When Alex and Betsy Hitt graduated from college, they moved to North Carolina to follow a dream. "We wanted to live in the country and not have to drive into town to make our living", explains Alex. They developed a business plan, formed a corporation to fund the venture, and bought 26-acre Peregrine Farm in Southern Alamance County. That was 21 years ago. Today their dream is a reality: Both Alex and Betsy work full-time on the farm. Betsy runs the cut flowers side of the business and Alex has charge of the fruits and vegetables.
When the Hitts first moved to the community of Eli Whitney, many local farmers were skeptical of their small-farm dream. Alex explains, "People thought we were crazy to do what we were trying to do…[but] now, I think we've earned their respect 'cause we're still farming after 21 years."
That's not to say they're doing exactly what they envisioned for themselves all those years ago, though. They started off as a pick-your-own berry farm, but soon realized that they couldn't make a living that way. Says Alex, "[our plan] has changed over time as we have learned this place, learned our market, [and] learned what we do well." Today they focus on intensive cultivation, growing more--and doing a better job--on less land. This year they'll grow approximately 120 varieties of cut flowers, fruits and vegetables on about 3 ½ acres.
Alex and Betsy are active in the local farming community. Explains Alex, "part of our responsibility of being in the position we're in, is to continue to give…leadership or some assistance" to other farmers. They regularly attend regional and national conferences, advancing their own learning as well as passing their knowledge on to others. Alex has served on the board of the Carrboro Farmers' Market for the last 14 years, and also teaches in the Sustainable Farming program at Central Carolina Community College.
Quality of life issues have always been important to the Hitts, who maintain the vision of what brought them to North Carolina in the first place. Pragmatic by nature, they recently decided to shorten their growing season because rest and free time during the autumn months were more valuable to them than their income from selling fall crops. Says Alex, "We realized that we are the single most important renewable input on the farm…And now that we've been doing it for 21 years, we're thinking about the next 21 years and what will that be like."
—jj Richardson, 2003