The seeds for Moon Dog Farms, the massive urban garden at 333 22nd Street that's run, in part, by the Mercury Cafe, were sown during a walk in the park.
"Milan Doshi, the owner of the Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast, and I run into each other all the time in the park across from where the farm is," says Marilyn Megenity, who owns the Mercury. "He started Five Points Fermentation and then connected with Produce Denver [an organization devoted to helping Denver create sustainable urban gardens all over the city] to start a garden for his bed and breakfast, and he asked if I wanted to be involved."
Megenity said yes, and at the beginning of the summer, she planted the majority of the 10,000 square feet of beds. Later, she also put in irrigation, which has improved what she's getting from the soil this year and will have a major effect on produce planted next year.
"We've gotten good yield this late summer," says Megenity, noting that the kale, collard greens, spinach, okra, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes on the menu at the Mercury are all still coming from the garden. "I was glad it didn't freeze this weekend."
Once the weather does turn, she'll harvest the rest of what she has and stock it for the cold season. "I buy from local farmers that I know, anyway, and I'm putting up their produce now," she explains. "I preserve it and freeze it so we don't have to get it from California in the winter." She'll do the same with what comes from her farm, and Five Points Fermentation will do some pickling and canning, too.
Megenity did much of the farming herself this year, with help from Mercury Cafe employees and Produce Denver. "Nick Gruber [of Produce Denver] went to school for farming, so he was a big help," she says. One thing she didn't do, however, was accept volunteers: "I think people should get paid for their work."
Moon Dog does, however, accept visitors to the farm -- and aside from Doshi's canning and pickling and Megenity's menu inclusions, the public may eventually be able to taste what's coming from the soil by buying produce from a Produce Denver farm stand. Those fruits and veggies won't be coming from Mercury's beds, though: "Mercury will use everything we can grow," says Megenity.
The team plans to up the ante next year. "The garden will yield more next year since we've spent the year improving the soil," predicts Megenity. "And we're planting crops that we can't buy so much. The only organic okra I've ever seen is what's coming from the garden. We'll plant tomatillos and more tomatoes. I'm a compulsive seed planter already."