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Meet Kathleen Blakistone of Moonwater Farm

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathleen Blakistone.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kathleen. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
We started incubating in 2011. At the time, my partner Richard and I considered an encore career of aquaponic farming.  The Richland Farms area of Compton came to our attention, and fit our zoning and property size needs. The area has withstood redevelopment, maintaining its’ residential agriculture zoning status for over 100 years.

Although we are both trained master gardeners, a dirt farming business didn’t hold much interest nor did it seem commercially viable on such a small plot. And as it turned out, ambitions for the aquaponic farm fell by the wayside too.

Our new direction started one night with a knock on the door, two years later after much work on the home. A young woman stood before us asking if we would consider boarding horses in the backyard. She gestured toward the street where two cowboys sat on horses under a street lamp.  We were delighted to suddenly meet new people and new horses! The cowboys introduced themselves and explained their situation. Numbers were exchanged along with a promise to think it over. After a few short days we agreed that Bubba, Perris, and Jazz could stable on the property for 6 months until construction of the aquaponic greenhouse began.

Before long, 6 months became 36 months. One of the cowboys taught at Southwest College in the TRIO program and was active in the community. He encouraged us to use our skills teaching others. Our new friend introduced us to members of The Hill Foundation, an organization of Black cowboys who mentor youth and demonstrate positive alternatives to gang challeges.

Being newcomers and the only white residents of Richland Farms, the privilege that we carried was put to a test and put to use. Responding to the needs of the community shaped a mission statement and a way forward.  We’ve been very fortunate and wanted to give back, and realized it would be much more interesting growing people instead of lettuce.

Moonwater Farm came to life, acquired goats and chickens, loosened the neglected soil, and gradually took on roles of leading workshops and school groups through an ever-expanding curriculum.

A summer program called Farm Camp was started in 2016 where youth, ages 9-14 attend weeklong day camp. And recognizing the important role that beauty plays in our overall wellbeing we include art making along with food prep, nutrition, animal husbandry, compost making, and field trips to LA’s wild parks and shorelines. With his construction expertise, Richard teaches basic woodworking and design.

Partnering with organizations such as RootDown LA, Long Beach Fresh, Hands In The Soil, CaliFarmer, and Compton Junior Posse widened our scope. We enlist the help of myriad volunteers as well as the services of community professionals, who help expose students to a range of ideas and possibilities.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We are a social enterprise business, not a non-profit, and have struggled with a small budget, and volunteer staff. To help offset costs of our programs the farm raises money by hosting events such as weddings, house concerts, chef-driven sit-down meals, fundraisers and community-based craft markets. Scholarships and sliding-scale tuition are always on offer for these events as well as farm camp in order to provide access to all that we offer.

We are always seeking donors for Farm Camp scholarships. As we continue to grow and expand, we meet more individuals who are prepared to support the farm financially and  others who enhance our vision with theirs.

Moonwater Farm – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our micro-farm is an urban sanctuary that provides space and education to youth and residents interested in land stewardship, collective community building and healing, art, and social justice.

Collaboration is at the heart of what we do! We support community members that have traditionally been marginalized and denied access to land and resources. This work in the food system fosters community resilience and honors land stewardship. And having livestock in the city is definitely unusual.

We are proud to be members of a Los Angeles Food System that works to eliminate food apartheid and build conscious consumerism mindful of how we treat land, workers, and animals.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
For me, it’s about relationships with family, friends, community, animals, and the land. When these are thriving, so am I, success for the farm means opening up conversations about access to land, land stewardship, race, and sustainability.

Success for the farm means opening up conversations about access to land, land stewardship, race, and regenerative practices that fuel healthy people, ecosystems and social systems.

When we can honestly say we helped contribute to increasing prosperity for all, reducing consumerism and feeding the soil, then we will have achieved something important.

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