BUTLER, Pa. — The seasons have changed and there is no doubt that as you approach Metrick’s Harvest View Farm & Market in Butler, you will find fresh cider available when you reach their market at the top of a hill. The oversized cider-jug sculpture setting next to the road lets customers know when Ken Metrick is pressing cider.
Inside Metrick’s farm market, you’ll see a first-place award above the sales counter that the farm won in January at an annual cider contest, part of the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Hershey.
Beginning in early October, Metrick began pressing cider two days a week — it is so popular at the market that pressing once a week didn’t provide enough to meet customers’ needs.
The Metrick family is the fifth owner of the cider press that dates back to 1884. Apples to make the cider come from the Metricks’ orchard trees, as well as from other orchards in the area.
Ken Metrick and his wife, Cathy, purchased their farm the fall before they got married. When the farm came on the market, Ken Metrick’s dad told him to buy it.
“Our farm is right beside the farm where I grew up,” Ken Metrick said. His dad knew the farm and knew that it would be good for the young couple starting out.
Ken Metrick always wanted to be a farmer. He raised beef and potatoes while he was a member of the Butler FFA chapter. He worked for a farm cooperative until 1995, when the co-op downsized and many employees were let go.
“That is when I started to farm full-time,” he said. “Besides growing vegetables for the market and our CSA, we raise some freezer beef, chickens for eggs, and in the summer, chickens for meat. Our girls have sheep.”
The farm grows most of the range of fruits, vegetables, eggs, honey, meats, and other offerings sold at the store, which is open year-round Mondays through Saturdays. Local dairy and cheese products at the market come from nearby farms.
At Thanksgiving, the Metricks also offer pre-ordered fresh turkeys grown by another farmer.
Each fall, Harvest View Farm hosts a farm festival for five weekends, beginning the last week of September and featuring everything from apples, pumpkins, potatoes and gourds to wagon rides, corn maze, fall decorations, doughnuts and popcorn. Many classrooms on field trips visit the farm throughout the fall.
The farm also holds an annual Christmas open house on the second Saturday in December.
As winter weather arrives, the Metricks keep the market open just Fridays and Saturdays, mid-January to April.
“We have to keep it heated, so we may as well be open,” Ken Metrick said.
Besides the market, the farm has had a CSA, or community-supported agriculture, program for 11 years. Each CSA member receives a weekly, half-bushel basket containing about $20 worth of seasonal produce.
“The CSA ranges from 60 to 80 participants,” Cathy Metrick said.
Though some CSA farms are struggling, the Metricks said their program continues to attract participants.
“Some years we have more than others, but we continue to have enough for the program to work,” she said.
As a season’s crops go out of production, Metrick plants cover crops to protect the soil for the next season. Using no-till methods, he typically plants a cover mixture of radish, triticale and crimson clover.
“It is too late now to plant the cover crop mixture. I will plant rye for the rest of the cover,” he said. “I like the rye cover for under the pumpkins. It keeps them cleaner.”
The Metricks usually hire a few employees to make sure they can meet customer demands at their market.
One of them, college student Robin Peters, is majoring in communications. She worked at the farm this summer, both in the fields and waiting on market customers.
Peters has been using her communications skills to create video clips of the farm for social media site Facebook. In a recent email message, she shared her thoughts about the farm.
“I love working at Harvest View Farms,” she said. “It’s such a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, and the Metrick family has taught me a lot in the short summer I’ve worked for them.”
Harvest View Farm will have a different look this spring. The Metricks plan to construct a storage building where they can keep greenhouse supplies and mix their greenhouse soils.
They also hope to be able to heat the storage area and cider press area behind the sales room.
“We want to be able to keep some of the produce in there without worrying about freezing,” Ken Metrick said.
The couple has two daughters, both graduates of Penn State, who work with agriculture and help out at the family farm when they can. Amy Metrick is a 4-H Penn State Extension educator in Butler County and Laura Metrick is an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser in the Conneaut Area School District.
Ken and Cathy Metrick are active in the community, supporting 4-H and other youth organizations. He serves on the board of directors of the Butler County Farm Show and on the board for the Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program. He and Cathy also are co-secretaries for the Butler County Farm Bureau.