Mountain Harvest Farm sows the seeds for a season of fresh vegetables with a subscription-based produce service.
Erin Leatherman loves to roast root vegetables, blend fresh strawberries into smoothies, and chop freshly picked tomatoes for salsa. That’s just a few of the dishes Leatherman makes with produce from Mountain Harvest Farm. “The vegetables are delicious, and the variety provided allows us to experiment with new recipes,” says Leatherman, an assistant professor at WVU.
Mountain Harvest Farm is operated by Mary Oldham and her husband, Francisco “Chico” Ramirez. The couple grows crops on 5 acres of land just off Goshen Road; subscribers sign up for weekly or biweekly pickup through the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. “Customers know they’re going to have a source of the freshest products in the area because they are all cut the day of delivery,” Oldham says.
Oldham and Ramirez, who also sell their produce at local farmers’ markets and to area restaurants, launched Mountain Harvest Farm in 2013. This is the fifth season that customers have been able to drive out to the land and pick up bins that contains six to 10 items. Customers can sign up for full weekly shares or half-shares to pick up every other week for either 22 weeks or 20 weeks. The program runs from May through mid-October. Full-share customers pay $480—or $530 for the additional two weeks—and half-share customers pay $265. As of late May, the couple packed an average of 70 boxes a week.
Morgantown native Oldham met Ramirez—a lifelong farmer—when she was serving in the Peace Corps in Honduras. After moving back to Morgantown, the couple began renting land at Owl Creek Farm in 2012, which had been a pick-your-own strawberry farm for 30 years.
This summer, customers can find a wide variety of vegetables in their boxes. Lettuce, spinach, turnips, kale, carrots, beets, and broccoli can grow in this area’s cooler climate at the beginning of summer and will be in the boxes for the first few weeks. Strawberries are another early crop. For the rest of the summer, produce includes tomatoes, peppers, squash, and zucchini. Oldham and Ramirez also add items from other local farms, including dried pinto beans and organic raspberries.
In the future, Mountain Harvest Farm would like to grow more on a year-round basis, “so that our community has access to healthy products in the winter and not just in the typical growing season here,” Oldham says. The couple also follows organic standards, avoiding chemicals and other synthetic substances used to promote growth and kill insects. They are working toward obtaining an organic certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “That is the most healthy food that we can provide,” Oldham says.
That appealed to Leatherman and her husband, Perry, who joined Mountain Harvest Farm because they did not have space for their own garden when they first moved to Morgantown. “We appreciate knowing where our food is grown,” she says.