Sunday, May 5, 2013

Moon Dog madness

My husband and I dropped in on the Moon Dog Farms open house party yesterday afternoon.  Right now, few north-County-ers have heard of this new enterprise, because this farm is selling at Galveston's Own Farmers Market rather than at any of our closer venues, but they're actually located not far from League City. 
It's about 15 or 20 minutes due south of us. 

Screengrabbed from Googlemaps. 
You'll notice something unique about their tag line - the phrase "Certified Naturally Grown", which is explained below.

Beautiful logo screengrabbed from the Moon Dog Farms website.
It's a non-governmental certification program that allows micro-entrepreneurs to side-step the cumbersome USDA organic certification process while still having their responsible practices externally validated. 
Occasionally in reference to programs like that, you will hear the term "beyond organic" used.  I first heard the term used by Libertarian farmer Joel Salatin, but I don't know if he originated it. 

Anyway, my purpose in visiting yesterday's "hi, how ya doin'" was to see if I could bend the ears of the proprietors for a few minutes, given that I'm also interested in chemical-free gardening in this exact same environment, albeit on a much smaller scale. 
Small, but effective.  Our 6.5 pound post-season back-yard harvest of beyond-organic broccoli and cauliflower was enough to feed us daily side-dish servings for about two weeks.  Pic from this recent post titled "The gift of cold in late April". 
But holy cow, there were over a hundred people in attendance when we got to Moon Dog Farms yesterday.  You could see the sunlight twinkling off the flotilla of cars parked on the flat coastal plain from about a mile in the distance. 

So, no ear-bending yesterday as the proprietors naturally had to maintain their focus on their substantial crowd of attendees.  I was hoping to get an idea of how these two young people are going to make this thing work both technically and financially.  There's no doubt that we are sorely in need of artisanal farms in our area - I believe that yesterday's crowd represented the barest tip of the latent market demand.  Think about it... if 100 people made it their priority to spend the last glorious cool-weather Saturday of spring visiting a start-up micro-entrepreneurial farm, and if those 100 highly-motivated people would be willing to spend just $20 per week of their grocery budget on locally-produced beyond-organic produce, that's over $100,000 in annual gross revenue just from that one source (note that greater Houston has a year-round growing season, so theoretically it's possible to engineer an artisanal operation that produces a steady income stream). 

But that doesn't change the fact that our area is characterized by horrible weather extremes, craptastic native soils, and a higher invasive fire ant density than the imagination is even capable of grasping.  I don't know how "beyond organic" could be made to work from a scalability standpoint in these challenging conditions.
I found this TAMU banner caption highly amusing.  "How can I tell if I have fire ants?"  This can be determined by answering two simple questions:  (1) do I live in Texas? (2) am I breathing, as evidence of the fact that I'm still alive?  If the answer to both is "yes", then congratulations to me - I know that I have fire ants. 
But that not knowing how "beyond organic" could be made to work in these conditions... that's part of the magic of watching someone give it a try.  I wish Casey and Alex the best of luck in their endeavors, and if they ever expand to the point where their produce is available in north Galveston County, I will definitely become a regular patron. 

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