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

Building a Wattle Fence

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We’re experimenting with building a simple wattle fence at the farmstand entrance, using manjack posts and limbs from some fence clearing projects.

A wattle fence is one of the most ancient fence types, and uses no metal fasteners. At the end of its useful life it can be composted!

Our wattle fence will create a pleasant garden walkway for farmstand customers, a place for us to display potted native trees for sale, and an enclosure for our ducks.

Dave Mattera, one of our super volunteers, is spearheading the project on Saturday mornings. If you’d like to join him and learn this eco-friendly, 18th century skill, please feel free to join him! ARTfarm volunteers must be non-smokers, please.

Monday Post-Pond Farmstand

At today’s farmstand we’ll have: Sweet mix, spicy mix, arugula, cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, broccoli greens, sweet peppers, hot peppers, pumpkin, onions, scallions, holy basil, Italian basil, parsley, chocolate, ice cream!

Sorry we haven’t posted in a few days but we were very busy building a giant pond! Thanks to our super volunteers who assisted us this weekend in getting that two-year project completed.

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ARTfarm Closing for a Quick End-Of-Summer Break…

This morning’s farmstand was our last for a few weeks. We’ve got to focus our full attention on some big projects, to make the farm more productive and sustainable in the coming seasons.

We’ll reopen in mid-October with a new rainwater catchment pond, some new signs, some new artwork in the ARTbarn and sheep grazing in our pastures! We’re seeding many crops for this coming fall and winter’s harvest now, starting a new batch of native trees from seed, and playing with a few experimental crops including local roasting corn and fig trees. Stay tuned for updates.

Three workers in a large Mars-like crater shovel rocks into the bucket of a skid steer at ARTfarm.

Three awesome ARTfarm workers - Tucker Brown, Eric Gautreau and Adrian Jordaan - in a large Mars-like crater, shovel rocks into the bucket of a skid steer in preparation for the lining of a rainwater catchment pond.

If you have some time to spare or know anyone with an interest in and enthusiasm for sustainable farming, we are always looking for reliable nonsmoking volunteers and workers who’d like to help out and learn something new. (It’s not ALL shovelling rocks!) Give us a call at (340)514-4873 or pass our website along to those who might be interested: artfarmLLC.com.

Laying Pipe

In the off season, when the tomatoes are NOT bursting off the vines, you’d think we would take it easy, go to the beach, or do some cool new paintings.

Not so, friends.

Luca operating a trencher on a skid steer in the pastures at ARTfarm

Luca operating a trencher on a skid steer in the pastures at ARTfarm. We're laying poly pipe for livestock irrigation! Photo by Mitch Amarando.

The off season is when we catch up on infrastructure projects. Luca has been cutting trenches with a skid steer using a hydraulic trenching attachment in our pastures, to bury water lines for our upcoming livestock project. We’ll be experimenting with multi-species grazing and micropasturing. We’re burying the polyethelene pipe so that it will be protected from UV damage, heavy equipment, fire, and chewing animals. It should last just about forever.

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