Wednesday ARTfarm Produce Pickups 12/23/20: Winta WhattaMELON!

ETA: We found a few typos on the previous version of this post, corrections include clarifying the share sizes, also please note small shares do not come with herbs this week, but you can purchase some as extras at pickup.

Farmer Luca’s been Walkin’ In the Winta Whattamelon and harvested almost 360 lbs. of watermelons last night. Sign up now for a pre-Christmas pickup slot on WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON and swing by tomorrow to put some red and green on your holiday table! We have increased the share options to include just a whole watermelon, small and large shares – and you can combine up to three different farmshares.

We’ll be closed for the Christmas/Boxing Day weekend, and we’ll send out the email/signup link for available farmshares on Tuesday, December 29th, and distribute reserved farmshares on Wednesday, December 30th.

As promised, our holiday gift to you from the ARTfarm elves, recipes and garden fun:

Once again, we are only accepting pre-sized pre-orders of farmshares, plus extras, for our customers with preselected pickup time slots for a minimum of waiting or mingling in this pandemic season. (We know you’d like to shop for just one or two items, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience. This system is to prevent pile-ups of customers and to protect us, the farmers and our family, from long long customer lines where we’d be more exposed.)

Who is that masked farmer? Farmer Luca at our socially distanced pre-reserved farmshare distribution during COVID times in spring 2020.

New here?

Please read our safety guidelines below on how to reserve your produce and pickup time. To understand WHY we are doing what we do, click HERE to read about ARTfarm LLC and COVID-19 precautions we are taking.

CUSTOMERS are required to:

  • meet an order minimum of one farmshare size
  • arrive ON TIME, not early!! Do NOT jump your timeslot please
  • consistently maintain 10-15 feet of distance between all individuals
  • wear masks to keep each other safe
  • sanitize hands before you exit your vehicle
  • bring exact change or a check and pen
  • be patient with us and each other during pickups
  • bring your own boxes, bags, baskets to pack up your order
  • wait to bag produce until we have completely assembled and totaled your order on the table

We require everyone picking up a box to wear a mask and please sanitize your hands before exiting your vehicle/arriving at the distribution table, and we will do the same.

We will have 20 large, 15 small and 10 whole watermelon ‘farmshares’ of produce available for Wednesday (a few of those available as “double small” orders). You can also order and specify a neighbor, friend or family member to pick up your order. The minimum order is one farmshare, but for today you can order more than one size. Add-ons and extras are not currently available independently of a farmshare purchase; to minimize community contact during the pandemic.

Please contact us immediately by text and phone at (340)514-4873 if you have reserved a farmshare and cannot pick it up. Supply is limited, demand is extremely high and someone else will gladly purchase your share, if given enough time to respond. We have limited time for distributions and they are scheduled. Our produce is harvested fresh and needs to go home with you same day. This is an honor system since we are not collecting payment until pickup. We do not have cold storage for uncollected shares.

Here’s how to get ARTfarm produce during the pandemic:

  1. Wait ’til Friday morning around 10am *schedule may shift to Tuesdays/Wednesdays for major holiday weekends*
  2. Visit artfarmllc.com or check your farm email for the fresh-from-the-field weekly signup page
  3. Sign up with our online form (a link at the bottom of the weekly signup page like this one)
  4. Using the current online order form, choose a minimum of one farmshare size of pre-selected, pre-priced ARTfarm produce (contents listed below, either small or large – in high demand times 1 share may be set as the maximum)
  5. Commit to a pick-up time slot
  6. Choose any add-on items (limited supplies)
  7. Add a comment for special requests, extras, preferences, or whatever’s on your mind
  8. Check your email for a confirmation! (the email you used on the order form is the one you should check – it is an automated response and is sent out immediately)
  9. Arrive promptly but NOT EARLY for your pickup appointment on Saturday in the ARTfarm parking lot on Saturday. If early, wait inside your vehicle and decide what herbs you want! Sanitize your hands when getting out of your vehicle. Please maintain plenty of space between customers, and between us and you when you approach the pickup table for your appointed pickup time. We’ll be wearing masks and ask that you do the same.
  10. Bring exact change or a check to drop in the bucket – we are not handling any money.
  11. There may be unadvertised extra items available to add to your box at pickup time, so you may wish to bring some extra small bills or wait to fill in your check amount. Please bring your own pen.
  12. Bring your own bags or box to put your produce into. We’ll place your items on the sanitized table, some things will be pre-bagged, you’ll pack your own bags or box for the rest. Wait to bag until we do a final count of your items to make sure we don’t forget anything. We are trying to reduce the number of shopping bags we distribute, so please bring an extra bag, box or basket to your pickups this season.
  13. No substitutions or price adjustments. To maintain sanitation and keep things moving, we are not swapping items, handling payments or making change. (As always we’ll be flexible where we can within reason.)
  14. YOU ARE AWESOME for supporting our small family farm and accommodating our needs for COVID safety.

