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!

Saturday Farmstand, Pineapples, Schedule Change, Dance!

More pineapples today! ARTfarm pineapples are ridiculously sweet this year, maybe because of all the dry weather. June seems to be our pineapple month!

More pineapples today! ARTfarm pineapples are ridiculously sweet this year, maybe because of all the dry weather. June seems to be our pineapple month!

Open 10 AM – 12 noon on South Shore Rd. this morning, ARTfarm has, organically grown for you: Salad mix, microgreens, small quantities of pineapples, tomatoes, and cucumbers. We have beets, scallions, mature bunched arugula, Ethiopian kale, Italian basil, mint, zinnia flowers, local honey from Errol Chichester, and admission/raffle tickets for the Caribbean Dance show next weekend! No Wednesday stand this coming week, so come out to the farm today…

Our adopted border collies, Ginger and Spice, vigilantly patrol the pineapple gardens at this time of year to discourage rats. We've seen these athletic dogs leap all the way over the row of spiny plants during the hunt. This is a viable and much more entertaining alternative to poisons for controlling crop pests on an organic farm. During dry times there is increased pressure from all pests on farm crops and resources.

Our adopted border collies, Ginger and Spice, vigilantly patrol the pineapple gardens at this time of year to discourage rats. We’ve seen these athletic dogs leap all the way over the row of spiny plants during the hunt. This is a viable and much more entertaining alternative to poisons for controlling crop pests on an organic farm. During dry times there is increased pressure from all pests on farm crops and resources.

We are changing our schedule to reflect the weather patterns. The drought is really affecting our ability to grow crops at this point. It also seems like a natural pause to tackle some big farm projects we’ve been wanting to get to. So, we have decided to curtail our Wednesday farmstands until we get some rain or production picks up again. We will be open today and next Saturday as well, and we will play it by ear after that. Mango season is coming, but it also may be a bit delayed by the dry spell we are all in.

Young dancers preparing for the annual show in the Caribbean Dance studio in Christiansted. Support the arts on St. Croix!

Young dancers preparing for the annual show in the Caribbean Dance studio in Christiansted. Support the arts on St. Croix!

The Caribbean Dance School‘s 38th annual performance is Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30 at Complex (the high school across from the UVI campus). We have tickets ($15 donation, includes entry into raffle for plane tickets and more) available at the farmstand or you can purchase them at the door! Show time is 7:30 PM. There are adorable tiny ballerinas in the show but also a number of accomplished student and professional dancers — the show is family-friendly and highly entertaining! The closing number in the show features rousing carnival music and traditional calypso dancers, and includes over 30% of the ARTfarm workforce! So come see your farmers in action and support all our local talent in the arts! The Caribbean Dance School and Company is an important cultural institution in the Virgin Islands, founded in 1977 to tour the world and share our island culture, and is still operated by the original artistic directors! It is also an enduring nonprofit organization engaging thousands of students over the years, promoting health, self-esteem, and self discipline. The arts are an important and vibrant part of Virgin Islands culture, help improve our communities in countless ways, and are woefully underfunded. Please come out and show the students you care.

Plus, you’ll get great inspiration for choreographing your own rain dance! 😉

 

ARTfarm Q&A Wednesday! 3-6pm

Today at ARTfarm down the south shore we’ll offer a fairly small selection of items: Pineapples, a few tomatoes, sweet salad mix, microgreens, basil, chives, and a few cucumbers.

The lignum vitae is an important food source for honey bees in drought times.

The lignum vitae is an important food source for honey bees in drought times.

Q: What do you farmers do when it is so dry? What can grow in this extreme drought condition?

A: Not too much! We do our best to conserve water when conditions are this severe.

One plant that remains green and healthy with no watering in this dry weather is the highly drought tolerant lignum vitae tree. Slow and steady is how lignum vitae grows, rain or no rain. This tree species will probably outlast all the other trees that we have planted over the years. Most of the 30+ lignum vitae trees established at ARTfarm came from Kai and Irene Lawaetz at Little Lagrange. Kai was always a champion of the lignum vitae for its beauty and ability to withstand drought times and there are many prime individuals of the species on the Lawaetz Museum grounds.

Even in drought times when most vegetation is brown, the lignum vitae tree's evergreen leaves remain deep green and provide dense shade.

Even in drought times when most vegetation is brown, the lignum vitae tree’s evergreen leaves remain deep green and provide dense shade.

While it does not produce any edible products, the lignum vitae is a beautiful dense shade and ornamental tree and a food source for honeybees, particularly when nothing else is flowering. The wood of lignum vitae trees is so dense that it has traditionally been used to make ship pulleys.

The light purplish blue blooms and showy red and orange fruit are unique mainly because of their color. There are not too many blue colored flowers in the tropics. The tree sheds very little leaf litter and its leathery paired leaves remain a beautiful deep green year round.

ARTfarm Saturday: 10am Treats!

Luca’s and Mike’s art exhibition is closing today (Saturday), with the last viewing from 11 AM – 2 PM. So after you pick up your fresh veggies, head over to Peters Rest if you haven’t had a chance to see this inventive collection of new watercolors and abstract sculptures from these two men of industry. Admission is free.

