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Alex & Betsy Hitt Win National SARE Sustainable Agriculture Award

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August 16, 2006

Photos and text by Debbie Roos, Agricultural Extension Agent.

Crop diversity at Peregrine Farm

Cut flower crops planted in front of Haygrove tunnels. Haygroves are multi-bay tunnels that the Hitts use to grow high quality crops like heirloom tomatoes and cut flowers. The tunnels protect crops from the rain and allow the Hitts to control the amount of moisture going to the crops. Too much rain can ruin the quality of certain crops like melons and cut flowers and also speeds the spread of certain diseases in crops like tomatoes.

Alex and Betsy do not use pesticides on their farm and so they rely on cultural practices to help prevent pest problems from getting out of control.

Alex hosts a group of visiting students

Alex talks about his no-till pepper production with a group of student interns from the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro, NC. Peregrine Farm is nationally known and is considered a model for a diverse, sustainable small farm. Alex and Betsy often host visiting groups interested in touring the farm and learning more about their operation.

newly planted lettuce field

An early April view of a lettuce field planted in several varieties. Alex staggers his planting dates to extend the harvest season.

Alex with fresh-cut leaf lettuce

Alex harvests leaf lettuce in early May for wholesaling to Weaver Street Market in Carrboro. Moveable high tunnels can be seen in the background.

Click here for more photos and information on their sliding high tunnels.

Alex mows a summer cover crop

Alex mows a summer crop mixture of sorghum-sudangrass and a legume. Cover crops are an integral part of the rotation at Peregrine Farm, helping to improve the soil and provide nutrients to cash crops.

cover crops in the Haygrove tunnel

A fall-planted cover crop of rye, vetch, and crimson clover has just been rolled in late April to kill it in preparation for no-till tomato production under the Haygrove tunnel.

tomato crop in Haygrove tunnel

Early June view of young tomato crop. Alex plants dozens of heirloom varieties, choosing varieties that have the best flavor for his very discerning chefs and farmers’ market customers.

Alex checks on the young turkeys

Alex visits with the young heritage-breed turkeys that they raise for the Thanksgiving market. They young poults arrive in May and are moved around the farm, confined by portable electric fencing, to forage on crops that have already been harvested. The turkeys feed on insects and grasses. They spend the night in the shelters (pictured at left in the photo) to protect them from predators.

Click here for more photos and information on their pasture-based turkey production.

Alex at the Carrboro Farmers' Market

Alex tends to a happy customer at the Saturday Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

Thanksgiving offerings at the Carrboro farmers' market

A table full of Peregrine Farm offerings for the Thanksgiving market at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. This is the day when Peregrine customers pick up their fresh, pasture-raised turkey.


A mountain of bunched carrots at the Thanksgiving market.

Betsy harvests flowers under the Haygrove tunnel

Betsy harvests Campanula from the Haygrove. She grows over 150 different varieties of cut flowers in the field, in the sliding high tunnels, and in the Haygroves.

Lisianthus in the Haygrove tunnel.

Lisianthus in the Haygrove tunnel. The plastic netting provides support for the flowers so they don’t flop over.

Zinnia field

Zinnias are one of Betsy’s “workhorse” varieties because they are so vibrant and dependable. Betsy does several plantings of her cut flowers and often gets multiple cuttings from each planting.

Betsy trims and bunches cut flowers

Betsy trims, strips, and bunches her flowers. Proper postharvest handling is essential to cut flower production. Flowers must be grown and handled properly to ensure a long vase life. Flowers are harvested shortly before going to market and stored in a walk-in cooler.

Betsy with her cut flowers at the Carrboro Farmers' Market

Betsy wraps up flowers for a customer at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Her huge, varied, and colorful flower display is a great draw for customers.

Written By

Debbie Roos, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionDebbie RoosExtension Agent, Agriculture - Sustainable / Organic Production Call Debbie Email Debbie N.C. Cooperative Extension, Chatham County Center
Page Last Updated: 1 decade ago
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