Farmshare choices for Wednesday, December 23rd 2020:

Whole Watermelon farmshare, $16-25 (as marked), will include:

Just a whole watermelon in this farmshare! Plus any add-ons you would like. You can also add another size farmshare!!

Small farmshare, $10, will include:
  • 1 bag of sweet salad mix
  • 1 lb. cucumbers
Double Small farmshare, $20, will include:

As listed above, but double: one for you and one for a friend. Take distribution into your own (recently washed) hands, deliver to a neighbor or loved one!

Large farmshare, $37, will include:
  • 1 bag of sweet salad mix
  • 1 bag of baby spicy OR baby arugula salad mix (your choice as available)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 lb. watermelon quarter
  • 1 bunch of baby carrots OR scarlet turnips (your choice as available)
  • 2 herb bunches (you choose; please consider your choices before you arrive at the table)
Additional Limited Quantity Reservable Add-Ons*

(please add to your total)

2 lbs. sliced pumpkin: $6
2 lbs. zucchini: $6
1 bunch extra garlic chives: $2
1 bunch extra Italian basil: $2
1 bunch of nine bright assorted color zinnia flowers: $5

Heirloom tomato plants (potted up): $5 each:

  • Black Plum tomato
  • Mystery (random variety) slicing tomato

Dragonfruit cuttings: $15 each:

  • Natural Mystic (red inside)
  • Physical Graffiti (pink inside)

Saman (rain) tree: $20
Sandbox (monkey-no-climb) tree: $10

*(if these are sold out – there are often additional extras available at the time of pick-up, so if you can’t reserve, leave a note in the comments, bring some extra cash or wait to write your check total. Bring a pen.)

Extra Add-Ons

(Must accompany farmshare purchase, these items cannot be purchased individually. No reservations on these items, first come first served during your pickup slot):

  • WATERMELON!! – approx 2 lb. watermelon quarter: $2/lb. (around $4, as marked)
  • sweet salad mix – $7
  • cherry tomatoes, pint: $6
  • pumpkin, cut quarters: $3/lb. (around $6, as marked)
  • cooking greens – $3/bunch (kale varieties, dandelion, swiss chard, collards)
  • 2 lbs. zucchini – $6
  • 2 lbs. cucumber – $6
  • loose zinnias – $0.50/ea
  • extra herb bunch – $2
  • bag Thai chiles – $2
  • bag green cayenne peppers – $2
Herb bunch choices for this week

(Large share = 2 herb selections. Choose from what’s available at pickup, or we’ll pick some for you, but these are the basic options we should have, you can start mulling it over 🙂

  • Garlic chives
  • Italian basil
  • Lemon basil
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Rosemary
  • Lemongrass
  • Kaffir lime leaves

We have designed our order form not to allow any one customer to purchase all of one extra. Sharing is caring. If you’d like extra of something (beyond what you could reserve through our order system), put it in the comments with your order, and ask at your pickup time: if we can supply it to you we’ll do our best.


The signup form will show you a “Thank You” page and send you a confirmation email if submitted successfully. One order per customer, please.

Problems with the online signup form? Workarounds our customers figured out (thank you!!) were to:

  • just try again
  • use a cellular device (smartphone or tablet) that isn’t using WiFi internet
  • clear your cache and cookies in your browser/device
  • reboot your router (unplug it for a minute and plug in again)

This pre-order signup form does NOT sign you up for an ARTfarm email subscription.

