managing the flow of people, far, far better than any other place I have been in the past month.

Picture of the week

P1050487Even on a gray day the green of spring is vibrant and the creek has returned to normal after the storm.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #12, 4/8/20

What’s been going on! 

We hope that you all are getting out and enjoying this incredible spring weather that is much too warm for this early, this is at least the end of April weather if not early May!  Not surprising with the very warm winter we had.  I have always said, warm winter, hot summer and the Climate Prediction Center agrees with me.  All of the three month forecasts are for above normal temperatures through at least September.  An indication that we are far advanced over a normal spring are the crops that are maturing at least two weeks ahead of last year.

With warm weather comes the need to water all the crops.  The change comes fast from nearly too wet in February and March to one day it is imperative to get some water out there and fast.  Last Friday afternoon after harvesting and before putting all the pre-orders together I set up the outdoor headlines with micro sprinklers and some drip lines and not a minute too soon.

We again want to commend everyone for the tremendous job they are doing at market- the customers, the Town of Carrboro and the vendors.  The Town has really been going above the call with volunteers, signage and more.  The vendors are changing just about everything they have ever done by moving to new locations, whole new display set ups, taking pre-orders and sanitation procedures.  It has all worked because the customers have been so supportive and patient with keeping their distance, following the traffic pattern, pre-ordering and wearing face masks.  Together we will all get through the next several months and be able to eat and enjoy the spring bounty.

Picture of the week

P1050483Micro-sprinklers throwing water to the Little Gems and Fennel.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #11, 4/1/20

What’s been going on! 

We have never seen anything quite like the surge of new interest in the market and our produce and flowers.  After 9/11 with all of the uncertainty that event provided around the safety of the food supply we did see a ground swell of people who found the market to be a place of community support as well as good, clean food.  When other businesses were taking some hits, the market stayed strong.

Now nearly two decades later we have another destabilizing event that is even more crazy and widespread.  With the internet now in full bloom, people are even more able to find better and alternative food sources as the grocery stores can’t get or stock enough food especially produce and meat.  With our new online ordering we have had a large number of folks both ordering and signing up for the newsletter, some of whom we have never met before, welcome to all of you!

While the Carrboro Farmers’ Market is the town square and community building place the difference during this shakeup is we cannot take the time or the proximity to form the relationships and soak in the good will and security the market provides.  It will be through online sources like this newsletter and our website that we will have to use to get to know each other.  Dive in look/read around.

This is what local food is all about, good food, produced nearby by people you know and trust.  Minimal transport and handling before it gets to you.  I have been in the grocery stores and their produce departments are bare and I have had customers tell me they have tried to order lettuce from a store and twice they were either sold out or it just didn’t show up in their order.

That is not to say that we and the other local farmers, will not have supply problems as none of us planned or planted to be able to replace what the grocery stores usually have but you can be assured we will bring everything we have to market and do our best to keep you informed of what is available.

Good week on the farm, we got the peas trellised, slid the last of the tunnels over the beds that will soon be planted to cucumbers and basil, planted yet more lettuce and cultivated most of the spring vegetables.  The trees are greening up, the dogwoods and redbuds are putting on a great show, we hope that you can get out and enjoy the spring beauty, just stay 6 feet away from your fellow man!

Picture of the week

P1050475Trellised peas and lots of other good things to come

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #10, 3/26/20

What’s been going on! 

You all are awesome!  Last week’s market went so well we were all blown away.  If we can all keep up the good practices of the 6 foot physical distancing, getting in and getting out of the market quickly and washing or using sanitizer on our hands we should be able to keep the market open.  Agriculture and farmers markets are considered essential jobs and businesses so we are trying to do our best to bring food to those that need it.

Betsy and I talk everyday about the dilemma of staying at home versus going to market. We don’t want to encourage, in any way, people going out in public or in groups but at the same time you all have been overwhelming in your requests for good fresh produce.  We also know the importance of the kind of normalcy that the market routine represents for so many of us which is necessary in these non-normal times.

We have decided to not attend the Wednesday market for at least a few weeks to reduce our time out and about.  We are also going to town only if we absolutely have to.  We will make the decision about the Saturday market on a week to week basis, so far it is still on for this week.  We still encourage people to pre-order if they can, see the link below for the instructions.

