MOUNT CHESTNUT, PA. — It started with potatoes.
Ken Metrick was around potatoes all his life. He grew up next to a potato farm. He raised potatoes for an FFA project.
“I like growing them, although they’re probably the most labor intensive thing you could grow,” he said.
That’s how Metrick’s Harvest View Farm and Market began in 1991. Ken and his wife, Cathy, bought a 28-acre farm in Mount Chestnut, a small village outside of Butler, Pennsylvania.
It’s since expanded quite a bit. Together with their two daughters, they grow almost every kind of vegetable you can think of, “except asparagus and rhubarb,” Ken said. They also raise a dozen varieties of apples, and an assortment of livestock throughout the year.
“It’s basically out of a love for agriculture,” Cathy said. “For Ken — this has been in his blood all his life. He can’t see himself doing anything else … We’ve all embraced it.”
When the Metricks bought the farm, Cathy wasn’t too keen on growing vegetables. She was a self-professed “city girl.”
“I said, ‘I don’t really like to garden, but I’ll can anything you grow,’” Cathy said. “Now, we have a 55-acre garden. I got over it real quick.”
The Metricks bought their farm from a distant relative shortly before they got married. They started with potatoes and sweet corn. After growing up on a dairy farm, Ken said that would have been his first choice but it was much easier to plant potatoes than build a dairy from the ground up. Things continued to grow, and now they farm a total of 55 acres, rented ground included.
The farming lifestyle — and the sometimes inconsistent money flow — was something for Cathy to get used to after working a steady job with a steady paycheck. Ken always worked in some ag-related field before going it on his own at the farm, and he never worried too much about how things would come together.
“[Ken’s] got a strong faith,” Cathy said. “We know that [God] will provide and he always has.”
They sold the vegetables out of their garage for several years before they built their on-farm store in 1996. The chickens came in 1995. They bought a laying flock so they could sell eggs.
The apple orchard went in a couple years after they started. They’re now up to more than a dozen varieties of apples, and they continue to plant. They also lease an orchard down the road.
In 2002, a neighbor was selling a cider press. They bought that and built an addition to their store to house it.
As their daughters, Amy and Laura, grew up, they started showing lambs for 4-H. The girls bought a starter flock of their own when they were in their teens. Now, they have about a dozen ewes and sell club lambs and finish some for the freezer.
Cathy said she was afraid she’d scare their daughters away from the farm. Not only do the girls continue to work on the farm, but they molded their career paths around agriculture.
Amy is the Butler County 4-H educator, with Pennsylvania State University Extension, and Laura is an agricultural education teacher and FFA adviser, at Conneaut Area School District.
In addition to the sheep, the Metricks also keep bees, to make honey. They also finish a handful of steers and hogs each year, to sell by the whole or half. Through the summer, they raise several batches of broilers on pasture. Around Thanksgiving, they sell turkeys, raised by another farmer nearby.
Harvest View Farm and Market carries not only products raised on the farm, but other local agricultural products like milk, cheese, maple syrup, fruit and jarred goods.
Doing a little bit of everything keeps the Metricks and their employees busy throughout the year. They have a team of about eight part-time helpers who help keep things running smoothly.
Luckily, the most labor intensive crops come in early in the growing season.
“The good Lord makes peas, strawberries and beans — things that are hard to pick — come early in the season,” Cathy said. “Later in the season, it doesn’t take many cantaloupe to fill a bin.”
After Labor Day, things really pick up. That’s when they begin picking apples to sell fresh or to make into award-winning unpasteurized cider. Their cider won the annual cider contest at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in 2018 and placed second several times.
“Fall is the worst,” Ken said. “You’re trying to pick apples, do potatoes and cider. We have field trips come in to do the corn maze and pick pumpkins.”
They press about 60 bushels of apples at a time, which makes around 70 gallons of cider.
“We make it twice a week because we can’t keep it on the shelves,” Cathy said.
Cider making goes on through the week before Christmas. They take a break for about 10 days after Christmas. Then the store is open weekends until things pick up again in the spring.
This past winter was the first time for a winter CSA, and it was well-received, Ken said. They’ve run a summer CSA for about 12 years. This is shaping up to be one of their bigger years, with about 80 participants. Work in the greenhouses starts in February. Trees in the orchard are pruned throughout the winter, weather-permitting.
This spring was a little different than most with the COVID-19 pandemic hitting in mid-March.
“We had a lot of people who didn’t want to go to big stores,” Cathy said. “People have been calling in orders.”
Customers could get curbside delivery from the Metricks’ store. All you have to do is honk your car horn when you arrive. Ken also started taking individual orders for Marburger dairy products, so people could avoid the grocery store.
Although things have slowed down since the height of the panic, people are still ordering.
(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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