Here’s the link to Wednesday December 23rd’s SIGNUP FORM
(opens a new window).

ARTfarm Healthy Lifestand 10am – 12noon

Seasoning peppers are pungent little packages of intense fruity pepper flavor with no (or extremely mild) heat. They look like scotch bonnets, and some folks assume that’s what they are, but these things have all the fragrance of the scotch bonnet with none of the pain factor. They ‘taste like the Caribbean’, as Farmer Luca likes to say. They are amazing to add to all kinds of dishes and sauces, and impart a smoky kind of flavor.

One of the great secrets to really tasty food preparation is just to start with really good fresh ingredients. If you do that, you can keep things very simple and they will taste incredible.

This Saturday’s farmstand, 10am – 12noon: welcome to February! Tomato incredibleness continues, with even more heirlooms (please don’t squeeze), loads of fresh sweet salad mix, teen arugula, baby ‘almost micro’ spicy salad mix, tons of figs, beautiful seasoning peppers, sweet bell peppers, assorted spicy hot peppers, no-peel baby ginger and turmeric, lettuce heads, various cooking greens, dandelion greens, endive, Italian basil, lemon basil, Thai basil, holy basil, cilantro, dill, garlic chives, a few bunches of parsley, sage, French breakfast radishes, baby carrots, butternut squash, Thai pumpkin (so so so good with edible skin), and zinnia flowers.

Early birds will also choose from a few bunches of scallions and onions, some watermelon, some cucumbers, and the first of our Hawaiian sweet corn.

See you in the morning!

Saturday 10am – 12 noon, Cukes & Watermelon

Sorry for the late notice! We just got in from transplanting more lettuce and some scallions for you folks by flashlight!!

Yes we will be open tomorrow (Saturday) December 1st for our regular Saturday hours, 10am – 12 noon.

You want the good news first or the bad news?

Good news: we have in the morning for ya: good quantities of three kinds of watermelon (including a yellow one!), TONS of delicious cucumbers (two kinds), butternut squash, a few bags of baby arugula and baby spicy salad mix, spicy radishes (become completely mild when cooked), turnip greens, Italian basil, lemon basil, Thai basil, garlic chives, dill, small amounts of cilantro, rosemary, lemongrass, holy basil, cheerful cut zinnia flowers, pineapple plants, and native trees

Bad news: lots of our lettuce is still too small after all the caterpillar carnage and rain damage, so no sweet mix until next week, probably Wednesday.

We appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you in the morning!

Maria Ate Your Lettuce: A Farming Mystery Thriller

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“This is not lettuce,” she said breezily. “No,” I replied, “Those are cherry tomatoes.”

It was just another Saturday, until I heard this: “NOOOOOOOooooo!” The anguished cry went up from the farmstand, more than once. “I missed the greens?” Soulful eyes pleaded. “I can’t survive without them.” And another, maniacally gripping my lapels: “Don’t you see?! I have an addiction!!” My partner and I couldn’t escape the plaintive cries, even through our phone lines: “But…I’m a chef! What about my customers?!” As the voice trailed off into gentle sobbing, even the cashbox had a hollow, mournful clunk at the end of the farmstand, devoid of lettuce sales.

How to explain this? It all began in 1999, with the coconut coir, and it ended in December, with hundreds of pairs of beautiful legs. But I digress…

(To read more of this agricultural noir thriller, scroll down after the farmstand listing!)

Wednesday afternoon 3-5:30pm, we will have: loads of tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, criminal amounts of cherry tomatoes, regular cucumbers, tiny wild pasture ‘gherkin’ cucumbers, lots of cooking greens, bunched arugula, beets, various butternut pumpkins, radishes, carrots, seasoning and Serano peppers, Italian basil, very little cilantro and parsley, lots of dill (great for pickling those tiny cucumbers), garlic chives, tons of ginger and turmeric, a good bit of watermelon including the yellow variety, about 10 bags of fresh figs, and zinnias! Also, no lettuce or salad mix. Learn why:

It was late November, 2017. The island mood was lifting after the storm, but many of the electric lights were still dark, when I stumbled across a tragedy of growing proportions. The crisp, leafy victims? Young, too young. Baby lettuces, mysteriously disappearing or dying. Their tantalizing, sweet potential, dashed into the compost heap like another shiny American dream. Nearly broke the heart of even a seasoned professional farmer like myself. My partner and I were determined to dig to the bottom of this and find out what was happening. We hung out our agricultural investigative shingle and started burning the shoe leather.