On a more regular life note, we worked hard the beginning of the week building trellis and preparing the tunnels to plant tomatoes and slipped the very healthy looking plants into the ground Tuesday afternoon.  Perfect overcast conditions to transplant with no shock to their system.  Hopefully by the time they are ready in June, the worst of this will have passed, hmmm tomato sandwiches!

Picture of the week

P1050470These tomatoes don’t know about coronavirus

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #9, 3/19/20, Big Changes Ahead!

What’s been going on! 

Old dogs, new tricks.  This is going to be the story for some time to come so bear with us and each other.  There is a lot of new information in this newsletter so please read carefully and completely.

First we want to thank everyone for the overwhelming show of support, both for us and the market, last week and as you all have sent kind words through the week.  Because of your support and the changes that the vendors and market made last week we are being allowed to stay open when other markets are being closed.  But we were not perfect and changes have to be made for us to continue to operate as you will see below.

The biggest change is that the Town of Carrboro is requiring us to have 20 feet between vendors it will have us spread out all over the Town Commons including using all of the parking lots, which is still not enough room for all of the vendors when we reach peak season.  Customer parking will be found over at the O2 Fitness lot and on the streets.  You will have to find us in the market as we don’t know yet where we will end up.

The Market will begin its 7:00 a.m. opening hours this week to help spread out the crowd and we encourage those folks over 60 to shop the market early for greater safety.  The Wednesday afternoon market will also open early this coming week on March 25th,  we will not be there initially.

The strongest feedback we received from last week is everyone has to do a better job of “social distancing”, if we don’t improve we may not be able to stay open so there are several things you all need to do:

  1. Stay at least 6 feet away from other folks. We will remind you with a smile.
  2. As much as we all like to visit, we need everyone to shop and head home to minimize the time of potential exposure.
  3. If you have kids, leave them at home if possible. The playground is closed anyway.
  4. Do not touch any of the products for sale, let the vendors handle all the product, they will bag and wrap it and hand it to you.
  5. and of course, wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.

To facilitate less contact and faster exchanges we are encouraging people to pre-order so that it is ready to go when you get to market, an option we have always offered.  For those who want to reduce the amount of cash handling we have set up an on-line store where you can put in your order and prepay with your credit card or we can take a credit card at market too.  Ignore it if it tells you that the pick-up date is for March 28th.

For those of you who are being extra careful and don’t want to get into the market fray you can text us at market and we can bring your order to your car.  Your order already needs to have been received and paid for the day before.  Text or call (919) 314-7043 with your car type, color and where you are parked adjacent to the market and we will bring it to you.  It may take a few minutes depending on how busy we are and you need to parked along either Bim Street or Laurel Ave.

We are not sure how all this will turn out.  Whether the Market will be allowed to stay open or how much of a pain in the ass the new market set up will be.  Betsy and I will be there selling this Saturday and will evaluate.  If either the market is closed or we don’t want to deal with the changes we will change to a curbside pick-up location near the market for an hour or so on Saturday mornings for on-line prepaid orders only.  We will keep you apprised.

Our restaurant friends are also taking a big hit and we encourage you to support them by using take-out or buying gift cards or more.  Starting this weekend a group of Carrboro business people are starting Carrboro United, an online ordering platform for take-out meals from Carrboro restaurants and CSA type produce and meat boxes from the Farmers Market vendors who cannot sell all of their crops.  The orders can be picked up three times a week in front of Cats Cradle.  See the website http://www.carrborounited.com for details.

We continue to plant as if this will end soon and this situation could last only a few weeks but the experts we are talking with think more like 8-10 weeks, through at least the end of May.  We are all in a strange new world and it will take all of us working together to make it smoother.

Picture of the week

P1050464A bunch of beautiful lettuce

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #8, 3/13/20 the Coronavirus talk

What’s been going on! 

Coronavirus and the market, what to do?  Not to panic and to use common sense of course!  While the Market is a “public gathering” it is not a tightly packed indoor location with many of the kinds of hard surfaces that the virus can be easily picked up from.  Being outdoors, with disinfecting sunlight, makes it far safer than an indoor situation.  The keys to not spreading the virus are hand sanitation, not touching your face and “social isolation”.

Betsy and I have always joked that we are agricultural shut-ins but in this case all of the farmers are “socially isolated” for the most part of their week, only coming to town to deliver and attend market.  We encourage anyone who is sick in any way not to go out in public and any people who are more vulnerable, those over 65 or with compromised systems, to take whatever precautions they feel necessary.

