Two years ago, I envisioned supporting our work for the children of Haiti exclusively with the agricultural project that I committed to with my friend Dwight.  Working in the excessive heat, limited water, and poor soil of the Sonoran Desert, we’ve learned another lesson that supports the ‘easier said than done’ theory.

After a brutally hot and dry summer that yielded virtually zero produce from the 2,400 linear feet we planted over 12,000 sq.ft. [1/4 acre] last year, my dobber was down and my confidence dipped even lower when I had my bike accident on December 1.  I’ve been immobile for three months and finally got off the walker and onto a cane this weekend.  I am liberated.

That said, my friends and family refused to accept my disappointment and resignation.  Everyone stepped up to move the farm project forward. 

Just prior to the accident, Mrs. tVM planted 100 linear feet of leaf lettuce and 100 linear feet of mustard greens in November.  As the sunlight waned and the temperature cooled, our expectations were modest.  That has changed.

A week after my bike accident, farmers James and Chico installed automatic irrigation to encourage the growth and production of the mustard greens and lettuce.  Dwight and Halen have since expanded the irrigation to serve the 900 linear feet we plan to plant in March.  They also tilled and harrowed the entire 12,000 sq.ft. Mrs. tVM climbed back on the tractor to help them prepare several hundred linear feet for March planting.  They also cleaned out the hoop houses that we use and installed a work site trailer for our tools.  Yesterday, Dwight purchased and Halen installed a solar generator inside the trailer to power our tools.

Rarely a day goes by when someone is not attending to something that needs attention on our farm. 

young mustard greens

I was able to return to the farm with my walker in January.  I immediately noticed that the mustard green seeds had sprouted and that the leaf lettuce was growing green and strong.

Over the last two weeks – the first two in February – Mrs. tVM has harvested 54, one-gallon bags of mustard greens and 14, one-gallon bags of leaf lettuce.  Our original intention with the mustard was to use it as crop cover simply to strengthen the soil.  Farmer James tells us that his customers love mustard greens, so he takes the greens and lettuce that Mrs. tVM harvests to market in Phoenix.  February will be our most productive winter harvest in three years.

Matthew’s gospel says that the mustard seed is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is fully grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree.

Matthew is correct, the mustard seed is tiny. Jesus tells us in Matthew’s gospel, “… I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”

As we emerge from the Arizona winter, my leg heals, and my wife, my family, and my friends have lifted my confidence.  Indeed, nothing will be impossible.

Mitakuye Oyasin

Mustard greens

We planted this crop of mustard greens in November.  We were experimenting with it as a cover crop.  Frankly, we did not expect the crop we have.  We planted a mixture that includes Brown Mustard, Chinese Mustard, Chinese Mustard, Giant Red Mustard, Indian Mustard, Indian Mustard, Leaf Mustard, Mustard Greens, Oriental Mustard, or Vegetable Mustard.

We’ve learned that mustard greens are edible and many people harvest them to add to soups, salads, sandwiches, and other fresh dishes.

HEALTH BENEFITS:  Mustard greens are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. One serving contains almost half of your daily vitamin C needs. Cooked mustard greens can have up to your entire daily requirement of vitamin A. This vitamin supports many body functions, including good heart, lung, and kidney health.  

Mustard greens also contain glucosinolates, nutrients that give the plant a bitter flavor. In addition to their antioxidant activity, studies show glucosinolates may fight cancer cells and prevent tumor formation, but more research is needed to study these effects.

Leaf lettuce

We planted this crop of leaf lettuce with the mustard greens in November and hope it will continue to produce for several more weeks, hopefully, months. 

EVERYBODY LOVES LETTUCE.   All lettuces fall into one of four varieties:

  • Head lettuce (capitata)
  • Leaf lettuce (crispa)
  • Romaine lettuce (longifolia)
  • Celtuce lettuce (augustana)

Leaf lettuces don’t form a head, and are instead connected to a stem.

HEALTH BENEFITS:  Lettuce is a source of vitamin K, which helps strengthen bones.  Lettuce is a source of vitamin A, which plays a role in eye health. Vitamin A can reduce a person’s risk of cataracts. Vitamin A also helps prevent macular degeneration.  Lettuce is a non-starchy vegetable. One report by the World Cancer Research Fund suggests that non-starchy veggies can protect against several types of cancers, including those of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach. Another study was conducted in Japan on smokers with lung cancer. The findings revealed that the intake of lettuce could have protective effects.

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  1. Glad to hear you are up and about. Sounds like the harvest is great this month and the fine tuning of your processes is paying dividends. Nice job!