At first we had fooled ourselves, bellying up to the bar of the future for a lukewarm glass of false hope with a chaser of denial: we chalked missing lettuce seedlings up to the statistics. But as a week passed, there was a pattern: part of a tray of lettuce seedlings, just missing. Then another section, and another. Too many, just not surviving to the light of day.

But those who were able to thwart this mysterious abduction were not thriving. Instead of the vibrant, green, bushy seedlings I had grown accustomed to, they were limp. Lanky. Languishing. Lifeless.

And then came the wilt. The rot. The small percentage of who had survived were now dying. Something was destroying our lettuce before it ever made it to the field. Four out of five seedlings, dead. What was this mysterious, unseen, evil force? I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, as the dreaded words I could not say aloud flooded across my mind: “lettuce crop failure.”

My mind spun, counterclockwise, to the past. September, 2017. I thought of the powerful, angry dame with the breathy voice who had whirled through my office then. Maria, she said her name was. Could she be behind this? There was no doubt in my mind, but I still had no way to pin these crimes on her. I knew I had to find a way. I was being cold framed!

I combed through the furthest reaches of my memories, scratching my beard and searching for clues.

Could it be the seeds? It was now early December. We’d gone without electricity for months after Maria ravaged the island’s infrastructure, maybe the seed stock had gone bad and wasn’t germinating. I checked with my partner, but she said she’d ordered new seeds that miraculously came in the mail as soon as the airport reopened after the big storm. So we ruled that out.

I knew that Maria had destroyed our seedling house. It was the place where these young lettuces would have been protected and nurtured, instead of being exposed to all the tropical dangers that can turn a fresh, innocent seedling into a twisted heap of rotting cellulose before you could say “romaine”. I had hard evidence. I had satellite photos at the scene of the violent crime. Maria had her footprints all over the mess. We knew this was big. Then, Washington put out an APB over the wire on Maria and was offering a reward for information, so we called our contacts in D.C. and filed a pile of paperwork that could’ve choked a horse. But the Feds said their hands were tied. They wouldn’t back us up. My partner cursed them with language that revealed her nautical roots. But it wouldn’t change anything. We, and all the other farmers on the island with broken and crushed buildings, were going to have to go this alone.

We knew there were occasional roving gangs of mice in the neighborhood. Mostly they stayed clear of us, but with the seedling house reduced to a pile of broken lumber, their territory had likely shifted. Meanwhile, the lettuce trays had been crowded together in a smaller space to survive. The presence of this crowded, vulnerable population could have caused the gangs to become organized. We set up a sting operation involving some traps. But these were well trained soldiers and they did not fall for our subterfuge. They continued to pick off the young innocent sprouts, one by one. I laid awake at night, hearing their teeny tiny squeaky voices. Mocking me.

And what about the rot? That was not gang-related collateral damage. There had to be something…something in the coir.

Over eighteen years of farming, I had stubbornly resisted the use of commercial potting mix. My partner and I were both philosophically opposed to importation of resources that could be found on the island. The commercial potting products usually contained questionable characters, such as peat bog products which are not renewable. We had inherited a mountain of coconut coir nearly 20 years ago in 1999, and had been using the goldmine of fibrous hairy brown material to keep our potting mix light and fluffy. But it was heavily processed, and had to be imported. And we were running out. Maria’s punishing rains had soaked the molehill of our coir mountain that remained, and it had grown fungal and rich. Perhaps too rich for the young and delicate, innocent victims of this mysterious crime.

