Journey to Soil Health… with Emma Jagoz, Moon Valley Farm

Journey to Soil Health… with Emma Jagoz, Moon Valley Farm

Established: 2011

Farm Size: 25 acres                       

Product/Output: Organic vegetables

Region: Woodsboro, Frederick County, Maryland

Favorite Piece of Farm Equipment: My little Kubota tractor I call “Slayer”

Growing a few vegetables on an apartment balcony might be a hobby for some people — but for Emma Jagoz, it was the first step down a path that would change her life. She decided to grow some arugula after she read it could boost a baby’s brain development. She was pregnant with her first child, and figured it was worth a try. 

“I fell in love with growing my first salad,” she says. “The ability to produce something from seeds that nourishes your body in a meaningful way was really powerful for me.” 

She then started a larger in-ground garden. Her sister told her about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a program that enables community members to support a farming operation in return for a share of the harvest. This concept intrigued Emma, and she realized she wanted to be part of that movement. 

“It just felt tangible and real, like a really real way to make a difference,” she says. “I believe communities are strengthened by access to healthy, nutrient-dense food. I believe that by recentering our diets around whole foods grown locally and organically, communities can take back power and control in their lives.”

In 2011, she started Moon Valley Farm as a 12-member CSA on a quarter-acre plot in her parents’ backyard. As she says, “I’ve grown for our community ever since.”

Today, Emma now farms on her own 25-acre land, and the CSA has expanded to more than 500 members. She grows over 40 types of organic vegetables with hundreds of varieties. The produce is distributed throughout the CSA, as well as to high-end restaurants throughout Frederick County, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. 

As her farm has grown, so too have her soil health practices.

When she was farming a smaller area, she was able to add compost, but now, with a larger space, it makes more sense to use cover crops to add organic matter to the soil. Emma uses other strategies to cultivate soil health, including crop rotation, mulches, harvest lanes, wind breaks, pollinator strips, regular soil testing (through the Million Acre Challenge, she participated in the Pasa Soil Health Benchmarking study), and a food forest.

The two-acre food forest increases biodiversity by creating a space for pollinators, birds, and insects, and also supplies perennial food crops. Emma grows fruit and nut trees, pollinator plants, perennial vegetables, medicinal shrubs and groundcover. 

“We care about soil health because it grows better crops and more nutrient-dense crops, which means crops that taste better. So, our customers will like them,” Emma says. “We care about soil health also because it’s the right way to treat the land that feeds and nourishes us.”

Emma believes employing soil health practices has ramifications beyond improving her harvest – it can affect the health of the entire local ecosystem.

“As stewards of the land, we firmly believe that increasing the quality of soil for our farming practices we can increase the health of our Bay, and therefore our entire region,” she says. “I believe these farming practices will lead to cleaner water, cleaner air, healthier animals, and healthier humans, and if we employ these practices, we’ll be more resilient in facing climate change, and all the environmental challenges climate change brings.”

Emma hopes creating a healthier ecosystem and healthier community will make eating local the “new normal.” This, in turn, will make food supply chains more reliable for consumers.

“Local farms like ours employ local workers and purchase supplies from local companies, boosting the local economy and helping the community thrive by providing healthy food for them,” she says.