Compost Helps Local Farm Build Healthy Soils & Feed Their Community (feat. Moon Valley Farm)

Date: 30 Nov 2021 | posted in: Composting | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

On this episode of the Composting for Community Podcast, ILSR’s Linda Bilsens Brolis and Sophia Hosain speak with Emma Jagoz, owner of Moon Valley Farm in Maryland. They discuss the role compost has played in supporting the growth of their community-supported, first generation farm that is growing certified organic vegetables and herbs for Maryland and Washington, D.C. 

Highlights include:

  • Details on how Moon Valley Farm’s composting systems and strategies have changed as the farm has grown
  • Why composting has remained a priority for the farm over the years and how they have overcome challenges
  • How the farm uses compost to build healthy soils, while meeting Maryland Nutrient Management Program requirements
  • Observable benefits from using compost in their fields and how the farm integrates compost application along with other soil health practices
  • 5 key strategies for creating a resilient farming business and the power of community supported agriculture
  • How the access to land, financial support, and sustainable agriculture training programs are critical needs for farmers 

This interview is hosted in collaboration with the Million Acre Challenge, of which ILSR is a founding member. The MAC is a collaborative project that is supporting farmers in implementing healthy soils practices and regenerative agriculture on one million acres of farmland in Maryland and the Chesapeake Region by 2030.

Regenerative agriculture practices are rooted in Indigenous knowledge and practices. Read ILSR’s land acknowledgement here

Before I started the farm when I was a gardener, I created this compost pile, like any regular backyard garden, just in a circular bin off to the side. And I was so wowed by the compost creation, how my food scraps and garden waste and shredded leaves had turned into this rich dark sweet smelling soil. And I was so, so, so impacted and excited and just so tickled with the magic that compost is, that I knew I had to make it a part of my operation. I would’ve never foreseen where the operation has gone at that point, but I am fundamentally passionate about compost, and I think that more people should experience the magic that is compost creation.

Sophia Hosain: Across the country, the community composting movement is growing. Small scale composting provides communities immediate opportunities for reducing waste, improving local soil, creating jobs and fighting climate change.
Sophia Hosain: You’re listening to the Composting for Community Podcast, where we’ll bring you stories from the people doing this work on the ground and in the soil.
Sophia Hosain: Hi, friends. Welcome back to the Composting for Community Podcast. I’m your host, Sophia Hosain, from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Composting for Community Initiative. In this episode, I’m joined by my colleague Linda Bilsens Brolis and Emma Jagoz, founding farmer of Moon Valley Farm, a community based farm in Woodsboro, Maryland.
Sophia Hosain: Emma talks about how she’s created a resilient farm ecosystem by harnessing biodiversity, partnerships with other farmers, and the nitty gritty of making and using compost. Let’s dive in.
Sophia Hosain: Hi guys.
Emma Jagoz: Hey, Sophia.
Linda Bilsens B…: Emma, start us off. Tell us a little bit about Moon Valley and how you found yourself farming full time.
Emma Jagoz: All right. Moon Valley Farm is a 25 acre year-round specialty veg and herb farm located in Frederick County, Maryland. We grow for a CSA program and for restaurants in Baltimore, Frederick and Washington DC. I am a first generation farmer, a mother of two, and the owner of the farm.
Emma Jagoz: I started Moon Valley in 2012 because I wanted to share the vegetables that I was growing for my two little babes with people that lived in my neighborhood. And I started with a 12 person CSA then, and that has grown into over a 500 member CSA now. And yeah, we just really love growing veggies.
Linda Bilsens B…: And we were just talking about how impressive it is that you were able to start this business as your babies were growing up. How old were they when you started?
Emma Jagoz: They were both under two.
Linda Bilsens B…: Amazing. I don’t know how you did that. It’s impressive. I know COVID in particular underscored sort of weaknesses in our food system. And I’m curious how you view your farm as promoting a more sustainable and resilient food system.
