Regenerative agriculture, urban farming, naturally grown certified, these are terms that define Courage to Grow Farms. Oftentimes people will leave careers to lead a life as an urban farmer.
Spokane natives, Phillip Moore, owner, and Shaneese Dunigan, CEO, of Courage to Grow Farms did that very thing. The couple run a small local urban farming business with operations in Spokane County.
Dunigan said the inspiration came from knowing that quitting their jobs to start a farm was the most courageous thing that could be done. She said the goal was “quite literally to have the courage to grow a farm.”
Having an interest in urban farming for a long time, the couple started following a bunch of YouTube video creators. One of these YouTube content creators was Curtis Stone, the urban farmer. His YouTube page, Off the Grid with Curtis Stone currently has 600,000 followers. Dunigan said that she bought Moore a book by Curtis Stone for Father’s Day, inspiring him to begin the urban farming journey.
Born and raised in Spokane, Moore and Dunigan grew up in the Hillyard area and had no farming experience. “We didn’t have gardens growing up, we didn’t know how to grow vegetables at all before we decided to start this endeavor.” said Dunigan.
Before beginning their farm venture, Moore was a former glazier, Dunigan, was a personal assistant. She also worked as a chef in Bellevue, Washington inspiring her love for culinary arts. Moore was working on the Macy’s building downtown when he decided to quit his job and become a full-time farmer.
The couple now live in Spokane and have four children, two of which are adults, living in South Carolina. After the two oldest children grew up, the couple decided that they wanted to break away from the traditional 9-5 lifestyle.
Dunigan became a nature-based educator, homeschooling the couple’s youngest children and teaching subjects, such as math on the farm. Dunigan, citing examples of how she homeschools her young children, said through daily farming and animal caretaking operations, the two girls have multiple opportunities to use math.
Moore said that this journey has not been without its challenges, such as farming through the winter. He said if considering doing something similar, it is best to “educate yourself, find someone in your area that knows about your climate, your region.,” Moore advised “Be very flexible, get a good education, and go for it.” Moore said one of his favorite quotes is “Nothing great comes easy.”
“We are both first generation farmers and becoming more and more sustainable every year, I think that is the true inspiration behind this.” Dunigan said. According to the couple, anyone can be an urban farmer with enough education, determination, and dedication. Dunigan said “We are considered regenerative agriculture and our style of farming is high intensity crop production,” meaning, to rotate crops up to six times a year instead of twice like a traditional farmer.
“We never, ever spray anything, no pesticides, no fertilizers.,” said Dunigan. Composting and bait cropping are methods used to deal with pests. Dunigan describes this method as, “share with nature style of farming.”
The farm is Naturally Grown Certified and no-till, leaving the roots and microbiome in the soil, improving the nutrient density of the soil, resulting in higher food nutrient density. Citing an example of growing microgreens, Dunigan said that broccoli sprouts contain 40 percent more nutrients than regular broccoli.
Dunigan said that they aim to be zero waste, so they reuse edible and inedible produce in ways such as canning, fermenting, animal feed, and dehydration. She said the farm also has their own composting system.
The goal is to produce enough food to feed two hundred people year-round on one acre. The couple also works in cooperation with We Feed Washington, which serves underserved communities. The couple also works with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, which hosts a food pantry for underserved communities.
She said teaching is also one of the goals and the farm will be hosting a farm to table community event the last week of October. This event is in collaboration with the new Spokane County Tech Culinary Arts Department chef, Cynthia Moore.
Cynthia strives to nurture her student’s relationship with food, educating them on farm to table cooking. Moore, along with her hospitality director, worked with students from multiple high schools to create a “farm to table dinner.” This unique dinner experience was at the Shriner’s Event Center on Saturday, October 22.
Speaking about current endeavors, Dunigan said the farm will be offering year-round farm to table bag service, beginning in January. Currently, there are two options for a “farm to table” bag of vegetables. Customers can purchase these vegetable bags twelve weeks at a time or for the entire year, Customers can pick up vegetable bags at one of multiple pick-up locations or have them delivered.
In the future, the couple want to provide a Bed and Breakfast farming experience and the space for local students to participate in farming internships. Dunigan would also like to offer a wellness retreat, inspiring whole-body wellness and proper breathwork.