Emily Dickinson wrote many poems featuring bees (“a flask of dew—a bee or two— a breeze—a caper in the trees”) but she never penned a line that could outshine the buzzing, blooming beauty of Half Moon Farm, where beekeepers Brenda and Rob Calvert have created something far lovelier than a poem. “We wanted a little property to just, you know, have a little chunk of paradise,” says Brenda. With about 20 years of hard work and a love for their land and their animals—bees, chickens, sometimes pigs, a tiny gray tabby cat and two giant-but-gentle mastiffs named Myya and Misha—their farm has become exactly that.
In the late 90s, when the Calverts bought the property in Brush Prairie, it was practically nothing but potential. The acreage was entirely overgrown with blackberries that had vines reaching 20 feet up into the trees, recalls Rob, a Navy senior chief who served in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraq.
There was a house built on the land in the late 60s, but it had been empty for quite some time. “It was run down,” says Brenda, who worked for Clark College and as a veterinary technician. “There were bats living in the house!” To see the property required four-wheel drive and a lot of vision. “I think we fell in love with it because we knew there was work to begin with but we could see the bones,” she adds. They brought in pigs to clear out the blackberries and set about bringing their dream to life.
Long ago, Rob says, there was a sawmill on the premises, and some of the big old mill blades were still there. Portions of the land had been logged off, but there were plenty of native trees left, plus a sky-high cherry tree and a mammoth maple. Over the years, they planted more trees, including apple trees for cider making.
They brought in chickens, planted a garden and long rows of lavender, installed a koi pond and grew dahlias and irises. Rob constructed out buildings. They refurbished the house, furnishing it with treasures from Rob’s travels and cherished pieces from Brenda’s childhood. They kept the original Roman tile fireplace, now crowned with a honey-hued wood mantel made by Rob. The big kitchen window is perfect for birdwatching. Sometimes, notes Brenda, 10 or 15 hummingbirds will alight near the window at once. Rob mentions he has a soft spot for blue jays. Outside, wide decks offer elevated views of the woods, the pond and the fields beyond.
From the Navy to Bees
The bees didn’t come buzzing onto the farm until the mid-2000s, when Rob retired from the Navy. “Some friends of ours said, ‘Hey, you know, there’s this little beekeeping club, there’s about 20 in the club,’ and asked Rob if he wanted to maybe think about beekeeping,” says Brenda. After they got their first couple of hives going, they were hooked.
Today, the Calverts manage their own hives as well as working with other local beekeepers to extract, produce and sell a couple dozen varieties of honey including blackberry, meadow foam, and fireweed, plus unusual flavors like wild carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace), cinnamon, lavender, and vanilla. “All our honeys are raw.” says Rob. “We know the beekeeper that it came from—like the pumpkin or the wild carrot, we know exactly where it came from.”
Word quickly got out about the farm’s beauty, its wonderful natural products and environmentally friendly farming practices. Visitors flocked to Half Moon Farm when it was included in the Master Gardener tours, the Clark County Green Neighbors Natural Garden Tour, and the WSU Extension Harvest Celebration Day farm tour. Young couples wanted to take wedding photos amid the farm’s glorious blooms. “It just kept progressing more and more and more,” says Brenda. “The more we got into the bees, the bees got along with the flowers and everything.” It’s a harmonious, interconnected circle that starts with the Culverts’ commitment to caring for the land and the creatures who live on it.
“We’re salmon safety certified,” adds Brenda, “which is a big thing, at least to us!” That means they never use chemicals that could harm the water supply. They also keep up-to-date on sustainable farming methods through WSU’s Small Acreage program.
How did the Calverts come up with the name Half Moon Farm? A friend suggested something celestial. They considered Crescent Moon Farm, Harvest Moon Farm, and others. “I don’t know what made us think Half Moon,” says Brenda, “but I thought, you know, nobody will forget it!” She was correct on that count. When Half Moon Farm joined the original Vancouver Farmer’s Market on 6th Street, the name was a conversation starter—even if it sometimes meant good-natured teasing, like “How come it’s not a full moon?” and “Where’s the other half?” The Culverts take the joking in stride, though, because customers remember the name and keep coming back. It’s no wonder. Half Moon Farm truly is “a little chunk of paradise.”
Or, as Emily Dickinson famously asked, “What is—‘paradise’—who live there—are they ‘farmers?’” Yes, they are!
Half Moon Farm
14737 NE 159th St.
360-514-9223 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Farm Store hours: Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, or by appointment. It’s always a good idea to call ahead—the Calverts may be in the “back 40” or tending their bees!