Emma Jagoz: That’s a great question. I think COVID brought to light a lot of different issues, especially with the food supply and what is considered essential. Our community members were able to access food through our farm via home delivery, and also pick up locations with some new COVID safe practices throughout the whole time. From when COVID began in March in 2020 to today, we have been delivering food to our community every week since.
Emma Jagoz: So I do believe that COVID showed some new people that supporting local farms could be a really great idea since the food chain disruptions and the safety of accessing grocery stores and the ways that we traditionally accessed food were not safe for everybody and every circumstance. So we did see a boost of individuals and customers interested in purchasing direct from farmers as a result of COVID.
Sophia Hosain: At Moon Valley, you guys are a certified organic farm, right?
Emma Jagoz: We are in the second year of being transitionally organic. So we’re considered transitionally organic right now because in late 2019, we purchased a farm that was in conventional practices and are transitioning that to certified organic practices. And we will be certified again in July 2022.
Emma Jagoz: However, before we purchased this new property, we were certified organic in Baltimore County.
Sophia Hosain: And the reason why I’m asking is, because I know that you guys use a lot of sustainable growing techniques on your farm, and one of those in particular is composting. And I wanted to talk to you a little bit about how in your effort to create a sustainable food system, you’re able to close the loop with composting on your farm and how that kind of also adds to your soil and your nutrient management process.
Emma Jagoz: Yeah, an organic farm is complicated, and a lot of our practices are dependent on one another and different processes working. So when we started farming, we were on, and by we, it was really just me at that point. But we were growing on no more than a quarter acre. And even though it was all with my body and a pitch fork, I was able to produce enough compost to add to that quarter acre plot. As the farm has grown throughout the years, the compost needs have changed. And so the farm has never been in really the same place to easily answer your question.
Emma Jagoz: But right now, we’re on a 25 acre property. We went from a quarter acre, to a half acre, to one acre, to two acres, to five, to 10, to 15, now 25. And all of those scales have had different requirements and I’ve had to change the techniques throughout.
Emma Jagoz: When I was farming 10 acres and had a few staff members, but I was leasing different properties and farming on sites that were 15, 20, 25 minutes apart from one another, the logistical impact of making my own compost was too much to manage.
Emma Jagoz: So I couldn’t produce enough compost and haul it, transport it and spread it on all of the different sites with enough efficiency to have that make sense. So I started supplementing the compost that I was able to make with purchased compost in order to still prioritize that organic matter boost and the other benefits that adding compost to soils offers.
Emma Jagoz: In addition to adding compost, we add organic matter in our soils by the use of cover crops, and some of the other organic practices that we employ on our farm are crop rotation, crop timing, cover cropping, adding insect strips, practices like that as well, that sort of create the full picture of an organic farm.
Linda Bilsens B…: That’s awesome. I mean, part of the reason why I was so excited to talk to you is because of ILSR’s involvement in the million acre challenge, which is a collaborative effort to promote regenerative agricultural soil health practices on 1 million acres in Maryland by 2030. And you are certainly one of the farms that we’re excited to be engaging with through that. And I view you as a great model for many reasons. I think all farmers are superheroes, but any farmer that can do it while raising two small children is extra impressive.
Linda Bilsens B…: And so it was really great to hear you list the other soil health practices that you’re sort of integrating compost application with. And I’m wondering, this may be a hard question, but like, can you tie any sort of observable benefits of compost applications specifically to what you’ve seen in your fields? I know that’s really hard to do when you bundle so many practices together.
Emma Jagoz: Yeah. When I was farming in Baltimore county, we had really clay heavy soils, and I saw that the soils that we were adding more compost to had better drainage than those that didn’t have those compost editions. So they were able to dry out a lot faster. In the case of heavy rain events, we were able to get in those fields sooner.
Emma Jagoz: Now here on my farm, loam is the primary part of our soil. So we have much better drainage than a clay heavy soil. And when we add compost, we get better water retention now. I also see that certain crops really thrive with heavy compost editions, including cucumbers and broccoli. They just really like organic heavy soil. And they really like the rich nutrients offered with organic matter like compost.
