Saturday April Showers!

Happy Friday. We have gotten a few light April rain showers. So grateful!

ARTfarm’s Farmers Christina and Luca will have work in the Rebirth of the Spirit show at Peachcan Gallery for Art Thursday coming up this week, and will also have work showing in the Senepol exhibit at CMCArts in Frederiksted in May.

Saturday’s lineup, 10am – 12 noon: Sweet salad mix, cherry tomatoes, a few slicer tomatoes, cucumbers, some watermelons, a few bunches of onions, Italian basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, garlic chives, radishes, a few bunches of cooking greens, seasoning peppers, Serrano peppers, a few papayas, loads of ginger and turmeric, rosemary plants, native trees, and basil plants. Crowds are definitely lessening but so are our quantities of available produce, so if something is essential for your menu, be sure to arrive promptly.

if you don’t have any plans for Saturday (April 14th) night, join the Starry Starry Night taster menu and silent auction event at Café Christine! A benefit for the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix. You will see some familiar zinnias there. Tickets available on Eventbrite.

ARTfarm OPEN Saturday! 10 AM – 12 Noon – FREE Hummingbird Feeders

A hummingbird rests on aloe flowers. Post hurricane Maria.

Tiny hummingbirds are important pollinators and you can help them recover from the storm!

Hey folks, we are back! We will be open Saturday morning November 18th 2017 at 10 AM! Lots of fresh crispy goodies for our customers today, plus free hummingbird feeders and bird seed courtesy of St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA) and Birds Caribbean!

Farmer Luca is so excited to see our customers!

Saturday farmstand: lots of cucumbers, lettuce heads, sweet potatoes, loads of thin skinned baby ginger and baby turmeric varieties from Hawaii. Garlic chives, cilantro, dill, parsley, recao, lemongrass, Italian basil, lemon basil and native trees for sale!

Help our island wildlife recover! The free hummingbird feeders from SEA are absolutely beautiful and professional grade. They were donated by Birds Caribbean, a nonprofit wildlife organization, to help maintain our bird populations. (After Hugo, many of these hummingbird and bananaquit populations were precipitously reduced.) The feeders are super sized, with glass reservoirs and a water tray built in on top to prevent ants from invading! They can service many birds at one time. They will come with instructions, a hanging hook and a little bit of wildlife information plus a recipe for making the nectar safely and properly for our wonderful avian pollinators! One feeder per family, please. We also have a specially formulated Caribbean bird seed mix. Bring your own container or bag for bird seed.

You can also sign up to be on SEA’s website email list, and even update your membership with SEA at the farmstand!

We are also updating ARTfarm’s website this evening with our Hurricane Maria story and photos, and a link to our crowdfunding page where you can learn more about helping ARTfarm recover from the CAT5 storm of September 19th. Thanks to all who insisted we fundraise. ❤

Post-storm Growth at ARTfarm – We’re OPEN – Our Maria Story – update

Nature is not waiting for recovery assistance! Ladybugs abound on the watermelon vines.

Hurricane recovery is a long game. It still requires a special trip to town to post to our website, so we apologize for the dearth of news from the ARTfarm.

We have fresh food!! And as of November 18th, 2017 we are now open, a little ahead of schedule, on Saturdays from 10am to 12 noon. Can’t wait to see you!

Many of our awesome customers, neighbors, stateside family and fellow farmers have asked how they can help us with hurricane recovery. Knowing that people support us and want to see us succeed is worth an awful lot to us. Thank you.

We’ve put up a GoFundMe crowdfunding page for anyone who wishes to assist in accelerating ARTfarm’s Hurricane Maria recovery. gofundme.com/artfarmllc  There’s a video on YouTube with the story and more photos of the damage and recovery efforts.

Luca’s beloved seedling house was destroyed by Hurricane Maria. Here we are on day one after the cat five storm, putting on our “hurricane smiles.”

Much of our initial recovery effort after securing the livestock was focused on tree and brush removal around our houses and on repairing or demolishing the farm buildings that were damaged or destroyed.

