Meet the Modern Farmer: Casey McAuliffe and Alex McPhail

Alissa Hessler

Moon Dog Farms
Santa Fe, Texas

In 2009, Casey McAuliffe and Alex McPhail ditched their day jobs—she taught at an arts preschool; he helped organize the Austin Film Festival—and made their way from Texas to upstate New York, where they WWOOFed on an organic farm. “We wanted an adventure,” says McAuliffe, 30. “We’ve always thrived outdoors, and suddenly it was our job to go outdoors. That was a huge, delicious shock to the senses.” After a detour to North Carolina, where McPhail studied sustainable agriculture, the couple returned to Texas four years later.

This time, the road trip ended at 100 fallow acres his family owned 20 miles outside Galveston. After restoring an existing orchard, the couple added rows of carrots, kale, okra, and a dozen or so other crops, eventually selling the produce, plus fresh-cut flowers and chicken eggs, to restaurants in Galveston and at the town’s farmers market.

“We work harder than we ever have, but we still love the fresh air and the proximity to nature’s little miracles,” says McAuliffe, who, with 31-year-old McPhail, has begun hosting elementary school students at the farm. “The kids pull on this feathery green thing, and they’re astonished when a carrot pops out of the ground,” she adds. “I want to grow as many damn carrots as I can to help teach those kids.”

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Meet the Modern Farmer: Casey McAuliffe and Alex McPhail