Sophia Hosain: So you mentioned that you moved to this 25 acre farm. You guys purchased it in 2019 ,and previously it was not organically managed. And I know that farmers face some challenges, especially in our region with legacy nitrogen and phosphorus issues. And I’m wondering if that’s something that you’ve encountered and how you’ve been able to continue practicing compost application in that context.
Emma Jagoz: We inherited soil with high phosphorus in particular, and were unable to add a compost in 2020, our first year farming on this new ground. And that was a challenge for me. because I really wanted to. I know we have low organic matter here in general, and that is one of the fastest ways that we can add organic matter. So I was problem solving other ways that we could add organic matter throughout the farm while also getting cash crops off of the land. It would be a really obvious thing to say, to spend three years and cover a crop all of the acres over and over again, to introduce more organic matter to the soils prior to farming, but the logistics of doing that were impossible for me. I couldn’t lease land and buy land and just have that period. I couldn’t figure out how to make that work.
Emma Jagoz: So we started with a couple different practices to help add organic matter to the soil, including interceding cover crops within the aisles, basically of our cash crops. So on our fall brassicas, for example, our cabbage crop, we grow about an acre, an acre and a quarter of cabbage each fall and winter. And so we over sowed that field with crims and clover, so that that would add organic matter to the soil in the spring, and also would add a nice early pollinator source for our apiary.
Emma Jagoz: On some other fields, we added straw in between the aisles as well so that we could both get a cash crop and then incorporate more plant matter in the field at that time. Now in 2021, we did get the green light from our nutrient management advisor, who is a great local organic farmer herself, to add compost on our field. So we have been happily adding compost this year.
Linda Bilsens B…: That’s exciting to be able to return to that. I mean, I know that as Sophia mentioned, and as you just expanded on, legacy phosphorus is an issue for a lot of farmers in the Chesapeake region. And it’s something that I’m looking forward to learning more about in the coming months. We’re actually going to be doing some webinars on the topic of limiting phosphorus in compost. How do you bind it with other minerals? And it all depends on sort of the acidity of your soil and what feed slacks you’re composting and so on.
Linda Bilsens B…: It’s as complex as any other aspect of farming or composting, but I’m curious what other challenges you faced with like the actual composting on your farm, and why you see still value in pursuing doing it? Because I know it can be challenging, but why do you pursue still?
Emma Jagoz: In order to answer this question, I’d like to hop back to 2013 and the beginning of the farm. I was farming on that quarter acre and then actually a half acre by 2013, I expanded that second year, and I was hand turning all of my compost with a pitch fork. And besides the labor intensity of that practice, I was doing it in sort of windrow piles. It took up a lot of my space. It took up a large footprint and I didn’t have that much space to work with. So I was really trying to problem solve how to compost in a smaller footprint without making less of it.
Emma Jagoz: And at that point, I teamed with Adam Schwartz who was then working for a Chesapeake Compost Company. He helped me to scale down the aerated static pile compost system that they were using in that compost facility to fit for the small scale organic farm size.
Emma Jagoz: We created an ASP, the Aerated Static Pile system in a 12 by four foot footprint. And this was with the help of a SARE grant, Sustainable Ag Research and Education. And we used those resources to build that system and trial the effectiveness of small scale ASP composting versus windrow composting.
Emma Jagoz: We concluded that the ASP compost model was much more efficient in terms of footprint and labor resources. And it created just as high quality of a compost. We were able to create many literal tons of compost within a calendar year in the three bays that we were composting in with very little hand turning compared to how many times we had to hand turn the windrows.
Emma Jagoz: We used that system up until I purchased this farm. So up through 2019, and were really delighted with that. At that time, I had a small flock of chickens and we had their coop right next to the ASP system, and on the other side of the ASP system, we had our pack shed where we had regular amount of food waste. So we had these inputs that were appropriate to add to the system and make compost.
Emma Jagoz: We needed to find somewhere to put the chicken litter, we needed to find somewhere to put the food scraps, and I needed a organic matter source for my crops. So it was natural to do that. Now, things got a lot more complicated by the time I was farming 15 acres and the couple tons of composts I making went much less far. We were able to add just to one field and then we sort of ran into the logistical issues of, well, we actually got a tractor in 2018, but it was not on the same site as our compost system. So in order to use a tractor to load the compost or something like that, I would’ve had to drive for three hours and load the tractor and unload the tractor.