Perhaps it was time to shut the door on the coir and find a solution that could close the book on this perfect storm of plagues. But what was the answer? I began spending sleepless nights in the crime lab, trying old and new formulations. Each one took agonizing days to test. Failure after failure threatened my resolve. There had now been nearly two weeks of greatly reduced lettuce production, a disaster that I knew would come to haunt me in early February 2018, if I couldn’t solve this problem now. Only one in five seedlings had survived the mysterious onslaught of crime. The compost was piling up. Two weeks had passed.

Time was running out. Christmas was nearing, but despite the cheerful blinky battery operated lights and the holiday songs on the emergency radio, my heart was a fragile, empty shell. Bleary-eyed, I could see a dismal future ahead, full of disappointed customers, angry chefs, bills stacking up with no sales. It was a disaster borne of a disaster. But what could I do?

Then my partner said, “Wait. I know a guy.”

Bob was a guy, a Guy that could Build Stuff. Sure, we’d brought him in to repair the miles of fencing that had gotten knocked down. But this was a culinary emergency, we needed all hands on deck. Bob and I threw together a tiny protected hut from the shattered remains of the seedling house. It wasn’t much, but perhaps it could save a few lives. Then another mysterious figure emerged from the mist. It was Roi. We couldn’t believe our luck. Roi knew how to build stuff. He put a sturdy roof on the hut. The shattered pieces of our lives were starting to come back together with the glue of the Guys who could Build Stuff.

Back in the lab, I had become obsessed with the granularity of wood chips. We had stockpiled mountains of wood chips for mulch prior to the storm. Could an answer lie within these sleeping behemoths? I didn’t know it at the time but it was a dead end, an end that would lead nowhere and would not solve my problem. Or could it? One night, as I mopped my brow under the dimming light of the failing solar lantern, SHE walked in.

She was petite, not unusual, I’d seen her type around the farm before. But what really caught my attention were those legs, those beautiful legs. She had a sinuous way of moving them that put my frontal cortex into a deep freeze. They were smooth, waxy, bright red. She had to have about 300 of them, two per segment to be exact. She crawled up my arm and looked me straight in the eyes, meaningfully waving her feelers at me. I could almost hear her teeny tiny voice say, “Use the force, Lucaaaaaaaaa.” I knew it was the hand of fate, Lady Luck dealing me a winning hand. And I knew what I had to try.

The wood chips to replace the coir had to be gongolo and millipede composted.

Eureka!!

I tried to hold myself back from counting unhatched chickens, but I could feel it in my bones. I knew I had finally stopped this crime wave and restored a new normal to these young summer crisps, with the help of my leggy friend, the Guys Who Could Build Stuff, and my faithful and salty partner.

After a few days, I reaped the success of my experiment. The sweet sweet smell of our new formula of potting soil soothed my soul. The emergency lettuce hut kept the mice at bay. And the seedlings begin to show a vitality and vibrancy that made my heart sing. The lettuce was growing leafy and full again.

I knew the customers would never understand. It was too complex, too nuanced, too frightening, too much to wrap your head around. Plus, insects. The whole thing was like a dream. A nightmare, really, one that I’d feared I’d never awaken from. But now, the birds were singing. The lettuces were growing again. The mice had moved on. I knew that there would be lean times ahead. There would be at least a week, maybe two, in mid February, when the people would cry out in sheer agony, for lettuce, for lettuce products, blissfully unaware of the struggles and darkness we had been through in the dark, dark days of December. But that didn’t matter now.

Because we had so many cherry tomatoes.

Post-hurricane adjustments took time, during which we were also trying to train a new employee, repair broken infrastructure on the farm and in our home, apply for federal disaster programs and make business decisions based on unknown disaster zone variables, including the size of our customer base post-storm: many of our permanent resident customers had taken mercy flights to the states for an unpredictable period of time, and we had no way of knowing whether our seasonal resident customers would be back for the season. The customer response this season has been unpredictably huge, and we are fielding a few complaints that there is not enough produce to go around (despite the fact that we are always packing away some food items at the end of every farmstand). Please know that if we could grow more food for you, we would. Farming is seasonal and subject to the vagaries of nature. And other farms on St. Croix will soon be producing more food, stay tuned!