Since 1995, May has seen the arrival of Peregrine Farm lettuce in our stores. Grown fifteen miles west of Carrboro, the crispy, fresh lettuces are a trademark of Alex and Betsy Hitt’s sustainable farm.
Alex and Betsy began the farm in 1981 and grew cut flowers, small fruit, and vegetables for local markets. They had degrees in Soils (Alex) and Forestry (Betsy) and wanted to live in the country and farm. There were few local markets; Weaver Street Market didn’t exist, the Carrboro Farmers’ Market was brand-new, and the local restaurant scene was just beginning.
The Hitts had participated in the first Earth Day activities in 1970 and wanted to manage their land responsibly. Concepts like “organic” and “sustainable” were just being developed, and the Hitts, as they put it, “worked to define what those words mean and then implement the practices that best support those goals.” They now run a diverse small farm: Betsy manages the cut flower production and Alex manages the vegetables. They still grow a quarter acre of blueberries, and for several years they raised turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Both Alex and Betsy are on the farm full-time, along with two farmhands. They stay abreast of developments in sustainable farming and aren’t afraid to try something new: for example, they use a European design of greenhouse that slides on rails, enabling it to cover different patches of land at different times. When a tomato pest threatened their crops, they began growing tomatoes under high tunnels. They are also involved in the larger farming and food communities, participating in agricultural organizations, and they are founders of the Piedmont Farm Tour.
In 2016, the Hitts announced their retirement. Someone new is farming their land, but we may see a hiatus in our annual supply of Peregrine Farm lettuce. Learn more about the farm and sign up for their e-newsletter at http://peregrinefarm.net/.