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.


 

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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.

Madame Francis and Butterball Mangoes!

ARTfarm Saturday: 10am – 12 noon. Mangoes like crazy today! Summer solstice arrives on Sunday, hopefully dragging some rain clouds with it for Father’s Day! Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. From the farm this morning: Small amounts of sweet mix and microgreens, a few pineapples and papayas, lots of passionfruit, fresh mint, Italian basil, garlic chives and lemongrass. Don’t forget the lemongrass – steep in hot water to make a very cooling and slightly sweet, refreshing brew to keep in the fridge!

From our partners: vegan ice cream from I-Sha in a rainbow of flavors, honey from Errol, and lots of beautiful mangoes, including Viequan Butterballs from Tita and Nam Doc Mai and Madame Francis from Dennis Nash. Farmer Luca, a mango connoisseur, claims that the VBs have even less fiber than the buttery  NDMs. Their velvety texture is a triumph of mango husbandry! Enjoy mangoes now, as the drought may possibly make this a historically short mango season.IMG_9559IMG_9561IMG_9560

Still pretty dry out here… We’ve heard some farmers remark that we are in a fifteen-year drought (meaning that it has not been this dry since after Hurricane Hugo – not that it will last fifteen years). Two years ago at this time of year we were able to grow a lot more summer crops. We know it has been an extended campaign, but please keep rain dancing! Your efforts have brought a few decent showers to the farm, but not enough to yet quench the thirst of the rock-hard topsoil. So keep on getting your groove on if you love local food!

ARTfarm Saturday! 10-12noon, Extra Flavor Plus Plants!

Happy Saturday! Open 10am – 12noon this morning! ARTfarm is still pumping out some fresh sweet juicy produce despite the severe drought conditions on the South Shore, so our food has extra intensity of flavor! Microgreens, arugula, sweet and spicy salad mixes, Swiss chard, broccoli leaves, kale, Chinese cabbage, beets, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, yard long purple beans, bell peppers, fennel, dill, cilantro, parsley, basil, garlic chives, thyme, rosemary, limes, ice cream, flowers, fresh juicy Mediterranean figs.

Grey harvest tubs side by side hold green cucumbers and sweet onions with the green tops on.

Freshly harvested and rinsed morning onions and cucumbers, ready for bunching and heading up to the farmstand! Happy Saturday!

We are also selling assorted organically started herbs and plants! Get a pot and grow some of your own ARTfarm varieties at home!

Farmer Luca works between several tables full of colorful young plants in cell trays.

Luca moves trays of ARTfarm seedlings. We have some varieties for sale right now! We don’t usually sell plant stock, but we are conserving water at the moment so you can take advantage and purchase some organically started plants for your own garden!

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