Next Produce Box Availability: Saturday March 21st. Sign up link will post soon…

 

After unusually booming productivity this winter, the end of ARTfarm’s 2020 tomato season is arriving soon…
Things are getting crispy as usual in the spring with dry hot winds…
Everything gets more pungent in flavor at the end of the season … onions full of weeds!

Hey there folks. We hope everyone is staying home as much as possible, avoiding stress, washing hands, resting, eating healthy and trying to keep that 6′ distance. Schools and many businesses and organizations across the island and the globe are temporarily shutting down over coronavirus. We are all finally hunkering down to wait out this crisis, “flatten the curve” of the timing of acute medical needs, and put our community and elders first.

Last week with the COVID-19 risks clearly laid out, we decided to cancel the regular farmstands for the rest of the 2019–2020 season. We considered the demographic of our customers and family, and the typical close proximity provided by our popularity and petite retail space.

But the lettuce continued to grow, so we tried a ‘socially distant’ distribution experiment with pre-sold boxes on Saturday. We sent out our usual email, but with an order form link. Customers signed up for a large or small prepacked box of ARTfarm produce via that one-time link on our website. The first 40 requests received an order confirmation and order number via email, then were scheduled to arrive Saturday morning at staggered pickup times, keeping a generous distance between each other and us, with a check or exact change in (sanitized) hand.

We were able to distribute the majority of the produce we would have sold at the farmstand, while maintaining a minimum of contact and virus transmission. The prepacked boxes and bags made transactions very quick.

There was more demand than supply, unfortunately, and we apologize for anyone who missed the email or the cutoff.

Farmer Luca has walked the fields and estimates that we do NOT have enough produce for a full scale mid-week (Wednesday) distribution of box shares to our customers. This is actually typical for this time of year, as the season continues to dry up. The monster tomato harvests that broke seasonal records and almost broke the cart a few weeks ago are almost finished now.

A small handful of the customers who were ‘next in line’ for a box on Saturday but missed it, have been contacted individually for a small Wednesday share this week. We are doing our best to accommodate as many people as we can with decreasing harvests.

We will post a signup link later this week on our website with pricing and contents for Saturday (March 21st) ARTfarm boxes again, probably 10 large and 30 small boxes. We’re hoping to put in place a more organized signup process and online form and continue for at least a few more weeks, so watch for another farm email sometime on Thursday or Friday! (If you’re not a subscriber, sign up!) We won’t take any orders directly through texts, calls or other means. Please stick to the signup link, later this week.

Our pineapples are looking good, the dragonfruit vines are looking very healthy and may bear heavily this year, and mango trees have set nicely. We’ll try to keep things going and growing as long as we can.

Stay safe and healthy. And thanks for your support!

Love, ARTfarm

Gratitude Season – OPEN Wednesday Nov 21st, 3pm

The epic rains of early November 2018 brought epic rainbows. In this case, leading to the arresting sculpture of Niarus Walker.

Halloween flew by like a tropical bat, Diwali brought us its hopeful message of good defeating evil, and the elongated election season is nearly over; it is time to turn our thoughts back to family, gratitude, the simple things.

We are thankful for the many dedicated customers who are eager for ARTfarm to reopen! And for eleven inches of rain that fell over the first two weeks of November, decisively ending our water shortage – but also destroying the first lettuce crop of the season and creating some other setbacks. (We’re seeing major damage to melon vines and papaya trees and possible crop failures on ginger and some of our tomatoes.) But staying grateful that some of our gardens are recovering from all of the drenching!

We will be open for a special holiday farmstand on Wednesday, November 21st, 3pm – 5:30pm with a bumper crop of beautiful cucumbers and smaller quantities of a few other things including a limited supply of salad greens. Here’s the full list:

  • Lemongrass, garlic chives, Italian basil, rosemary, spicy radishes, two types of cucumbers, some teen spicy greens, baby arugula, a few bags of sweet mix, green papaya, wild cucumbers, some small bulb onions with large green tops (use like scallions), a few marigold and zinnia flowers. And ARTfarm turkey and chicken eggs! Super fresh!
  • Need a thoughtful gift for the holiday? This is a great time of year to get plants in the ground. We’ve got pineapple slips, fig trees, and native drought resistant shade tree saplings available for sale!
  • Tomatoes will come in around December 15th.
  • Grandma’s Fabulous Cucumber Salad that Luca loves (as told to Christina)

    There is no recipe for this.

    First of all don’t measure anything.

    Mandolin a cucumber into thin slices and thinner than anything you’ve ever experienced in your life. Paper thin. Then cover them in water and add an unspecified amount of too much salt. Then go away and do other stuff. Come back in a couple of hours.