The rest of us can just be more careful and patient at market by giving each other more space, washing our hands or using sanitizer frequently after touching common surfaces like door handles and money.  There is no evidence that the virus is spread on food, especially if cooked.  Betsy and I will be handling all produce and flowers ourselves in the coming weeks to keep contact to a minimum. We will direct the customer to indicate what they want, we will then pick it up, bag and wrap all produce and flowers and then hand them to the customer.

We are encouraging the Market to provide more handwashing stations around the market and, if we can get them, also placing large bottles of hand sanitizer around as well.  Be aware that the Carrboro Farmers’ Market may decide to close for a while if that is the recommendation from Public Health officials.

Markets are grappling with their role as public gathering spaces that are vital to food access for consumers and the livelihoods of farmers.  You all need to eat and the farmers really need to sell all of the produce that they have been tending for months, together we can make the market experience healthy.

Picture of the week

P1050456Red Little Gem looking good for next week

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #7, 3/6/20

What’s been going on! 

Ah the obnoxious winds of March.  Even after so many years of making our living working outside and dancing with all that weather can bring us, the crazy winds of March are always a bit of a surprise, especially with their day-long ferociousness.  These are not the temporary high gusts preceding a rain storm but the serious, steady, scrub the earth clean for spring kind of gales.

Of course it is all part of the cold winter air masses struggling to stay south as the earth warms with longer days and the warm air masses moving to the north (warm air rises, cold air sinks).  The referee between these two combatants is the jet stream which will slowly move north over the next month or so until the warm air wins and our weather here settles.  Until then we are subject to big temperature swings, tornados and more.  I always find the wind map fascinating at this time of year.

Despite the vicissitudes of spring we did have a good week of planting and cultivating and coaxing the early spring crops along.  In general everything looks really good except the sugar snap peas that we had to replant because the first ones rotted in the wet, wet ground which will make them two to three weeks late this year.  It is always something.

Picture of the week

P1050445A forest of Ranunculus waiting to open

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #6, 2/28/20

What’s been going on! 

Busy few days ahead before the next rain comes in on Tuesday.  The next few weeks have the most spring plantings of the whole season and this week in particular will have a bit extra as we held some plantings from last week to get past the cold and snow and so they could size up some.  Early March is when things have warmed up enough, especially the soil, so that most and cool season crop can now go outside without any worries.

The harvest from these plantings are also the heart of the spring bounty that happens the end of April and early May when the Market is over flowing with amazing greens.  Sunday and Monday we will be planting five kinds of lettuce, lacinato kale, fennel, two kinds of radicchio, escarole, parsley and seeding more Japanese turnips and red radishes.  We will be ready for the rain days that follow.

Two things to close the newsletter.  From last week, several folks asked what the “C” word was, it is the dreaded committee.  Finally if you haven’t voted yet make sure you do so!  Last day of early voting is tomorrow and of course Tuesday is the big day.

Picture of the week

P1050438Lots of very happy seedlings waiting to get into the ground

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #5, 2/21/20

What’s been going on! 

Well I shouldn’t have said anything last week about a snowless winter and last night’s two inches wasn’t exactly the kind of storm that brings everything to a halt but apparently the grocery stores still had huge crowds buying break and milk, jeeze.  Tonight is looking to be the coldest night of the winter which means a really chilly start at market tomorrow even with the sun, bundle up!

As Betsy and I slip quietly off towards retirement another milestone was passed this week as I had my last board meeting for the last board I have been sitting on.  In fact in the past two months I have stepped off of the boards of three organizations that have been dear to us.  The first, after eleven years and three executive director transitions, was the Rural Advancement Foundation International which I have written about many times in the past for their incredible work around farm sustainability and rural social justice.

The second was the Center for Environmental Farming Systems which among their many projects is the largest organic research farm in the United States.  We have been involved since its inception, over a quarter of a century!  The last and closest to our hearts is the board of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market where we both have been on and off the board in every capacity for over 30 years.

Beyond the freeing up of time and schedule it is good to not be in the lead anymore.  All three organizations are in great shape with good leadership so it also has felt like it was a good time to move on.  We will continue to volunteer and advise these groups when asked but as we want.  When my father retired he said one of the things he was really looking forward to as no more of the “C” word and he stuck to it.

Picture of the week

P1050427The first pink light on a cold morning

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