A working organic farm helps kids to battle cancer and pursue missions to change the world.By Jennifer H. McInerney | Photography by Rosemary Tufankjian
On a sunny mid-summer’s day at Magical Moon Farm, in Marshfield, an idyllic childhood scene unfolds. Young friends take turns on a giant rope swing suspended from the branch of a towering tree. They whoosh through the air above a sweeping lawn—thrilled, enchanted and free.
But, for this group of children, such moments of freedom are rare and fleeting. Their days at Magical Moon Farm provide a welcome respite from their ongoing medical ordeals, whether they’re between cancer treatments, recovering from recent brain surgery or recharging their much-needed energy to battle any number of life-threatening diseases.
The farm offers these young people a special place of their own to rest, recuperate and relax—and perhaps most important of all—to simply be kids. Donna Green, the farm’s owner, explains that children with cancer and other serious illnesses are at the mercy of their disease; they are no longer in control of their lives. Consequently, they are often treated with the proverbial kid gloves, or cast aside as too fragile to play with other children. Magical Moon Farm has eclipsed such misconceptions and restored to these children their sense of worth, their youthful freedom and their dignity.
“When they come here, they can just be,” says Green, an acclaimed artist and author. “Magical Moon Farm lets them be kids again.”
The meandering property casts a subtle spell of serenity, with its expansive colorful gardens and dozens of lilting wind chimes swaying harmoniously in the ocean breeze. The jingling of bells from the collars of goats and the calls of a pair of peacocks punctuate the air without disturbing the overall tranquility.
Magical Moon Farm is a sanctuary, yes, but it’s by no means a hideaway for the kids who find their way here. On the contrary, their time on the farm enables them to connect more deeply with the earth, their innermost selves and each other.
On most days during the summer, some 25 children with varying diagnoses gather to engage in health- and spirit-boosting activities such as artistic and musical expression, confidence building, mind/body/spirit activities like meditation, tai chi and yoga, and healthy lifestyle approaches like proper nutrition.
As an outcropping of this magical environment, the kids also learn valuable lessons about becoming “earth-keepers,” as Green calls them. Here, they are fully immersed in a working organic farm that’s devoid of harsh chemical fertilizers and pesticides, where bees from on-site hives pollinate the crops. Tending the harvest together, they gain an understanding of how to respect and work in concert with the earth. Their involvement becomes a key ingredient to the flourishing gardens, and they enjoy the fruits of their labors on multiple levels.
To supplement the learning experience, Green invites visitors from the community to share their expertise and insights on how to overcome life’s obstacles, whether large or small. One recent morning, the Magical Moon Farm kids welcomed Kathleen Talarico, owner of Divine by Serendipity, who showed them how to concoct blends of essential oils with healing properties. Guided by Talarico, the children sniffed an array of scents, commenting on their reactions to each and then swapping and sharing the small bottles.
“Your body is telling you what it wants and needs to heal and be strong,” she explained to the group gathered around blue, aqua and purple picnic tables.
Talarico worked with each child to develop their own “signature” mixture of oils, designed to help them manage everything from anxiety to allergies.
Green has a keen and personal understanding of illness-related suffering, which enables her to relate effortlessly to the children who come to Magical Moon Farm. Her own struggles mirror theirs and the kids’ unrelenting hope and fortitude are a reflection of her own.
Green describes the birth of Magical Moon Farm as a response to a series of “life invitations” that ultimately forged her path.
“I arrived in a wheelchair,” says Green. “I had ovarian cancer and Lyme disease. I needed to put some balance back into my life.” Rather than wallow or sulk, Green embraced her circumstances with renewed resolve. “I found a mission in that challenge.”
When Green first toured the five-acre farm 22 years ago, she found herself atop the highest hill, gazing out toward the ocean. From there, she envisioned “a healthy nirvana” teeming with sprawling organic fruit and vegetable gardens for healing the body, winding paths for meditative walks and natural enclaves for quiet reflection and personal growth. “I could see children running around, happy and free,” she recalls.
Over the past two decades, Green and a slew of friends and community volunteers have transformed that initial inkling into reality.
Around every bend and beyond every hillock, there are, what Green calls “little nooks of mystique.” Shaded by a leafy arbor, Merwina’s Fairy Nook sparkles with glass globe ornaments and dangling vintage keys of all shapes and sizes. “These are the keys to unlocking the potential that’s hidden inside all of us,” says Green, passing through. Merwina’s Fairy Nook leads the way to the Fairy Forest, a wooded patch that’s furnished with miniature houses that the kids have constructed out of recycled and reclaimed materials.
