Know Your Farm: Blue Moon Farm

Q & A with Farm Manager, Lorien Carsey

What does your farm name mean to you? How did you choose this name?

My name is Lorien Carsey and I am the farm manager of Blue Moon Farm, and I am in charge of all aspects of winter production so, I am going to answer these questions from my winter perspective......burrrrrr.  Jon Cherniss is the farm owner along with his wife Michelle Wander. As the farm manager, I stepped into the name Blue Moon many years ago, and loved the way it made me think of the landscape out here in the flat, big-sky world of rural, Central Illinois. Especially when snow-covered, the expanse of wide, sheet-like terrain sends your perception upward to the drama going on between the sun, moon and clouds. The farm has been an incredible blue the past few nights, covered in snow, under the moon. Jon and Michelle chose the name Blue Moon Farm when farming in Georgia, and you'll have to ask them for the specifics!

Where is your farm located? How many miles do you travel to reach Common Ground?

We are about ten miles outside of C-U, heading mostly North.

What do you grow? What is your signature product?

We raise lots of vegetables, and fruits that most people think of as vegetables, and leaves. We like diversity, so sometimes it's easier to name the veggies we don't grow, namely celery and artichokes. People often associate our farm with our salad mix, a robust collection of stand-up lettuce varieties and boldly flavored mustard greens. We also grow a wide variety of tomatoes, both heirloom and hybrid, that are harvested at their peak of ripeness and can cure any winter blues, if you have some frozen or canned, ready to throw on a pizza when it's fourteen below zero. We are trying to get everyone to try our winter spinach, because its flavor profile is amazing, thanks to its long growing season (seeded in the heat of September but not harvested until snow is on the ground), but just getting it out of the ground and washed and driven to Common Ground is sometimes impossible thanks to this weather. Another signature product is our carrots. We have been really lucky with carrot-growing conditions, and our July-seeded, fall-harvested carrots have incredible crunch and sweetness.

For how long have you been farming?

Blue Moon has been in operation in Urbana since 1995.

Do you use organic farming practices?

Blue Moon Farm is USDA Certified Organic and we are committed to the collective project of implementing farming practices that promote the health and well-being of the land we grow on and the people who eat our food. This involves not only observing the guidelines of organic certification, such as avoiding harmful pesticides and practicing crop rotation, but also thinking about long-term sustainability. Organic certification is important because it can help develop some basic agreements among farmers about beneficial practices. At the same time, we are working through trial and error, research and experimentation to figure out how to grow food sustainably given our specific set of environmental conditions in our little microcosm.

What do you enjoy most about farming?

I enjoy the diversity of tasks I engage in. My day involves using many different parts of my brain and body, interacting with people, weather, plants, animals, always trying to manage the chaos of production enough to step back and think about big picture questions. I get a lot of pleasure from working the land and a lot of satisfaction from eating what we grow.

What do you find most challenging about making your products/farming?

The weather. Farmers are really not in control of their time, especially at a place like Blue Moon where, for four seasons, we are planting every week, watering and harvesting every day and weeding whenever, which involves a tricky timing of bed preparation, irrigation and people management. Factor in windy conditions, unpredictable storms and the lack of soil drainage and complain, complain, complain.

What is your philosophy/perspective on local farming and agriculture?  

Locally grown food has a lot of benefits. The consumer gets to buy produce that was harvested when it should be: when it is going to taste good. The short distance from field to fork means the farmer gets to choose varieties that don’t have to ship well either, thereby paying attention to taste. Buying locally leads to more accountability between the farmer and the eater and that relationship is important to us.

Is there anything else you'd like Common Ground's customers to know about your farm?  

We couldn’t do any of this without you and the more you like to eat, well the more we get to eat too. Many thanks!