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Moondance Farm: Family style fresh

Jul 12th, 2011 | Category: Community, Farms

by Marnie Jones

When Billy Tate and Nicole Brown moved to Moondance Farm in Wickersham eight years ago, they already understood the value of wholesome food. The husband and wife team had managed to create a vibrant urban garden in downtown Indianapolis before they found their property—to find a way, even in the city, to channel their shared desire to create healthful, fresh from the garden produce. Here, with their daughter Alala at their sides, they’ve gone a good deal further. “The farm seemed to grow itself,” Brown said. “We got excited about the space and what we could grow… we grew more than we could personally use. Then, we grew more than our friends and neighbors could use.”

Nicole Brown and Billy Tate, with their daughter Alala (shown here at the Anacortes Farmers Market in 2010), grow a variety of produce on their Wickersham farm. COURTESY PHOTO

This sort of overproduction soon found them participating in the Food to Bank On program sponsored by Sustainable Connections (which supports new farmers), making weekly deliveries to the Mt. Baker Foothills Food Bank in Deming, and finding food left over for markets and community kitchens. “We found ourselves,” Brown continued, “becoming farmers.” Four years ago, they took their organic principles a step further by becoming certified. “We are very careful with what we bring onto our farm,” Brown noted, “and support other local farmers in the process [of obtaining] compost and other amendments.”

Moondance Farm keeps the whole family busy, especially at this time of year, but the work can’t be calculated in terms of hours and dollars. “We farm because we have an opportunity to nourish the land while also feeding our family and our community,” Tate said. “It’s not the kind of job [where] at the end of the week you add up your hours and figure out how much you make. Trust me… that interferes with the motivation for this kind of work, which is driven more by social capital.”
Community is an important part of Moondance Farm, and Tate and Brown appreciate opportunities to share what they grow. “We particularly appreciate work trades when the food is [abundant] and there never seem to be enough hours in the day.”

In addition to growing staples such as greens, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, beets, garlic, and squash, the family of three enjoy unique crops and heirloom varieties from other regions. Alala enjoys grazing on the curling tendrils of fresh pea vine, while her parents grow sunflower greens for their kid-appeal and absorbable vitamin D.

“As a family,” Brown said, “we have always looked to food as medicine that tastes good, so we are drawn to foods that pack a lot of flavor and a lot of nutrients.”
Italian classics feature prominently in the garden, with escarole, endive, and portifino squash all claiming their space. Flowers for the market and the occasional wedding grow here, too, as does a flock of sheep with newborn lambs.
Exotic and lesser known vegetable varieties have become an important part of the Moondance garden, and black radish, daikon radish, and calabash gourd crops are all enjoyed on the farm—the latter for making kanpyo, a traditional ingredient in Edo style Japanese cuisine. Many of Moondance’s varieties are grown for prepared or fermented recipes, including hot sauce and kimchee.

In addition to sharing their garden produce, Brown and Tate enjoy sharing these traditional recipes through their CSA shares or by teaching friends and community members.

Moondance Farm’s produce is available at the Anacortes Farmers Market every Saturday from mid-May to mid-October. They also offer CSA shares, which are still available this year and cost $400 (full) and $250 (half). Doorstep delivery is available in most cases, though alternative arrangements may be made for some county locations.

For more information about CSA shares or work trade opportunities, contact Billy Tate and Nicole Brown at 595-0155 or billyandnicole@moondancefarm.net.

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