Luca’s dad, Kiko, who turned 80 this year, spent long days cutting up downed limbs and probably ran at least 8-10 loads of brush per day in his pickup truck for weeks and weeks after the hurricane, so that we could easily get around and between the farm and home. Luca’s mom, Valeria, has been our chief cheerleader with her fierce positivity and has been helping with cooking delicious meals as well as providing the long-term perspective on hurricane recovery, having rebuilt the family home after Hugo in 1989.

Many of our mature trees lost major limbs. We lost roughly half of our producing fruit trees.

We are in the somewhat Byzantine process of going through the FEMA and SBA applications and we attended a long-awaited USDA disaster assistance meeting for St. Croix farmers on October 31st. We also applied for a small grant for farmers through FarmAid and received it.

We have some ambivalence about asking for donations. But our friends have urged us to let them help us out. So, we are posting an online crowdfunding campaign to help us spread our losses. We’ll need to purchase goods and services in our community to replace damaged and destroyed assets. We’ll also use funds to convert some of our volunteers to employees or contractors to complete the disaster recovery work. Any donations left over we will use to help other farmers in the Caribbean disaster zones or local non-profits in the USVI. You can follow this link to help us meet our hurricane recovery goals: gofundme.com/artfarmllc

Our ARTbarn, which serves as a studio and gallery, exploded up and out, losing the south roof as well as the north and west walls.

One of the main challenges for all hurricane-affected folks in the Caribbean (including us) right now is dividing our time between re-organizing and repairing things at home, reorganizing and repairing things in the workplace, helping others where we can, and getting down to the normal tasks of the season. For us, these fall months of planning, preparation and planting are crucial to the success of the season ahead. It is certainly feeling overwhelming!

We have a few thousand feet of fences that were blown askew or crushed by utility poles, breaking gates and hardware. There is much repair work to do in the pastures before our livestock will be safe and secure.

We have had fantastic volunteer help from a few friends who have started the process of righting downed fences and clearing the broken up lumber from our seedling house and ARTbarn. Other friends are helping us catch up with gardening chores. We have a pair of awesome artist friends in the states who continue to take generous amounts of time to help us to negotiate various disaster recovery application processes, to find out what programs are available and otherwise to help us seek out information online. (It is still impossible to get online without leaving the farm.) There is still a lot more to do. We may host another massive volunteer party this season to accomplish more of that restoration work. ❤️❤️❤️

We have blessedly received most of our regular seed orders through the US Mail (currently one of the fastest methods for sending mailable things to the Virgin Islands) and we are actively planting food, hoping that the demand will be enough for what we will be supplying. Our young tomato plants are starting to flower, our cucumber and zucchini vines are starting to produce young fruits, and the pumpkins and melons are flowering and starting to set fruit. With all the rain, we are actually a week or two ahead of schedule this season. Lettuce and herbs, beets and carrots are all growing nicely.

‘Holey’ basil…the caterpillars are having a field day!

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ger and turmeric plants have recovered following the storm and most of our fig trees that survived are starting to fruit. We are seeing a lot of caterpillars, ladybugs, aphids and other indications that a healthy insect population is rebounding on the farm. We have lost a lot of Jack Spaniard (paper) wasps, which are a big part of our integrated pest management (‘good’ bug vs. ‘bad’ bug) practices. The wasps helpfully eat lots of caterpillars, and their numbers were decimated by Hurricane Maria. But migrating swallows, ani (black witch) birds, kildeers and kingbirds have been active hunters in the gardens since the storm to help us protect our young crop plants from little munching mouths. Pearly eyed thrashers, normally the bane of tropical farmers because they attack crops directly, are switching to a caterpillar diet due to the lack of available foods for them. Thrashers are also eating gungalos – this is unfortunate, as they are a beneficial soil-building insect, but noteworthy as it is not a typical part of the bird’s diet.

Luca wanted you to know that we have some native and local young trees in pots for sale, to help us offset our storm expenses and to help you replant your landscape. We’ve got lignum vitae, calabash, mahogany and a few others. You can just give us a call or send a text message if you’re interested in buying some trees or pineapple slips, and we will set up an appointment.

Our most urgent need now is for power to run our refrigerators, freezers, pump and water filtration system so that we can make and safely store salad mix. We are also raising money to restore damaged buildings and fences.

