SANTA FE — Moon Dog Farms in Santa Fe is a small-scale, direct-market farm founded on firm plans and rowdy hopes.
In their first 18 months, the managing partners have hit potential pay dirt — selling out regularly at Galveston’s Own Farmers Market, and marketing to Brennan’s in Houston and the Pelican Club at Gaido’s in Galveston.
Soon, they hope to grow a profit.
“We’ve come to believe the only way to succeed is a combination of extreme organization and a near-reckless positive attitude,” said Casey McAuliffe, who runs the 15-acre spread with partner Alex McPhail.
“We keep meticulous records, plan for every foot and every seed and analyze the yields and profits of every crop.
“At the same time, each of us is responsible for making sure the other one doesn’t take themselves too seriously,” she wrote in late-night comments emailed after a full day of work.
“You’ve gone astray as soon as you think you’re in control of nature and not the other way around. Might as well laugh while you work hard.”
Moon Dog’s history
Moon Dog’s back story begins several years ago near Austin after McAuliffe and McPhail graduated from Southwestern University in Georgetown. She was a preschool teacher; he worked for the Austin Film Festival.
But both felt pulled to a different path.
“After years of saying our health, the planet’s health and our community’s health were important to us, we decided it was time to do something about our highfalutin’ ideas,” McAuliffe wrote.
They worked organic farms in upstate New York and in North Carolina, where McPhail earned a two-year degree in sustainable agriculture. By early 2013, they were ready to start farming family land in Santa Fe.
The work has not been easy. McAuliffe wears a beekeeping hood to cope with mosquitoes.
“Last year’s batch was near biblical,” she said.
To cope with the heat, both work early morning hours, break in the afternoon, then work till sundown.
McAuliffe also plows an online presence, writing a weekly blog, managing a website, using Facebook, Instagram and other social media.
The farm connects with the community in real time as well, hosting school field trips and partnering with Texas A&M University at Galveston’s Sea Camp program to introduce others to the organic farming life
“Building a farm that is a stronghold in the community has been integral to our vision from the beginning,” McAuliffe said.
“As we expand in the coming years, we hope to see more people experience the joy of truly good food.
“We hope for folks to know where their food comes from and how they themselves can take control of the food they feed their families.”
At a glance
Moon Dog Farms is:
- Named in honor of Saxton, a 14-year-old Chow Chow-Akita mix and faithful farm dog;
- Located on about 15 acres leased from Alex McPhail’s family, with 11 acres in an old orchard and 1 acre of vegetables, also two rainwater collection ponds, two barns and two employees;
- A Certified Naturally Grown fruit orchard and vegetable farm, eschewing synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or genetically modified seeds;
- Summer crops of cherry tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, basil, okra, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, husk cherries (a sweet, pineapple-flavored tomatillo), strawberries, blackberries, pears and a variety of flowers for bouquets; and
- Seasonal crops of broccoli, cabbage, carrots, salad mixes, sugar snap peas, kale, radishes and potatoes. They also plan to plant citrus and apple trees this year.
Moon Dog Farms:
- Visit www.moondogfarms.com or like them on Facebook under Moon Dog Farms.
- Certified Naturally Grown farms: Visit www.naturallygrown.org.
- Galveston’s Own Farmer’s Market: Visit www.galvestonsownfarmers
- market.com. The market, at 2508 Postoffice St., between 25th and 26th Streets near The Strand, in Galveston, is open 9 a.m. to noon. The market accepts SNAP benefits.
- Gardening With The Masters: This class will be presented at the Horticulture Demonstration Garden in Carbide Park, 4102 Main St., in La Marque, on the first Thursday of each month. Guided tour starts at 9 a.m. Visitors are welcome to walk through at their own pace from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Call 281-534-3413.
- A Homeowner’s Guide to Weed Control, Saturday: This class will be presented at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office, 4102 Main St., La Marque, from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. July 19. The presentation by Master Gardener Anna Wygrys will include common species identification, integrated weed management plus chemical options and practical solutions for controlling weeds in the home landscape. Email email@example.com to preregister.
Growing, marketing tomatoes
- Estimated cost: $1,840 per acre; harvest June and July
- Market outlets: Wholesale grocery store, food service companies, farmers markets, roadside markets
- Profit potential: Up to $2,000 per acre
- Adapted areas: Best near metropolitan areas
- Equipment requirements: Tractor, shredder, disk, bedder, mulch applicator, herbicide sprayer, insect/disease sprayer, wire cages or stakes, packing shed, pickup or delivery truck
- Soil requirements: Sandy loam to clay loam; good drainage
- Water requirements: 20 to 30 acres-inches per acre; supplemental irrigation required
- Minimum size: 1⁄2 acre part-time local sales; 5 acres full-time wholesale; 30 acres requires packing and grading equipment; must wholesale to move volume
(SOURCE: Texas A&M AgriLife, aggie-horticulture.tamu.
Growing, marketing leafy greens
- Estimated cost: $200 to $1,500 per acre
- Market outlets: Wholesale grocery store, farmers markets, roadside, restaurants, food services
- Profit potential: Up to $700 per acre
- Adapted areas: Seasonal, statewide fall and early spring, South Texas winters
- Equipment requirements: Tractor, shredder, disk, bedder, cultivator, planter, insect/disease sprayer, herbicide sprayer and harvest wagon (note: Certified Naturally Grown producers don’t use any synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or GMO seeds).
- Soil requirements: Well drained loamy soils
- Minimum size: 1 acre
(SOURCE: Texas A&M AgriLife, aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/