Emma Jagoz: So it wasn’t really working on that scale to produce enough compost for all of that acreage. So we sort of shifted our goals of that ASP system from the initial goal of creating all of the organic matter that my farm needed, which did work on that half acre scale, to producing enough compost for what eventually became a one acre in cultivation on that site.
Emma Jagoz: So we had shifted those and then were purchasing compost for the remaining site. Now that I’m on this farm and got word from my nutrient management advisor that I was unable to add compost the first year, I wasn’t able to really prioritize developing a new ASP system financially on the first year because I wasn’t even able to apply the compost. So we still have a lot of pack shed waste, and I no longer have chickens.
Emma Jagoz: So our primary purpose for composting in 2020 was to get rid of our pack shed waste, if you will. That was a great goal, and we created a nice amount. I did create a three bay area for composting that I knew that we would be able to transform into an ASP system in the future. So I do plan to emulate the three bay aerated pile system that we did on a smaller scale onto a more appropriate level for the farm at this 25 acre scale. Did that answer your question?
Linda Bilsens B…: It definitely did. And I was just thinking about what year it was when actually Sophia and I both got the chance to visit your, I think it was an ASP system at that point in 2016, and that’s the first time I got to meet you.
Linda Bilsens B…: So it’s a really good overview of all the iterations and just your dedication to keeping composting as part of your mix and why it makes sense at certain scales. And just my gratitude for you putting in that extra effort to keep your materials out of landfills or whatever. I just think that was a great overview. So thank you. Yes, it definitely answered my question.
Emma Jagoz: I have to mention that in the very beginning, before I started the farm when I was a gardener, I created this compost pile, like any regular backyard garden, just in a circular bin off to the side. And I was so wowed by the compost creation, how my food scraps and garden waste and shredded leaves had turned into this rich dark sweet smelling soil. And I was so, so, so impacted and excited and just so tickled with the magic that compost is, that I knew I had to make it a part of my operation.
Emma Jagoz: I would’ve never foreseen where the operation has gone at that point, but I am fundamentally passionate about compost, and I think that more people should experience the magic that is compost creation.
Linda Bilsens B…: We definitely agree with you. We actually did a webinar with Ellen Polishuk recently, who I think shares… I think she is someone you know very well, and she shares our passion for composting and dedicated her 25 years at Potomac Vegetable Farms integrating composting into their operation.
Emma Jagoz: She is my nutrient management advisor.
Linda Bilsens B…: [crosstalk 00:19:50], maybe.
Emma Jagoz: Yeah. So she has definitely helped me figure out how to get compost working and added to my farm plan.
Sophia Hosain: I love that throughout your evolution from like gardener to farming on a quarter acre, to now farming on 25 acres, you have managed to totally scale that process across the board. And I feel like that’s something that I hear is really intimidating for folks. Primarily I work with community gardeners or urban farms and they’re composting really small scale. And I hear that sometimes it’s hard to fit into the busy farming schedule. But I’m wondering, do you view composting as like a seasonal activity, or it something that you do all year round?
Emma Jagoz: I compost year-round for sure. And I do want more people to know that composting year-round is possible. When I first started, as I mentioned, I was doing it with a pitch fork and I was operating the farm by myself with the age of my two little ones under age two. And so I didn’t have very much time, especially not during the season, to create compost. And I also really lacked materials.
Emma Jagoz: So I looked around in the fall and saw everybody giving away their leaves for free at the end of their driveways, and so I scooped those up and I got a little push mower and started, and I mulched the leaves while my kids were napping. And I was famous for having a baby monitor on my hip, because I couldn’t hear them from the mowing. And then I borrowed a pickup truck at first, I didn’t have one, and I would go to horse farms and collect their manure.