Thank you to those amazing people who have already donated to help us, thank you for your continued support, and best wishes to all of us in recovery mode.

Love, ARTfarm

Happy Little Things & Farm Update

The day before Hurricane Maria, a large swarm of honeybees took up residence underneath a storage box in our tool shed. During the storm, the large wood crate was tipped up at a 45° angle, but the swarm of bees has remained there. They had built new comb, which fell to the ground during the storm, but they are continuing to build comb and invest in this rather exposed spot. This morning I went to check on them and I could smell honey! We are hoping to move them into a dry, protected and comfortable hive box this week.

While there is very little for pollinators to feed on at this point, every time we eat a papaya or sugar apple, or discover a cache of some leftover or windfall fruit, we are leaving the peels or cracked open fruit outside in a tray, and hordes of bees come to collect the sugary juices. You can help bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators survive the aftermath of Hurricane Maria by consistently placing a tray of fruit peels, downed fruit (cracked open) or even a dish of sugar water in a shady spot outside and change it every day or two.

Our farm kid has been excited about nature photography and after the storm spent a good bit of time observing and photographing dazed hummingbirds who were coming to feed on the aloe flowers that were bedraggled but still surviving on the west facing side of our home. She observed at least three kinds of hummingbirds. We also noted that within one day of the storm, a new flower spire had emerged from the aloe plant and was getting ready to bloom.

Our ram who was attacked by feral dogs almost a month ago survived the attack. He still has some visible holes in him but they are pink and healing. We released him from his solitary holding pen and delivered him back to the pasture and his flock social life on Monday afternoon. After enjoying one last hand-fed papaya by the gate, he perked his ears up and quickly made his way back to the ram group like a kid late for recess. His buddies sniffed him thoroughly and welcomed him back with characteristic grunting noises. His gait is miraculously unaffected despite his left shank looking like a cheese grater, and he should make a full recovery.

While we were out in the ram pasture, we saw that manjack and tantan trees are already putting out new buds with tiny leaflets on them.

We were able to enclose our turkeys and shift them on day three and they are gregariously, raucously enjoying a fresh piece of pasture. They have even been laying a few eggs which we are grateful for. We have yet to restore their coop, but they are making do with a pipe between two trees to sleep on.

We are still extremely limited in terms of our ability to use the Internet, and even the phone. We are only able to check and download things once a day at best. Email is spotty. We cannot receive or look at any website links, attachments or photos. We cannot pull up a browser window or “look anything up.” We have to get in a vehicle and drive off the farm to get any kind of phone signal or Internet. Even in a spot where we are getting several bars of signal, Facebook does not load at all and text messages are unreliable, so it’s best to try and text us using the farm phone number on the WhatsApp phone app. (ETA: Photos in this post were added on November 18th, when wireless internet was restored.)

We will be needing layer feed for our poultry ASAP. If anyone on St. Croix knows if S&D Feed (north of Kingshill Post Office) or JayC Feed (near Williams Delight traffic light) are re-opened after Hurricane Maria and stocking vegetarian layer feed, please let us know. You may be able to reach us directly by phone during curfew lift hours, or can reach us every other day or so using the farm cell phone number on the WhatsApp app on a smart phone. Or, if you can possibly just pick up one or two 50 lb. bags of layer feed if you find it available, and drop it to us at the farm, we would be overjoyed! We will leave a large plastic contractor bag by the entrance to the farmstand (where the gate would be for customers to come in), feed bags can be placed in there to stay dry. If by some miracle we receive more feed then we can use, we will be sharing it with Heather at Yellow Door Farm and other poultry farmers in the area. Please leave a note so we know who to thank and repay. A 50 pound bag of layer feed is generally between $18 – $22.

Another simple thing we could use help with is finding out how to do a hard reset on our iPhones. We have heard that this can help the phones to recognize the new cell phone towers that are being installed. Some of our family have Sprint service and others, AT&T. Unfortunately we do not have access to look up how to do the iPhone settings hard reset. We tried what we thought would work (holding down the home and power buttons simultaneously for a long time) and it didn’t do anything. If anyone could send us a WhatsApp message to our number with advice, step-by-step text (no photos please!) instructions of how to hard reset iPhones models 5, 6 and 7 or otherwise get the phones to search for new cel towers, that would be greatly appreciated.

