The Charm Farm
Mike Kwasniewski likes his vegetables fresh, his beef organic and his chickens happy. The 24-year-old former philosophy major-turned-farmer runs the 260-acre Charm Farm with his mother Pam. The Beverly organic farm has 1,200 chickens, 120 cows and 15 hogs.
The Charm Farm is a Community Supported Agriculture farm. For more than 25 years, CSAs have been an increasingly popular way for communities to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Typically, a farmer offers a share or shares to the public. Interested consumers purchase a share (or membership or subscription), and in return, receive a box or bag of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
“A priority here on the farm is getting as many people as possible to eat locally,” Kwasniewski said.
The Charm Farm has a unique spin on the concept by providing an organic “whole diet” year-long CSA. In additon to several dozen types of fruit and vegetables, members can also choose from beans, dairy products, eggs and meat, including beef and chicken. The selections are available year-round with an emphasis on seasonal eating.
“Depending on your shopping habits, you could easily save $400 to $500 a month on your Kroger’s grocery bill,” Kwasniewski said.
Typically, CSA members or shareholders pay up front in the spring (usually $400-$600 per year) for a summer’s worth of fresh fruits and vegetables. The up-front payment enables the farmer to plan for the season, purchase new seed and make equipment repairs.
Not surprisingly, the Charm Farm’s year-round CSA is more expensive at $5,300 for an adult couple per year. For one adult, the cost is $2,800 per year. A payment is made at the beginning of the month.
Registration is available until the end of August, and it will resume again in May 2014.
Currently, the CSA has 11-member households or 22 adult members. The weekly pickup is on Wednesdays from 5-7p.m., and members can choose from bins of fresh produce and freezers of frozen beef and chicken.
“Everything is literally harvested today,” said Michael Kline, a CSA member from Elkins. “The food is amazing. There are no price tags, no scales, and you get whatever you think you can use. I’m like a kid in a candy store.”
Chickens are free range and sold whole. Cuts of Angus or Belted Galloway beef include T-bone and ribeye steaks, hoagie meat, round roast, short ribs, shanks, skirt steaks and chuck roasts.
“We feed six people,” said Mara Braegelmann of Elkins. “It’s real food. We know where it comes from. It’s good for the kids to see where food comes from, instead of the supermarket, and they get to chase the chickens.”
The farm also sells its produce at the Good Energy Center in Elkins and at the Elkins Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. In addition, its organic vegetables are purchased by several Canaan Valley restaurants.