Philippi farm promotes healthy eating lifestyle

Mountain Hollow Farm’s cultivated acres are chemical-free, environmentally friendly and tucked away above Alderson-Broaddus University’s new football stadium in Philippi.

Ellie Cronlund and David Ahrend are married to their 40 acres of earth and to each other, with Ellie inheriting the farm from her parents, who settled it in the 1940s.

“It went from a hobby to a full-time job,” David Ahrend. “This is our passion, providing West Virginians with healthy food.”

Currently, the couple is farming seven acres of their total acreage, but future expansions will continue their organic, pesticide-free practices. The farm is not currently certified organic due to the amount of paperwork involved for such certification, the couple said.

“In 2000 my arthritis was so bad I went to a shaman in Peru,” Ahrend said. “I studied with the shaman and started eating organic. The more I worked with plants (farming) the better I felt.”

As a result, the couple raise medicinal plants and herbs such as elderberry, tulsi holy basil tea, spearmint, lemongrass, sage and stinging nettle mostly for their own use, although they do sometimes sell them at local farmers’ markets.

A byproduct of the trip was a red-stemmed spinach plant called Malabar that Ahrend found in Panama, and grows on trellises, unlike conventional spinach that flourishes close to the ground.

“We do a lot of odd plants,” Cronlund said.

“We’re more interested in what’s good for you,”Ahrend said.

Unusual vegetables they raise include burgundy beans, chocolate peppers and red okra.

Eating red vegetables which contain phytochemicals such as lycopene and anthocyanins have been shown to help reduce the risk of several types of cancer, including prostate cancer.

The couple also grow traditional crops like beets, corn, cucumbers, green peppers and tomatoes. Another hard-to-find crop they farm is sorghum. An important crop used for food worldwide, as grain or sorghum syrup, it is not readily available in the U.S.

Their chickens are free range and are rotated throughout the farm in a portable chicken coop. Two guinea hens named “the boys” roam about keeping the bugs down. Water for the farm is supplied by a 65,000-gallon tank.

Cronlund brings produce to the healthy conscious at the Bridgeport, Buckhannon, Elkins and Morgantown farmer’s markets.

Like many small farmers they have other jobs. Ahrend is a chiropractor at the Eagle Family Chiropractic & Wellness Center, and Cronlund is a massage therapist specializing in Swedish and deep tissue massage.