We have a lot of bundles of drip tape and black plastic mulch fabric that were scattered and blown around the farm during the storm. If anyone has some time to stop by and volunteer, even for an hour during curfew lift, we could use some help with cleanup and repair on the farm. Because of biosecurity/plant virus issues, only non-smokers can help with handling farm equipment. Rubber boots or old shoes are helpful. Some of our farm roads are still pretty muddy. Please send a text or call us during curfew lift hours if you think you can come by so we will know to expect you. Thanks.

We have had some kind people off-island offer to help us with shipping in care packages, tools and supplies that we need. It is currently a little complicated getting things to St. Croix. We are not sure when the post office will open again (although we think soon, as the USPS buildings here did not suffer the kind of damage that the post offices in St. Thomas and St. John did). As for ocean freight, while the port is now open for daytime commerce, it’s not clear how soon shipping containers can be distributed to destination warehouses for local pickup, or whether our freight forwarder will be able to set up a pick up point at the shipping pier itself, since containers on semi rig chassis are too tall for most of the low hanging powerlines that are garlanding all of our roadways on the island. As soon as we can get a definitive answer, we will let everyone know where to send stuff.

Curfew hours are only lifted from 12–4 p.m. on St. Croix at this point and the roads are packed during those hours with long lines at all stores. We have been trying to stay off the roads as much as possible. It is also a bit emotionally difficult to drive around, not only because of the congestion and hazards but to see some of the destruction of homes, businesses, stately old trees, and other familiar landmarks where tornadoes ripped through a neighborhood.

Want to give a shout out to the wonderful McPherson Samuel family. Christina, Shawn and their son have been a wonderful support to us, both after Hurricane Irma and Maria, stopping by and bringing us back to their house to have a home-cooked meal, do some laundry, take a shower, play some serious Lego and enjoy a few hours away from all of the work we have to do. They even temporarily loaned us a small generator to run a cistern pump. You guys are awesome and amazing! Many, many thanks!!!

Love, ARTfarm

Art, Earth Day, and The Return of the Goat Cheese 10am – 12 noon

Overall, the tomato plants are slowing down as the weather gets slightly hotter, but we still have tons to pick and for you to enjoy!

Overall, the tomato plants are slowing down as the weather gets slightly hotter, but we still have tons to pick and for you to enjoy!

Our sunflowers are getting ridiculously tall! They seem to love our soil. We field tested some cut sunflowers this week in a jar of water and they lasted at least six days with no added care. If you change the water more regularly and add a couple of tablespoons each of apple cider vinegar, sugar, and baking soda to the water, they should go even longer!

Our sunflowers are getting ridiculously tall! They seem to love our soil. We field tested some cut sunflowers this week in a jar of water and they lasted at least six days with no added care. If you change the water more regularly and add a couple of tablespoons each of apple cider vinegar, sugar, and baking soda to the water, they should go even longer!

Can you find the melons in the melon patch? Lots of exciting varieties, soon come!

Can you find the melons in the melon patch? Lots of exciting varieties, soon come!

The arts are very busy this weekend with the VI Lit Fest partying hard at UVI and CMCArts, and various art exhibitions including a mix of student and professional work at the Good Hope Country Day School. Get out and enjoy some culture, or stay in and practice your own creativity!

Yesterday’s full moon coincided with Earth Day. We hope that more and more people will join communities like ours of small farmers and their dedicated customers, to practice Earth Day consciousness and conservation around the calendar all year long.

Fiddlewood Farms goat cheese is back today! Pairs perfectly with any and all of the following items: Sweet salad mix, baby arugula, baby spicy salad mix, lettuce heads; onions, radishes, pumpkin, sweet potato, green, red, and orange bell peppers; seasoning peppers, both types of hot peppers, a few cucumbers, a few bunches of kale, bunched arugula, parsley, Italian basil, chives, rosemary, lemongrass, ginger root, papaya, passionfruit, cherry tomatoes, medium heirloom and red tomatoes, recao, farm fresh eggs from ARTfarm and from Heather’s hens; and more of Dr. Bradford’s unbelievably fresh, delicate goat cheese.