Emma Jagoz: And I took Eliot Coleman’s advice on how to create the perfect compost pile. And I did it exactly to a T for a while, exactly his formula. And I created some beautiful compost, but it was all by hand with materials, besides my food scraps, that I went and acquired for free from my neighborhood. And I went from that to finding what materials you can create within the farm, and finding that some of those are seasonal.
Emma Jagoz: Sometimes you just have a big pile of something you have to compost, and so you have to make compost when you have materials. And then now that we farm year-round, we have food scraps year-round from our pack shed that we need to dispose of. And I think that the responsible way to dispose of food scraps is within a compost pile.
Emma Jagoz: It is the prerogative of the composter to maintain an active pile. That’s not required, but that’s the ideal goal, is that you’re creating a pile that’s at least three meters by three meters by three meters, which is enough material in order to create an active pile. And if you have enough material at any given time, the bacteria will make compost no matter what the temperature is outside.
Emma Jagoz: I used to take videos of it snowing outside and then the temperature of my compost thermometer being 140 degrees, and you could see the steam and it really blew people’s minds. It still does, but the bacteria will present itself when the conditions are right.
Linda Bilsens B…: Super cool. Just listening to you talk about all the iterations that you’ve seen your farm through and just getting things done. And how resilient of a business you’ve created, it’s really impressive. And I’m wondering if you have any advice for other farms out there, like what are some keys in your mind to creating a resilient farming business?
Emma Jagoz: I’ve thought about this a lot because farming is a very risky business to get into. And even though I have perhaps a higher risk tolerance than some, I still need to mitigate that risk in order to confidently hire a dozen people and offer the promise of future CSA shares to hundreds of members. So I have created a farm that is resilient on five main levels.
Emma Jagoz: One is with crop diversity. We’re growing dozens and dozens of different kinds of crops so that if we are to sustain a crop failure, we are still okay. You never know when you’re going to have a crop failure. It happens most years that one thing just doesn’t go as planned, whether it’s the failure of the farmer, or the potting soil, or a rain event, or an early or late frost, or a lack of a rain event, you just never know what’s going to happen. So crop diversity is really important.
Emma Jagoz: Another really important factor for resilience for us, is having high tunnels. That helps to mitigate some of those risks directly, where we can control the amount of rain or water that the crops get. And it offers a few degrees of protection for frost.
Emma Jagoz: Another is that we grow a lot of perennial herbs. Perennial herbs are a fantastic crop to have on your farm. And I always have something to offer my customers in the form of perennial herbs. And I would extend that to perennial crops in general as well. So fruit crops or anything like that. But since I’ve just moved into this new farm, we don’t have a seven-year asparagus patch or fruit tree, but we will.
Emma Jagoz: And storage crops is another way to have resilience. Once we have a crop like kohlrabi, cabbage, carrots, beets, winter squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, it can really help buffer a CSA share or the amount of risk that we’re taking with any climate change events that are going on, or any crop losses that might happen in the future.
Emma Jagoz: So we have focused on a lot of storage crops, not only to extend our season into 50 weeks out of the year, we are doing our year-round CSA now, and we’ve been selling to chefs year-round for six years. So storage crops are a big part of that, but they do offer resilience at all times of year. We just started really playing with spring storage crops as well to offer carrots, beets, kohlrabi, cabbage throughout the summer as well.
Emma Jagoz: And another, the fifth piece of my resilient farm business plan is to have farm partners. So other farmers that we work with that grow some of the same crops, or sometimes totally different crops than we’re able to grow so that if we were to sustain a crop failure that would be devastating to the farm, we can lean on our community members to still offer that to our customers.
Sophia Hosain: It’s so inspiring hearing about how much thoughtfulness you’ve put into every aspect of farming, from just caring for the land, to making sure you’re not creating waste that you can’t take care of, to farming cooperatively with neighbors, and working together to bring food to your community.
Sophia Hosain: And I am curious, was this always your vision? Going into farming, in what ways were you hoping to affect the food system, and what were the problems that you were trying to solve through growing food?
