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

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!

<br

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

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!

<br

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

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

Closed for 2015 Summer/Fall Break

Greetings from the farm!

Apologies for the short notice: As we usually do, we are going to take a few weeks at this slowed-down time of the year to do some maintenance work, some reflecting, catching up on projects, and taking a little time for ourselves. So at the risk of seeming a bit abrupt, we are letting you know that we will not be open this morning, Saturday, August 22nd. We will probably reopen in mid to late October, depending on whether or not it rains and for enough duration to help our soil recover from this extensive drought.

Two kids hang out in a grass hut they made from dead coconut trees, victims of the drought.

Making lemonade from lemons. Here’s something fun to do with dead coconut trees: build a shady little fort to hang out in!

Speaking of the drought, we may be on the road to recovery after this weekend with a visit from tropical storm/depression/hurricane Danny, and hopefully with a few more precipative events in his wake. Keep in mind that for us and many other livestock and crops farmers, it will take time after rains arrive for our farms to recover. It is not going to be an instantaneous recovery once water hits the soil. Many pastures taxed by lack of rainfall and extended grazing periods will have to be reseeded. The balance of beneficial organisms in the soil has been altered by months of dry, punishing heat and wind. There is going to be a long road back to good soil, sward and plant health, after not having any substantial rain since February.

Big shout out and thanks to Sejah Farm, who collected donations from the public for drought relief and used the money to purchase hay, grain and milk replacer and distributed it among their production partners. We received two pickup truckloads of baled hay for our sheep. Thanks to everyone who donated. JCC, you should be sleeping well at night! Special thanks for your support for our island farmers.


 

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.

ARTfarm Saturday – We’ve Got a Licker

Almost as if by sleight-of-hand: Sweet salad mix, a few dragonfruit, garlic chives, mint, lemongrass. From our partners: Nam Doc Mai mangoes from Alex at Tropical Exotics, and vegan ice cream from I-Sha in summer flavors: passionfruit, mango, jojo and banana, papaya-ginger. Open on the South Shore Road, 10am – 12 noon.

The severe drought continues. Many of the trees we have planted on the farm are dying off. Grazed pastures are not renewing themselves. After being blessed with rain for the last few years it is hard for many farmers on St. Croix to see our long term efforts of stewardship being stressed to the breaking point by this unusually harsh weather. Even as we see visible signs of the drought, there are many more organisms suffering than meet the naked eye.

Water, water, anywhere? A tiny anole lizard licks moisture off of a dragonfruit bud in the dry pasture.

Water, water, anywhere? Look closely to see what Farmer Luca saw: A tiny anole lizard licking moisture off of an irrigated dragonfruit bud in the dry pasture.

Despite the lack of green grass, bugs and other forage, our two surviving heritage-breed turkeys managed to breed this summer. We took a set of ten eggs for the incubator when Mrs. Brownie started to lay, and she took it upon herself to lay another set after that and brooded it. Turkeys are said to have a low hatch rate. The incubator hatched four poults, but the mother turkey hatched nine out of ten! Man cannot improve on nature’s efficiencies, it seems.

A brown turkey hen looks on as nine fluffy baby poults clamber around her in a wire mesh cage.

Mrs. Brownie, who survived the dog attack this past fall, has produced nine poults this summer after 28 patient days on the nestbox. She and her babies are well protected at this bite-sized stage in a coop built to keep rats and mongoose out. Predator pressure is particularly intense during drought times as wildlife and feral animals are more desperate for food and water.

A large grey tom turkey displays his feathers walking along the edges of his pen. The farm and hills beyond are dry and brown.

Proud papa turkey, the only survivor of the stray dog attack last fall, keeps careful watch over his new family. You can see recent brushfire damage on the hills behind him.

A Green Patch of Determination

It's July 2015 and there has been no substantial rain for months. This panorama of the center of the farm shows the contrast between irrigated and non-irrigated areas.

It’s July 2015 and there has been no substantial rain for months. This panorama of the center of the farm shows the contrast between irrigated and non-irrigated areas.

The ARTfarm is brown and crunchy at the moment, (and not in the delicious granola type way) but there is a little patch of green that Farmer Luca is diligently watering and protecting from hungry, thirsty deer. In other news from the Department of Symbols Of Hope, three turkey eggs hatched in our incubator yesterday morning! And our mama turkey Ms. Brownie is brooding on a nest of eleven more hope capsules…due next week.

A morning meeting of three freshly hatched turkey poults in the incubator at ARTfarm.

A morning meeting of three freshly hatched turkey poults in the incubator at ARTfarm.

For this morning’s Saturday farmstand, from 10 AM to 12 noon, we have: Lots of sweet salad mix, passionfruit, plenty of mint, lemongrass, garlic chives, tarragon, Cuban oregano, recao, Ethiopian kale, and papayas!
From our partner growers and chefs: we have dragonfruit from Solitude Farms, Viequen Butterball mangoes from Tita, Haitian Kidney mangoes from Denis Nash, and vegan local fruit ice cream from I-Sha.

Don’t forget about the 19th annual Mango Melee on Sunday at the Botanical Garden! You won’t find the Viequen Butterball at Mango Melee, but there are a lot of other fun and delicious things on offer over there (call 340-692-2874 or www.sgvbg.org for more information). Be sure to support our long-time neighbor and loyal customer Lisa Spery as she competes in the Mango Dis, Mango Dat contest with a recipe incorporating fresh ARTfarm mint! Good luck, Lisa!

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