Southwestern Pa. Correspondent
UNIONVILLE, Pa. — Rattlesnake Mountain Farm is the only officially recognized bicentennial farm in Centre County, and it was almost lost for a $5 bid.
The story, according to present owner, Charlie Hall, is that the farm was up for sale and his great-grandfather bid on it but had a limit set that he would not exceed. A local business man outbid him by $5. Then, with a twist of conscience and fate, the gentleman withdrew his bid allowing the picturesque place to remain in the Hall family.
The farmhouse where Charlie and his wife, Linda, live was built in 1882 and the barn in 1903. Son Mark and his wife, Melissa, live in a second house on the farm.
Today, Rattlesnake Mountain Farm consists of 250 acres farmed by Charlie, Linda and Mark. Melissa helps to market the meat products from the farm to a small cafe about two miles down the hill. All of the sausage and beef products offered there come from the Rattlesnake Mountain Farm.
With a dimpled smile and love of cooking, Melissa was more than eager to become a part of the team when the nearby cafe went up for lease. Frozen meat can also be purchased from a freezer at the Unionville Cafe, which she now runs.
Rattlesnake Mountain Farm raises five types of hogs — spotted, Yorkshire, Hampshire, Berkshire and Duroc, totaling 700. Charlie has been a hog farmer since he was about 9 when he began showing at local fairs. Over the years, he and Linda, a city girl by birth, have built the business to include markets in 17 states.
“We advertise, but most of our sales come from word of mouth,” he said.
They sell hogs locally for pig roasts for family get-togethers, anniversaries and weddings. Six or seven local churches purchase a couple of hogs to sell whole hog sausage as do some hunting camps.
“It takes a lot of years to build up your clientele,” Hall said. “But if you are honest with your customers and give them a good product, word spreads. You have to look for the niche markets, and you don’t build a business in a year or two.”
All the hogs are taken to slaughter shops where they are USDA inspected.
In the recent down market, the Halls have actually had several of their best years and Charlie credits it to constant marketing and good customer relations.
The Halls also show their hogs at fairs, state events and the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Call up Rattlesnake Mountain Farm on the Internet, and a long list of winning ribbons, banners and trophies appear. Charlie is particularly proud of his spotted hogs, which he feels are often cast aside by the judges. Seven Hall grandchildren do a lot of the showing.
Charlie primarily takes care of the marketing, Linda oversees the farrowing, and Mark does the rest. Constant manure removal is evident, and it is used to fertilize the fields.
“We spend very little on fertilizer,” Charlie said.
The Halls raise about 98 percent of their own feed.
They also have about 24 lambs they pasture-feed and sell as grass grazers. About 30 Seminole beef cattle are sold privately to local folks.
Linda has a fun herd of miniature donkeys, including three jennys and a jack.
With a love for kids and passing on his knowledge of farming, Charlie helps with the Centre County 4-H Sausage Stuffers Club and is active with the junior livestock sale.
The Halls will be active participants in the Centre County Club Pig, Lamb and Goat Sale on April 23. Other pig participants will be Koegel Show Pigs, and Jon and Marissa Bartley. MSB Suffolks will be selling lambs, and Aaron’s Sunny Goat Farm, goats.
For more information, contact Charlie Hall at 814-355-1647.