I decided to make the hour drive from Morgantown to New Freeport, and see the place Mike and Brenda call home. About 30 minutes into my trip I realized this was not going to be a visit to a big city. Prior to my trip I had done some research on the town of New Freeport, PA. According to the 2010 census, there was a population of 112 (and this was thought to be an over-estimation by another vendor who lives in the area). The paved roads began to narrow and zig-zag through an endless sea of green trees until they were no longer paved. Yes, you read that right. I was at one point driving on dirt roads and my cell reception? Yeah, I lost that long ago.
As I continued to make it closer and closer to my final destination, I was more and more concerned my car would not be making it out of there. The dirt roads had now become mud roads thanks to a very rainy summer. (Note: I drive a Ford Mustang. It’s great for cruising down the highway, but off-roading, not so much.) Regardless, I had made it that far and was not giving up or turning around.
When I finally arrived at Mike and Brenda’s farm I took one look out into the valley below and realized it was all worth it. Miles of tree-covered hills were lit up by the morning sun, and it absolutely took my breath away. And to think, they get to see such a spectacular view every day!
I collected my note pad and pen and was greeted by Mike right away. He showed me around the property and explained the difficult task of farming in the mountains. Because of the steep incline, there are actually four separate gardens. There is only so much flat area on the hill-top to create a level garden good for growing their fruits, veggies and flowers.
As I followed behind, taking in all of the natural beauty that surrounded me, Mike began to open up about his love for what he does.
“I grew up here and lived here all my life. I actually started out raising cattle, so this type of farming was all new to me at one time. It took some time but I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t.”
The gardens are now surrounded by fencing that Mike built himself after he learned his garden was just feeding the local deer population. Every year the fences have improved and now, little is lost to hungry animals.
When I asked if locals stopped by the farm to buy directly from their farm, the answer surprised me.
“Not really. There aren’t enough people here to support our business. That’s where the farmers markets come in. We need those markets to make money; otherwise I wouldn’t have a place to sell.”
As my tour of Moonlight Gardens came to an end, Mike ended our interview with some words that I think truly encompass a farmer.
“I keep saying that I am going to retire. This is supposed to be our last year at the Morgantown Farmers Market, but I have a feeling it won’t be. I love doing this too much.”
Farmers are some of the hardest working individuals you will ever meet. They work from the wee hours of morning, until the sun sets and are passionate about what they do. Mike and Brenda are no exception to this definition. When you think about the phrase, ‘know your farmer, know your food’, you can bet the farm that this food is grown with love.