Aaaand…Decorate your table or make a lovely gift of fresh cut zinnias and sunflowers.

Wednesday ARTfarm 3-6pm

We love it when groups of students come out to tour the farm! They ask the best questions and bring us youthful energy. We had a nice visit from St. Croix Montessori’s upper and lower elementary kids last week. The big discoveries? “Worm poop is soil.” “Bells help keep dogs away from sheep.” “There are different kinds of hoes.” “Neem trees grow fast.”

Wednesday’s haul: Sweet salad mix, baby arugula, baby spicy salad mix;

Cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, the last harvest of sweet corn for the season, onions, yellow summer squash, kale, bell peppers, yellow seasoning peppers, radishes, a few cucumbers, squash blossoms;

These dramatically large squash blossoms can be stuffed, fried, or used as a garnish!

 

Italian basil, lemon basil, holy basil, Thai basil, red serrano peppers and red Indian chilies, garlic chives, cilantro, dill, parsley, assorted pumpkins, and cut flowers including loads of zinnias, cosmos and China asters!

From our partners we plan to offer fresh local goat cheese, vegan local fruit ice cream, raw local honey, farm fresh local eggs, and a few other treats!

ARTfarm Open, Ag Fair Weekend: Sat. 10 AM to 12 noon

We will be open at our usual location on the farm this morning. But, we strongly urge you to also visit the Ag Fair this weekend! Happy President’s Day, and Happy Valentine’s Day, folks!

These flowers are YUGE. Some orange like The Donald! Wage a campaign of love this weekend!

We grew it for you, stop by and pick up: Sweet salad mix, loads of cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, lettuce heads, a few yellow and green squash, carrots, radishes, a few bunches of kale, loads of pumpkin, beautiful onions, scallions, a few leeks, a few cucumbers, beautiful green and red bell peppers;

ARTfarm pumpkin…at the peak of flavor right now, these are crazy sweet steamed or roasted, or even sliced thin raw!


Trinidad seasoning peppers are incredibly pungent and smoky like a hot pepper, but with none of the heat. We like to chop them coarsely into all kinds of dishes to give them a specific ‘Caribbean’ aromatic profile. They must be tasted to be believed, and once you’re hooked you’ll always look for these little gems! If you’re not a big fan of spicy food, these are a great way to get a pungent peppery flavor without the pain!

Red serranos and Indian chilies, Trinidad Perfume seasoning peppers, baby ginger root, cilantro, dill, Italian basil, lemon basil, holy basil, loads of fresh cut zinnia flowers, yellow marigolds, and a few bags of figs.

From our partners we have locally made treats: vegan ice cream, raw honey, and goat cheese!

11:09AM update: Still have loads of stuff left! Lots of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, cooking greens, herbs, peppers, honey, ice creams, pumpkin… Come on by!

Don’t miss the 45th annual St. Croix AgriFest this weekend, on the grounds of the Department of Agriculture on Queen Mary Highway just west of UVI’s campus. Open 9-6 Saturday, Sunday and Monday. $6 adults, $4 seniors, $3 children. A good portion of the island shuts down for several weeks to prepare for this major public event: Tons of exhibitors, from farmers competing for best display with great piles of fruits and vegetables, value-added goods and fruit trees; to great local cooks selling plates of food, hot sauces, drinks and spices from this and other islands; Armstrong’s ice cream truck with special local flavors made just for the fair; to vendors of art, jewelry, clothing and local crafts with great bargains; to elementary student science projects, alternative energy providers and University scientists showing a glimpse of the future; to animal judging exhibits and petting zoos with chicks and puppies and baby animals for sale; to carnival and pony rides for the kids and live music and dance performances! The old time history house is a wonderful favorite. People watching as you ride the tractor-pulled trolley tour, stroll through the throngs or sit at a picnic table with your plate of local food, quelbe music wafting through the air, is a must! This is a local annual event that uniquely expresses our island culture that is not to be missed!

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Happy President’s Day Weekend!

Although ARTfarm will not have a booth this year, we will have lettuce heads, onions and serrano peppers on display at Sejah Farm’s booth inside the large tractor barn on the west end of the fairgrounds.

We’ll see you there!!

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