    Rinse the heck out of them when you come back from your other activities and make sure they’re not too salty.

    Rinse them again and again and squeeze them to get the salty water out.

    Let them drain in a colander for even longer. Do other things.

    Chop up a couple of scallions.

    Add a big spoonful of mayo per cuke. Dress with vinegar and basil. Toss.

    So just make sure you have:

    • Maybe about half a cucumber per person
    • A bunch of scallions (green onion tops or garlic chives work too)
    • A generous handful of salt
    • A few spoonfuls of mayo
    • A little basil (could be dried if you don’t have fresh)
    • A little vinegar
    • Fun people to share it with!
    We finally got one of our chicken tractors rebuilt after the hurricane. The hens are thrilled with their more comfortable quarters.
    Bok. Bok.

    Opening Saturday Nov. 19th, 10am–12noon

    An animation shows a tiny farmer repeatedly bouncing high into the air from a wheelbarrow.
    Get ready for yummy salad! Farmer Luca bounces in his giant wheelbarrow to express his gratitude for the recent rains and for the end of the endless US presidential election.
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    Our passionfruit vines are loaded with flowers at the moment!

    Thanks to all of you for your patience as we closed for our summer/fall break and began gearing up for this 2016-2017 season! We’ll be open and ready for you this Saturday with quite a few treats to reward you with:

    Dragonfruit (pitahaya) ripening on the vine.
    Dragonfruit (pitahaya) ripening on the vine in November! Extended season for this summer crop!

    Sweet salad mix, baby arugula, baby spicy salad mix, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, Ethiopian kale, a few bunches of Italian dandelion greens, kangkong (Asian water spinach), fresh herbs (including Italian basil, lemon basil, holy basil, Thai basil, rosemary, recao, garlic chives,) a few papayas, the LAST (really!) dragonfruit and passionfruit.

    We’re happy to welcome back our good friend and farmer James Love to ARTfarm this season. He’s already fixed a lot of stuff we broke since the last time he was here! Farmer Katie has reupped with team ARTfarm to work the gardens and pastures for the fall season, and you’ll see Heather back again, helping out at most farmstands and bringing her fresh eggs from ecstatic chickens and selected organically produced produce from her family homestead, Yellow Door Farm. We’ll have other special guests, including fishermen stopping by when fresh fish is available. And our farm kid is carefully tending lots of native tree varieties to plant and to sell this season! The ARTbarn gallery/studio (the old tool shed you walk through to get to the farmstand) has been repainted and patched up, and there will be some fresh new paintings to ponder.

    Last year (2015-2016) we began a slow recovery from the drought and damage from South Shore brushfires with a lot of experimental permaculture techniques (we opened in mid-December last year!). This season, thanks in part to a general return to more favorable conditions and a six-day rain bonanza in the last few weeks, our rain catchment ponds have been mostly replenished. We are grateful to make it to your holiday table this year in time for Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Fall Harvest Celebration, or however we choose to celebrate coming together in these socially progressive days! We hope you’ll enjoy time with family and friends, and count and share your many blessings.

    Thank you.
    Thank you.

    Can’t wait to see you all – we’ve missed familiar faces, we welcome new customers, and we’re looking forward to sharing and enjoying the fruits of the season! Lots more treats to add to the produce list in the coming weeks. Thank you for your support.

    Love, ARTfarm

     

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    ...the original photo...
    …the original photo…

    Wednesday Watermelon Wonderment 3-6pm 

    Water for watermelons! One of our ponds. This one replenishes the water table.
    Water for watermelons! One of our ponds. This one replenishes the water table.

    Compared to this time last year, things are blessedly moist right now. The 6+ inches of rain we got at the beginning of the month of May <insert happy dance> has continued to promote explosive growth all over the farm.

    So here’s what it brought you for today at ARTfarm, 3–6 p.m.: Sweet salad mix, baby arugula, bunched arugula, a few pints of cherry tomatoes, a few slicer tomatoes, dandelion greens, Italian basil, garlic chives, parsley, freshly dug ginger root, French breakfast radishes, sweet bell peppers, serrano peppers, Indian chili peppers, yellow seasoning peppers, fresh cut zinnia flowers, good quantities of yellow and red fleshed WATERMELONS, loads of sweet and yummy papaya, passionfruit, a few dragonfruit, a few pineapples, and very fresh, delicate and very mild local goat cheese from Dr. Bethany’s Fiddlewood Farm alpine goats!

    Cray-cray...this watermelon is sweeeeeet! You can save the seeds for roasting like pumpkin seeds.
    Cray-cray…this watermelon is sweeeeeet! You can save the seeds for roasting like pumpkin seeds.

    Grateful to Reopen Next Sat. Dec. 12th!

    Thanks to the many customers and supporters who have called and checked in with us on our website and Facebook page, wondering when we would reopen the farmstand. We will see you all at 10 AM till noon on Saturday, December 12! We love that you love our food! Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and are looking forward to this month’s festivities!

    A pile of yellow summer squash, one with a blossom still on the end of the fruit.
    Yellow summer squash and zucchini have been growing beautifully!

    It has been quite a tumultuous year for farm planning. The severe drought that started last winter was the driest season Estate Longford has seen in nine years. (Amazingly enough, other places on St. Croix, including the East end, apparently got more rain than usual during that period.) The pastures and surrounding hills near us dried out and turned gray, and we experienced severe and intense brushfires across the east end of the ARTfarm and neighboring pastures in May, 2015, well attended by the VI Fire Service (thank you!!!).

    At this time last year, all of our catchment ponds were topped off with rain. Currently, we are at less than one third of our rainwater catchment capacity.

    All of this major rearrangement of weather patterns has meant that we have delayed planting in order to reserve our irrigation water, and hesitated to invest in the season.

    But, we finally bit the bullet a few weeks ago and began planting for 2015-2016. We have designed a smaller amount of growing space this year, so we will have perhaps a little less on offer in terms of quantity. We are experimenting with a few new crops, and even some new growing techniques that are going to conserve even more water. We have created a few new areas of permaculture techniques, including some giant Hugel beds, and so far the productivity seems high, although insect activity is higher than we’ve ever seen it all over the farm — we and many other farmers on the island are struggling with record numbers of aphids, caterpillars and other garden pests. We are also not alone in experiencing overwhelming growth rates of noxious weeds, which survived even when more desirable grasses and forbs perished in the drought.

    A pasture is full of piles of weeds, pulled up by hand.
    Kiko has been painstakingly handweeding the toxic physic nut in the pastures for weeks to try to prevent further spread. There are literally thousands of these growing, and they are poisonous to livestock.

    We gratefully welcome our new employee, Katie, who is fitting right in with the crew and learning quickly!

    We are waiting another week and a half before opening so that we can have salad greens for your holidays. We’ll reopen Saturday, December 12, 10 AM – 12 noon, (Christmas Boat Parade Day). We’ll have herbs, veggies, salad greens and fruit! See you in ten days!

    Love, ARTfarm

    ARTfarm Saturday Stand 10am

    A similar lineup to last week, with a slight mango alteration: Sweet salad mix, garlic chives, mint. From our partners: Haitian Kidney mangoes (and a few Nam Doc Mai mangoes) from Alex at Tropical Exotics, and vegan ice cream from I-Sha in summer flavors: passionfruit, breadfruit, jojo and banana. Open on the South Shore Road, 10am – 12 noon. We literally have less than a dozen bags of sweet mix to sell tomorrow morning, so if you arrive later you may only be able to pick up some mangoes, herbs and ice cream.

    Farmer Luca has not quite made a final decision, but we may close down early for our summer/fall break.

    We did get around half an inch of rain over this past week. Consistent winds have caused most of the moisture to evaporate quickly from the soil and plants, unfortunately. Much more will be needed to affect any kind of drought recovery, but we are grateful for and celebrating every drop that falls!

    A photo taken in bright sunlight shows a barren landscape of dry soil and dead trees at the edge of a gully. The scattered skeleton of a deer rests in the foreground.
    Pastures at ARTfarm, Summer 2015. Extreme drought conditions, including brushfires, have caused a shortage of pasture forage that has negatively affected both domestic and wild creatures. Normally this riparian area of gut bank would be lush with guinea grass, various types of palatable broadleaf weeds, flowering shrubs and trees, and leguminous vines to provide an extensive and diverse diet plus shade and cover for birds, reptiles and wild mammals. Here you see barren soil and the bleached bones of a deer in their stead. While this is generally a dry period of the year, this amount of bare soil and the die-off of so many trees is highly unusual.

    Many farmers in the Virgin Islands, particular those who are primarily livestock producers, are really suffering right now. The local and federal government agricultural agencies are working hard to find some drought relief sources for all of us but it may take some time (one timetable we heard about said not until December 2015). Some ideas for helping are in the works, and we will let you know if we hear of a secure and reliable way for the public to donate or otherwise contribute to help bring in emergency grain and hay to keep our island flocks and herds alive. If you have a contact working in the shipping/cargo business, or know of any stateside hay producers willing to donate or discount their hay, please pass their contact information on to us or to Dr. Bradford, Director of Veterinary Services at the VI Department of Agriculture. Also helpful in receiving help would be a fiduciary to collect and hold donated funds and a secure central distribution point for trailers of hay and feed.