Emma Jagoz: I saw one of the main problems that people face. People, especially mothers like myself. I was really facing the problem where I wanted to know where my food came from. I wanted to know exactly what I was putting in my body and in my children’s bodies. And it’s really difficult to know that in the grocery store. You don’t really know where it came from. You don’t really know what farming practices were employed, and it’s really hard to trust how long ago it got harvested, exactly what inputs went into it.
Emma Jagoz: So I wanted to shorten the chain between myself and my neighbors and their food, because it just connects the farmer and the consumer so directly. And I can communicate with my customers exactly what’s in season, exactly how to prepare it. It just felt so magical. So I really wanted to problem solve food accessibility to people.
Emma Jagoz: And I know that a big problem that we have here in the Mid-Atlantic, is that a whole lot of the food that you see at the grocery store is from the West Coast. And as an environmentalist, this didn’t feel right to me. And as a lifelong Marylander, I know that this season here is long enough to grow all of the food we need here, so I don’t understand why we are shipping all of the food across the country. That doesn’t make any sense environmentally, and it doesn’t make any sense nutritionally as a gardener.
Emma Jagoz: I knew that the moment that I pick the tomato, that’s when it should be eaten. It’s best if you eat it in the field, it’s great if you take it in the kitchen that day and have a tomato sandwich right there. And when you pick it green, it just doesn’t taste as good as when you pick it ripe off of the plant.
Emma Jagoz: Humans have evolved to equate what tastes better with what is more nutrient dense. So flavor actually indicates nutrient density. And I realized that the things that I grew in my garden tasted better, and I knew that there was more to that. So I really wanted to problem solve that for my customers and offer these questions. And as the farm has evolved from that first point, I realized that a lot of the farms around me, myself included, were offering about a 20 week CSA program. And so I was able to get for these five months out of the year, four or five months out of the year, my problem solved. I was able to know my farmer and get this nutrient dense food. But what was I supposed to do the rest of the months out of the year? And that became a new passion of mine.
Emma Jagoz: I saw that there are farmers in Maine like Eliot Coleman and farmers in Quebec that are farming year-round. And I was wondering, why are we all to taking a break down here in Maryland? We’re so much warmer than they are. Even with a height tunnel, we can really extend the season very well. And we can grow a lot of storage crops. And they last a really long time.
Emma Jagoz: And besides that, we also can grow things like mushrooms year-round, that really add a great part to our diet. And most of us, really, at least before I started farming, I really didn’t pay that much attention to local mushrooms. I didn’t really think about that. But now that we’ve partnered with King Mushrooms from Barclay, Maryland, we are giving our customers access to gourmet mushrooms 52 weeks out of the year. And that’s adding a really nutritious part of your diet that is really meaningful. It’s really healthy and it’s fully local.
Emma Jagoz: So I realized that if I wanted to change the food system meaningfully in not only offering customers food that they can trust, but food that they can trust year-round. And not only that, but food that was grown in this region, so it tastes like food that’s in this region. So then when you go to the Mid-Atlantic, it has a flavor, it’s not just Taco Bell and McDonald’s and Applebee’s, it tastes like pawpaws, and it tastes like Maryland tomatoes, and it tastes like Maryland sweet potatoes, like stuff that you just… There’s subtle flavors based on our soils and based on our weather that you can’t get anywhere else because it is regional and it is seasonal and it is direct from the farmers who are passionate. And so that’s what I’m offering now.
Linda Bilsens B…: That’s a lot that you are offering. That’s impressive. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that word in this interview. But I’m curious, if we wanted more folks to be able to farm the way that you do, what are the biggest challenges that you are facing or that you feel like a really, truly resilient food system in Maryland? What’s keeping them achieving that? I know that’s a really big question.
Emma Jagoz: Resources, land access, and labor are definitely the three biggest. Resources, as a first generation farmer, I didn’t have money when I started the farm. I didn’t have a robust career I was coming from. I was in my early twenties and I didn’t even have a big savings account. I bootstrapped the farm from free stuff on Craigslist that I up cycled into things that I could use.
