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CCR Gardens offers fresh produce to families, community
Megan Resnik, sons Carter and Cole, and husband Kevin are the proprietors of CCR Gardens, an urban farm located in the city’s Haler Heights section. (Emily Pidgeon photo for Tube City Almanac)
“Most people have no idea where their food comes from,” says Kevin Resnik of Haler Heights.
But he and his wife, Megan, do. So do their sons, Carter, 7, and Cole, 3.
The Resniks operate CCR Gardens, which is entering its second year of providing McKeesport and surrounding areas with homegrown, organic produce fresh from the Resniks’ hoop-style greenhouses. The garden is named for Carter and Cole Resnik.
Longtime residents and graduates of McKeesport Area School District, the Resniks presently farm about one half-acre of their property and follow the bio-intensive method of gardening.
In bio-intensive growing, Kevin Resnik says, “there is emphasis on nurturing and building the soil through carbon sequestration — utilizing compost, cover-cropping, keeping the soil protected, and nutrient-mineral additions, to be able to produce large harvests on a small scale, using all-natural methods.”
No synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are used on any of the produce grown at CCR, the Resniks say.
By day, Kevin Resnik is a registered professional engineer at GAI Consultants in Homestead. He graduated from Penn State with a bachelor's degree in agricultural and biological engineering.
Together, the Resniks grow a wide variety of vegetables, greens and herbs and offer their produce to the public during Renziehausen Park’s weekly farmers markets, as well as community-supported agriculture, or CSA, boxes that are sold to 20 families each week who purchase “shares” at the beginning of the year.
Customers “buy into the farm early in the season and receive a box or bag of fresh produce weekly,” Kevin Resnik says. The CSA boxes are distributed throughout the growing season and supply a family of four with one week’s worth of fresh produce.
The contents of the boxes change weekly depending on what’s in season at that particular time.
(Submitted photo courtesy of the Resnik family)
In addition to CSA Boxes, customers are able to purchase produce from CCR at the Renzie farmer market, which is scheduled to open for the season June 13 behind McKeesport Fire Station No. 2 on Tulip Drive. In addition to accepting the traditional forms of payment, CCR accepts PayPal, Venmo or any major credit card.
They also have a “Farmers Club” gift card program that gets you extra discounts. “We have an Online Market that can be used to pre-order products for pickup on Saturdays or delivered for a small fee,” Kevin Resnik says.
Additionally, CCR accepts the Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks, which are distributed to WIC recipients and senior citizens by request through the county’s Area Agency on Aging.
Selling seedlings is another way CCR provides produce to our local communities. Each spring Kevin and Megan Resnik raise roughly a thousand seedlings to sell to the public. These seedlings are ready to be directly planted in gardens and containers for customers to grow their own tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, zucchini and herbs all season long.
This year’s sale was especially quick to sell out, possibly due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and residents eager to plant their own gardens for a convenient food source.
Both Resniks say they’d always wanted to be farmers but also wanted to be close to home. Keeping long hours goes hand in hand with operating a community garden, but the Resniks say they have a great sense of pride in their work.
Sons Carter and Cole both enjoy growing the plants, as well as maintaining them. “We have a family motto of 'get you hands dirty every single day’,” Kevin Resnik says.
With only about an acre of land available at their home on the border between McKeesport and White Oak, the Resniks knew their dream of having a urban farm would need a lot more space.
There was a 15-acre parcel behind their home and they decided to approach the then-owner, James Fawcett, but it took them almost two years to work up the courage to ask, Megan Resnik says.
They didn’t need to worry, she says. Fawcett recognized the family had a vision and agreed to a sale on the spot.
A portion of the Resnik family’s farm and greenhouses. (Submitted photo)
While farming and raising their sons are top priorities at CCR, the Resniks also enjoy giving back to the community in many ways. Each year they donate a portion of their profits from seedling sales to Walk MS in honor of Kevin Resnik’s mother, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2016.
They also recently donated seedlings to the McKeesport Community Garden to be planted in their garden boxes.
The Resniks also have partnered with local beekeeper John Yakim, owner of Yakim Apiary, and have several bee boxes placed near their greenhouses on farm property to help pollinate plants.
“We met John last year when we were looking to add bees on the property and it’s been a growing partnership ever since,” Kevin Resnick said. “John tends to the bees and the bees help to pollinate our crops as well as any flower they can get to within a three-mile radius.”
One added benefit is that the bees are able to collect nectar from a different variety of flowers. Honey made in the hives on the farm at CCR are sold at the Renzie farmers’ market or on the CCR website as “John’s Other Honey.”
Kevin Resnik, