1 This is Christina holding an old photo of the two of us when she was a graphic designer in the art department of MSLO.
2 This is a closeup of the office photo, circa 1994 - twenty years ago!
3 The ARTfarm is a three generation family farm. Luca's mother, Valeria, runs a bed and breakfast rental in a historic Danish plantation greathouse on the property.
4 Valeria also helps out with running the farm stand.
5 This is a wind-resistant variety of banana tree with blooms and fruit growing in a wet spot in one of the gardens. Many fruit trees are interspersed with the vegetable gardens, including mangoes and figs.
6 All of the crops at ARTfarm are grown organically in the soil of former cattle pastures, without synthetic chemicals. The farm makes its own compost for fertilizing. Here are the baby salad greens followed by young lettuce heads and tomato plants staked up with string.
7 The jojo plum, or Indian gooseberry trees were full of ripening fruit and all the farm tour guests tried them. The fruit is firm fleshed and tangy with a large stone. Bees love the flowers of the jojo tree and it gives the honey a citrusy tang. Christina keeps a few beehives at the farm.
8 Cherry and heirloom tomatoes are picked daily by Luca's father, Enrico, or "Kiko". The small gardens dispersed around the farm are interplanted with many different vegetables and herbs.
9 Luca's father Enrico, 76, began farming on this land in the 1960s. He always kept a small garden of bitter Italian cooking greens. My friend, Michael, enjoyed talking tomatoes with "Kiko" in one of the gardens.
10 Dragonfruit, also called pitaya, is being trained to climb up a manjack tree post. It's a cactus plant related to the night-blooming cereus, and it produces bright magenta fruit with a sweet, kiwi-like texture and flavor.
11 Nearby pastures stretch down to the sea. These 500 acres are under the management of the University of the Virgin Islands, who now operate the Castle Nugent Senepol cattle herd for research purposes. These beautiful large red cattle are a heat tolerant beef breed developed on St. Croix in the 1700s.
12 Little Marina Gasperi loves to dance and play in the gardens and pastures. The raised beds protect the plants from drowning in heavy seasonal rains. The companion planting techniques seen here are common to organic vegetable production because they encourage healthy plant growth and discourage insect damage to crops.
13 These hair sheep are fed only grass. They're a mixed group of purebred St. Croix Whites, Dorpers, Katahdins, and commercial cross breeds. The sheep are rotated to a fresh pasture area every few days using portable, solar powered electric fencing. Hair sheep do not develop wool, which makes them suitable for a tropical climate.
14 The sheep are protected from dog attacks by a livestock guardian dog. At ARTfarm the sheep are multipurpose, as they mow the pastures and fencelines, spread manure to future cultivation areas, and are also harvested for delicious grass-fed lamb.
15 My friends Nikki, Michael, and Sheila enjoyed frolicking around the farm.
16 Christina wears a tool belt with nearly everything she needs to maintain and repair livestock fencing on 40 acres of pasture and gardens. Sun protection is also a must when working outdoors!
17 The chickens at ARTfarm are also on pasture. This is an open-bottomed chicken tractor, or moveable coop, which is shifted to fresh grass every morning. The chickens produce eggs, reduce the insect population, and improve the soil for next year's garden.
18 The corn patch was very healthy looking. The seeds came from a Hawaiian farm. The corn is growing in a garden area that the sheep grazed last year.
19 The ewes and their young lambs came running to see us, hoping for a molasses treat. These are St. Croix Whites, Dorper crosses and Katahdin sheep. The lambs are between two and four weeks old.
20 Some of the mature ewes are outfitted with cowbells, which help prevent dog attacks. The bells make a lovely sound when the flock moves around the pasture.
21 Christina caught a friendly young lamb for us to pet.
22 Nikki enjoyed a few minutes holding this sweet little lamb.
23 Turkeys are a new venture for the ARTfarm. These are heritage breed turkeys. The large tom is a Royal Palm, a breed known for its exceptional plumage, and the hen is a Blue Slate. Luca and Christina are also raising Bourbon Red turkeys. The turkeys were talkative and social.
24 Mamey sapote was one of the fun discoveries of the vacation that Sheila and I were excited about. This football shaped fruit has a silky-textured orangey-red, sweet flesh inside. It can be eaten out of the skin with a spoon like a flan. Delicious!
25 Many of the row crops at ARTfarm are started in seedling trays. Here are some lettuce and cucumber starts.
26 Dragonfruit is propagated through cuttings. These young plants are almost ready to transplant into the ground.
27 Fresh ginger root grows in a garden row interplanted with recao, a leafy herb similar in taste to cilantro. I collected a few seeds from the recao plants to grow at home. It has a great flavor and I used it in many dishes while in St. Croix!
28 Luca and Christina are both fine artists. Here is a portrait Christina made of her daughter.
29 This is a large watercolor by Luca of St. Patrick's Church in Frederiksted on St. Croix.
30 This is one of Luca's favorite recent paintings - a surrealist landscape of Christiansted Harbor on St. Croix with a swirling okra flower.