by MaryAnne Block
Agustin and Christine Luna Munger could envision their perfect dream farm years ago. They even had a picture of their dream hanging on the wall. And now, after several years and several moves, they have come closer to reaching their dream – just outside of St. Joseph.
Christine grew up in South Dakota and moved to Granite Falls during her teen years. She received an under-graduate degree at the College of St. Benedict after majoring in theology and peace studies. She and Agustin, originally from a farming area in Mexico, met in St. Cloud.
After they married, they lived in several urban settings. They even spent three years in Florida while she obtained her doctorate in practical theology. Friends thought they were crazy, leaving Florida for frigid Minnesota, but they followed their hearts. They moved back to the St. Cloud and Twin Cities area. They never gave up on wanting to own some land where they could be close to nature.
Christine worked for several years at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, while Agustin worked in the Twin Cities as well.
In the spring of 2018 they agreed to move because Christine had been offered a job at St. John’s University at the House of Prayer. There, she oversees several employees and various activities, besides teaching at CSB and SJU. At the undergraduate level, she teaches Benedictine Spirituality in the Theology Department. At the graduate level, in a program called Emmaus Institute, she has taught New Testament, Moral Formation and Introduction to Spiritual Direction – all in Spanish for adult learners.
Meanwhile, in their busy lives, that picture of their dream acreage still hung on the wall, beckoning them. They started architectural plans for a “dome home” in the spring of 2021, still not knowing where their land would be located. They knew they wanted to be in the country with a few outbuildings on a place on which to build an energy-efficient home. They looked for four years, finally focusing on acreage within 20 miles of her work at SJU.
They found the former Floyd Walz property, just south of St. Joseph on CR 51. He had been well known as a school-bus driver for many years, as well as for raising cattle. The property had been abandoned for nearly 20 years, but Agustin and Christine could see the potential they had been hunting for. They bought 12 acres, closing in March 2022.
They continued to rent an apartment in St. Joseph, along with their two children – Alex, 15, and Elisa, 11. Christine continued at SJU/CSB and the House of Prayer. By early 2023, Agustin stopped his daily commute to the Twin Cities, dedicating full time work to improving the acreage.
The first thing they did was to clear 10 of the buildings that were in a poor state of repair. They kept a number of larger buildings that were very usable. Clearing some of the land was next. Then the perfect location to situate their dream “dome home” was ready, and they contracted Brand Built Homes to do the construction.
The home is scheduled to be completed by the end of December. They are looking forward to the 2,142 square-foot living space. The upper level will have two bedrooms and a bathroom, plus a small den. A balcony will overlook the open living and dining room with ceilings the full height of the structure. The kitchen and master bedroom will also be on the main floor.
The dome home is very energy-efficient, with radiant floor heat (propane). They will also have a fireplace for burning wood. Their builder encouraged the installation of an HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system, mostly for humidity control.
“A dome home is super tight and very insulated,” Christine said. “The worst enemy of such a tight home is any moisture buildup. While we do not anticipate much use of additional heating or air conditioning, being able to control the humidity is essential.”
Besides low on-going maintenance costs, the dome structure initially requires about one-fourth the lumber and materials to build, compared to a traditional home.
Being a farmer at heart, Agustin has improved an area for chickens. They already have more than 300 hens, and daily they sell fresh eggs to the Flour and Flower Bakery and the Krewe restaurant, both located on College Avenue in St. Joseph.
Just before the recent snow, family helped complete the plastic covering of a new large greenhouse (hoop house) on their farm. They plan to grow fresh vegetables.
Agustin and Christine have a Facebook page if people want to keep updated on their progress: Tierra Luna Family Farm.
And what about that picture of their “dream farm” hanging on the wall? It’s still there, right beside a 1960s aerial view of Floyd’s homestead, given to them by Floyd’s nieces and nephews. There is also room for a third picture, once their “dream” vision comes completely true.