Rae Avery’s Story
For eight years I was gardener for a very prestigious restaurant. The produce from that garden had to be of the highest quality. Over those years I fed thousands of patrons, gave numerous garden tours and answered innumerable gardening questions. I always maintained that I loved my job and the only thing that would make it better would be to provide food of that quality for those who could not afford to eat at Arrow\’s.
Two years ago I decided the time had come to take a leap of faith and started Moondance Gardens. I sell to local markets, Farmer\’s Markets and a CSA. I farm two acres, with plans to expand, with an emphasis on specialty greens and herbs – crops that allow me to compete with the large farms in the area.
I have always managed our land sustainably, operating on three basic beliefs: 1. The health of my family and my soil are intertwined. 2. This earth is all we\’ve got and if we minimize it\’s value what will we leave to future generations? 3. If I have a chance to share my passion for growing with others I am going to take it.
I know how to raise my product and I have ready markets. What I don\’t have is the infrastructure and equipment to allow me to do this profitably. I would put the grant money towards building an efficient wash station with cover, sinks and equipment for drying greens along with a collection system that would enable me to collect the wash water and use it for irrigation. I would also complete the cooler room which I started constructing last year, enabling better cooling and storage of produce. I now use a refrigerator and camping coolers, not the most effective method. Lastly, I need to replace my 20 year old rototiller which has a cracked carburetor. This would save valuable man hours which are now spent on weed control and turning amendments into the beds.
Moondance Gardens brings \”eat local, eat healthy\” to the community with our commitment to sustainable, organic farming. I feel that education is part of that commitment. Weekly CSA newsletters provide relevant news, referrals to web sites, recipes and nutritional information on produce. This information is also shared with Farmer\’s Market customers.
Believing that healthy food is a basic human right I am proud to be able to accept SNAP (food stamp) and WIC payments at the market. We encourage these families to try new food, praise the merits of the product and offer tips on storage and preparation. In a market that serves many disadvantaged young families this helps build their confidence to try something new.
I also provide gardening advise to customers who buy seedlings, and indeed, they report on their garden\’s progress or consult with problems when they return to the Farmer\’s Market.
We also volunteer in the outdoor classroom at the local elementary school which includes a hoop house where students enthusiastically raise vegetables.
Lastly, Moondance Gardens stands firm in our commitment to preserve farmland as our neighboring properties are being cut up into house lots.