View from Crescent Moon Acres: How one New Jersey woman found her dream life in Phil Campbell
“My whole life, I always wanted a farm,” explained Tanya Capalla of Crescent Moon Acres, her 22-acre farm on Cuba Ridge Road in Phil Campbell. “I just like making things grow, and I love animals. I like meeting new people.”
Capalla describes her farm as “basically organic.”
“I’m not certified organic, but I’m working on that,” she explained. “No chemicals are used on any of the vegetation, and all the fertilizer comes from the animals. Nothing is wasted. Whatever vegetables and all that I have leftover go right back to the animals. “
She’s been in Phil Campbell for five years now, having lived in New Jersey for more than 40 years before that. “I couldn’t afford a farm there,” added Capalla. “The taxes alone are crazy.”
A licensed practical nurse, Capalla got divorced after a 25-year marriage and worked three nursing jobs to save up the down payment for a house and land to work on making her dream farm a reality. “I found a nice realtor who searched around for me and found a job and house, and here I am. There are more neighbors here than in New Jersey, and there’s more of a sense of community here.”
She’d had little gardens before, but “never done farming per se – certainly not at the scale I’m working now.” Capalla said she’s having fun learning as she goes and seeing where the journey takes her. “People stop by, and they love to tour around the farm. We get compliments all the time about what a great job we’ve done and how amazing it is how we’ve built on it from where we started.”
Capalla said her most popular item are eggs from her Rhode Island Reds. Tomatoes have also been a popular seller this year. Pear honey, made from the pears of her own pear tree, is another crowd pleaser.
She now works as a travel nurse at different facilities, spending the rest of her time on the farm. After she’d been in Phil Campbell for a year, her son Blake Mason, joined her; they work the farm together.
With a growing number of fruits, vegetables and animals, there’s always something going on to keep them busy. Among the many animals on the farm are goats, chickens, Flemish giant rabbits, pigs, horses, geese, ducks, a turkey and guineas.
Some of the standouts include Jeffrey, a female goose her son found while they were at a flea market in Mississippi. Jeffrey got her name from Capalla’s favorite movie, “Charlotte’s Web,” which includes a gosling named Jeffrey.
They raised Jeffrey in the house until she got her feathers and could stay outside, where she now lives with a second goose, Jocelyn, and some ducks. “She’d go outside and swim in her little pool and run right back inside the house and walk around the kitchen as pretty as she pleased,” Capalla said. “She also played with the dogs.”
Jeffrey had to learn to defend herself, though, from the guard cats. “One of my cats, Sebastian, used to pounce on Jeffrey until she got big enough to turn around and bite him.”
Sebastian is a black and white cat, and also on the team of farm cats are a white cat, Aphrodite, and Morris, a recent visitor-turned-occupant.
Wildfire is a Paint Horse, and there’s Breezy, and the skittish pony, Precious. “I don’t know her history. I don’t even know how old she is,” Capalla said. “I bought her in Tennessee. You can’t even catch this pony. I’ve been trying to work with her.” Although Precious isn’t comfortable being around people, she enjoys spending time with the horses. “I’ve had Wildfire since he was born, and I’ve had Breezy for six years. I got Precious two or three years ago.”
The back part of the property boasts a catfish pond. “Pretty much my whole property, where the gardens are, is irrigated with water from the pond,” Capalla explained. She’s also in the preliminary stages of installing a koi pond near the house.
Mason’s pet tortoise Shiloh and dog Alexis are also part of the crew keeping life busy at Crescent Acres.
Walking around the farm, there’s plenty to see in every direction. “I have fruit trees everywhere,” said Capalla. “There’s also a vineyard, mostly with muscadines, but some vines have Concord grapes. It looks like there’s going to be a lot of them on there again this year.”
There’s something to eat “almost everywhere you go on the farm.” One unusual item is the cucamelons. They look like tiny watermelons but taste like cucumbers. “You can just pick them and eat them,” added Capalla, “or put them in a salad. Not too many people have heard of them around here, but most people like them when they finally try them.”
She has Sugar Baby melons, a variety of watermelon. “They’re very sweet and have a lot of seeds,” she explained. “They get to be about the size of a basketball.” She also grows peppers, including tabasco, as well as potatoes, kiwi and blueberries.
They started growing sunflowers last year, and Morning Glories line the sidewalk.
With an eye toward tropical plants, “I’m hoping to get a greenhouse before too long,” Capalla noted. “Some of them can’t survive the winter here.” For now, a converted sunroom in the house serves as a growing room, with special lights. “A greenhouse would be a better setup,” she added. “Everything I sell is going toward the purchase of a greenhouse.”
Gourds are growing right now, and Capalla said she hopes when they are bigger and dry out in the fall, she can invite families to visit and paint them. “It’s my first time growing gourds, so we’ll have to see how it goes.”
She said she’s also hoping to offer goat milk and goat cheese in the future. “We’re trying to get a specific breed for that.”
Recently, she started making and selling barbecue sauce. “We planted 368 tomato plants, and we’ve harvested a lot of them. We sold a lot of them, and I canned some and made sauce out of crushed tomatoes and cooked the juices down and made barbecue sauce. I took the seeds and skins from the tomatoes I strained, and I dehydrated that and pulverized it. The tomato powder is just a seasoning you can get.” She said she’ll make more barbecue sauce from any tomatoes that go unsold at the end of the season.
Crescent Moon Acres is a recognized farmers’ market, so Capalla can accept payments with an SFMNP card, part of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program. While she can accept the payment on her farm, she can’t yet use it at the farmers market in downtown Phil Campbell.
For more information, follow Crescent Moon Acres on Facebook, text 862-266-7681 or visit the farm on Cuba Ridge Road in Phil Campbell.