Organically grown just for you, with stored rainwater that is a mere memory of beautiful darkened skies that passed over us at least three or four months ago: Sweet salad mix, bunched arugula, radishes, beets, a few tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, a few cucumbers, Italian basil, green coriander, fresh onions, scallions, pineapples, and raw honey from Errol.

It will rain.

Rain From The North, watercolor (c)2015 Luca Gasperi

Rain From The North, watercolor (c)2015 Luca Gasperi

ARTfarm Monday Q&A: Never the Same Salad Twice

It’s dry out here! Today’s pungent harvest: Sweet salad mix, baby arugula, baby and regular spicy salad mixes, arugula, onions, scallions, cilantro, Italian basil, lots of tomatoes, slicers and heirlooms, cherry tomatoes, and the last of the figs for a while.

Q: Why aren’t your salad greens as sweet this week as they were last week? Why are the stems larger/smaller? Why isn’t  the spicy as spicy as it was last time? etc. etc….?

A: While one could chalk this up to simple nostalgia, it’s more likely that variations are due to two main reasons:

(1) Mother nature’s treatment of our crops is the primary source of this shift in taste from week to week. Even as our recipes remain unchanged, small changes in the weather can affect the taste of our salad mix.

When temperatures are hotter during a portion of the growth cycle of the lettuce heads in our fields, they respond as many living beings do under stress: they attempt to defend themselves from being eaten as they try to propagate. Lettuce will tend to take on a more bitter flavor in hot weather as it accelerates toward the bolting and seeding cycle of its life (as it would during hot late summer months in the cooler parts of the world). If we encounter cooler and rainier weather, the lettuce will be sweeter. Even a brief few days of intense heat can alter the taste of plants. And variations in weather now can affect the salad flavor two or three weeks from now, as the plants are in their growth cycle.

Spicy greens become more peppery when the weather is very hot and dry, and will taste milder when we’ve had a lot of wet weather. Our formulas for the types of greens and their quantities in the various mixes stays consistent from harvest to harvest, but the weather can change the flavors in the bag of salad you take home.

Occasionally we do have to change the formulation of a salad mix because seed is not available for some of the tasty baby greens that add so much flavor to our mixes. We find a substitution that is similar, but this can also change the taste of our salad mixes over the course of the season.

(2) The other factor that comes into play in the consistency of ARTfarm salad greens from bag to bag is what we like to call the Jackson Pollock effect.

When we make the salad mix we use a very large sanitized stainless surface and mix in many different baby mesclun greens with multiple large chopped lettuce varieties.

When creating his splatter paint pop art creations of the 1960s, Jackson Pollock employed a similar technique. He would toss different colors in random patterns throughout his large canvases.

What we do next at ARTfarm is essentially like taking that large amazing Jackson Pollock painting and cutting it up into many small pieces. Each portion of the canvas represents a bag of ARTfarm salad mix. Some bags will have more large pieces of stem from the base of the lettuce head; other bags will contain a little bit more of the baby mesclun greens; others will be a perfect blend of all the different ingredients that we put into the salad mix. Every bag is a little different because they’re all prepared by hand, and the weather, the secret intentions of mother nature, and the randomness of our process ensure that your experience will always be fresh!

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We know that our customers seek us out because they want real produce that tastes like the place it was grown. We know you can handle a little variety. But, if you ever purchase a bag of salad greens from ARTfarm that you find inedible, please bring it back to us. We’d always like to hear from our customers, good or bad, how you feel about our products, and if we’ve goofed and a product is not up to our normal level of quality, we would be happy to replace it with something you find tastier.

We grow this stuff for you, after all!

ARTfarm Saturday, 10 AM – 12 noon! It’s Spring!

Pray for rain, folks! The South Shore is extremely dry and we could seriously use some of those rain showers the forecaster spoke about on Friday afternoon.

Madre de Cacao trees are blooming and the honeybees are enjoying the pungent flavors of the dry season.

Madre de Cacao trees are blooming and the honeybees are enjoying the pungent flavors of the dry season.

Join us starting at 10am for sweet salad mix, microgreens, baby arugula, teen and regular spicy, a few cucumbers, onions, beets, radishes, carrots, kale, dandelion greens, cherry tomatoes, heirloom and slicing tomatoes, fresh harvested ginger root, thyme, lemon balm, sage, celery, Italian basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, holy (Tulsi) basil, dill, parsley, cilantro, garlic chives, zinnia flowers, and a few Mediterranean figs and passionfruits.

From our fellow growers and crafters: farm fresh eggs by the dozen from the Gotts family, Wanda will be on hand with her honey meads, we’ll have Nonna’s fresh-baked focaccia and panini breads and we have a few coconut-based vegan ice creams from I-Sha. Looking forward to seeing you all!

ARTfarm Saturday Deluge 10am – 12 noon

Thanks, all of you who did such a heartfelt raindance. Unfortunately the quantity and velocity of the precipation over the last few days has cost us some lettuce production.

On offer for Saturday morning: Microgreens, mint, garlic chives, lemongrass, thyme, zinnias, a few cucumbers, and treats from partner farms: creamy, fiberless Nam Doc Mai mangoes from Tropical Exotics, dragonfruit from Solitude Farm, local raw honey from Errol, and beautiful avocados from Smithen the Cane Man!

All this rain makes it a sensible time of the year to plant. We have pineapple slips and various native trees for sale — also a few vegetable starts.

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