Emma Jagoz: It would’ve been much easier to start with money or the other resources. I was pretty confident to be self-taught in that I found some farmers who had written books. There’s tons of books on how of farm, and there’s tons of resources available on the internet on how to farm. So I was pretty confident in taking those combined with my gardening knowledge to get started. However, there are really limited number of sustainable ag university programs, classes, courses, and there should and could be more of those, that would really help people get started and acquire the knowledge that they need to use as a farmer before getting started.
Emma Jagoz: Access to land is huge. Land is extremely expensive, especially if you’re trying to get high quality land near a market that has enough wealth to sustain your operation. That is definitely big. When I first started the farm, I was on borrowed land, and I spent the first eight years bartering for the use of land in order to avoid paying for it at first while I built my customer base, knowledge and infrastructure, and acquired equipment along the way.
Emma Jagoz: But that took time. If you had money and knowledge and resources up front, you would save yourself those eight years of slowly bootstrapping, and would be able to start a profitable business much sooner.
Emma Jagoz: And labor is a huge issue. And I think more education on how farming can be a career that you can make a living on and that’s good for your family and not too hard on your body. All of those things would be really helpful to know. I think there is a lot of misinformation out there about farming not being a viable career option for many people. And that that deters a lot of the good people from pursuing a career in agriculture. Those are the three main obstacles that I see.
Sophia Hosain: I’m going to repeat myself again too, but it’s just so inspiring hearing how much you’ve grown in such a short period of time and how much you’ve been able to achieve. And, yeah, like if we haven’t said it yet, but like congratulations on buying your farm earlier, right at the beginning of COVID. I know that was crazy. And also really fortunate timing in a lot of ways for you to kind of consolidate on one piece of land after farming on neighbors land and across town and trying to piece it all together for a really long time.
Sophia Hosain: So yeah, big kudos, always driving inspiration from your work. And yeah, what’s next? What do you see next for Moon Valley and what do you see next for yourself as a grower and a cultivator?
Emma Jagoz: Well, thank you so much. Buying land was major, and I really didn’t know that I could do it until I did it. It was a game changer in so many ways for our efficiency and my quality of life. So I was really happy and I still am grateful every day for that opportunity to farm on this property.
Emma Jagoz: In the future, we plan to continue growing our infrastructure out, to build resilience for our farm, including investing in more high tunnels, greenhouses, and cooler space to store those storage crops so that we can have a bigger diversity and a bigger store of storage crops throughout all of the seasons, like I mentioned, even in the summer. That’s definitely one thing. We’re going to continue growing the health of our soils. As we mentioned, the soils that I inherited were farmed conventionally and were high in phosphorus, are still high in phosphorus, and I am on a long term mission to improve the soil health every year that we farm here.
Emma Jagoz: And not only improve the soil health, but the biodiversity of this farm. We’re putting in trees, wind breaks. Like I mentioned, we have an apiary and we’re putting in some permanent wild flower areas to help support the apiary. And we have a bunch of project in the works that will improve the biodiversity of the farm on many levels. So I’m really excited for that.
Emma Jagoz: Oh, we also just started selling to the local school system as a new customer here. And my whole team is really, really excited. This week, we are selling to two elementary schools in our community and feeding over 1,000 kids. So we are really excited for that as well.
Linda Bilsens B…: What lucky kids and what a lucky community to have you providing nourishing food for them. I am so grateful for your time and for your inspiration. And I am definitely a fan girl, I follow you guys on Instagram. So it was a great pleasure to get a chance to talk with you and catch up with you.
Emma Jagoz: Pleasure was mine.
Sophia Hosain: Thanks everyone. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Composting for Community Podcast, from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. We’ll be back again next month with a new episode. Our theme music is, I Don’t Know from Grapes. Be sure to check out the rest of the ILSR podcast family, including Building Local Power, Local Energy Rules and Community Broadband Bits, at


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Audio Credit: I Dunno by Grapes. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.

Image Credit: Emma Jagoz

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Follow Linda Bilsens Brolis:
Linda Bilsens Brolis

Linda is the Senior Program Manager for ILSR’s Composting for Community Initiative and Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders Composter Training Program.