The Great Hall Floor, located at the crest of a hill, has become a popular spot on Magical Moon Farm. Ricky Hoffman, a brain cancer patient from Scituate, collected heart-shaped stones for his friends and the stones are laid out along the circular foundation. When weeds shoot up between the rocks, Green and the children set to weeding—an exercise that serves a dual meditative purpose.
“As we weed, we talk about the things that don’t serve us that we can weed out of our lives,” she elaborates.
These special and sometimes hidden spots have taken shape naturally within the farm’s diverse topography. In some cases, they have quite literally arisen in response to individual needs and desires.
A wrought-iron spiral staircase sprouting from the main garden serves as an ever-present reminder of heartfelt wishes fulfilled. One afternoon last summer, a group of earth-keepers tended to the giant sunflowers that were growing skyward. Gino Vitale, now 14, paused from his task to admire the view from his perch on the stepladder. “I can see the ocean,” he proclaimed. ‘I can think up here. I can feel up here. I wish this ladder was always here.” Soon after, the spiral staircase permanently replaced the ladder, and Gino’s Flower Tower of Power soared to life. This endeavor, along with many of the projects that occupy places of distinction on these grounds, came about with the cooperation and generosity of donors and volunteers.
Throughout their days here, the kids are always accompanied by teenaged interns, who help support their missions. For Julia Gage, a 16-year-old intern from Marshfield, one of the most gratifying aspects of working at Magical Moon Farm is witnessing the children grow.
“It’s amazing when you meet a kid who really needs someone, and you can be that person,” observes Gage, who has returned to the farm for her fifth summer. “It’s all about kindness and flexibility, and being able to say ‘Yes!’ when that’s not something they’re used to hearing.”
Green points out that the kids’ commitment to battling their harrowing diseases qualifies them for the honor of knighthood. “We give them shields and swords,” she says. “They are fighting for their lives. This is not playtime for them.”
Nearly every aspect of Magical Moon Farm serves to uplift and inspire, cherish and respect, and educate and empower, but the simple truth of mortality is not ignored. In fact, it’s treated with reverence: hand-carved conifer sculptures have been “planted” throughout the property to pay tribute to the brave knights who have gone on to The Place Beyond Sadness. In this place, the tireless warriors have found rest and are relieved of all pain and suffering.
The farm stand at Magical Moon Farm, located just inside the doors of the barn, offers the season’s freshest produce as well as hand-picked herbs, fresh eggs from the farm’s resident chickens, dried fruits (“a healthy alternative to candy”), local honey, homemade jams, and other natural and organic treats. One morning in July, the farm stand table was laden with summer squash, zucchini, green beans, onions, beets, mixed greens, pea pods, raspberries, dill, sage, spearmint, rosemary, lemon balm and parsley.
And what’s better than farm-fresh fruits and vegetables? The knowledge that partaking in this bountiful harvest helps to strengthen the armor of an important cause, since all farm stand purchases support the Magical Moon Farm’s knights and their chosen missions. These missions are the kids’ earnest contributions to a healthier, happier planet—a legacy that will live on in perpetuity.
The mission of one knight, Lexie Williams, focused fully on food and resulted in the publication of “Lexie’s Gift: A Cookbook for Kids Living with Cancer.” Known as Sir Lexie, Legend of Love, Williams has undergone multiple brain surgeries and chemotherapy protocols to treat a brain tumor she has had since infancy. To help her fellow knights, she embarked on a quest to compile more than 120 recipes that provide the proper nutrition needed before, during and after treatment of cancer. These include ginger chicken soup with vegetable medley, bionic blueberry pancakes and Magical Moon energy bars, all of which are made with certified organic ingredients and address the specific “eating challenges” associated with the cancer journey.
In her own published words, Sir Lexie declares: “Some of the recipes in this cookbook boost our immune systems, some provide energy, some lift our spirits and help us build up our strength, some settle our stomachs or soothe our worries, and all just plain taste good.”
Williams’ efforts recently earned her a place at the table of First Lady Michelle Obama.
“There’s something auspicious about this property. Magical things happen here,” Green concludes.
For additional information or to support the Magical Moon Farm and Foundation, click here.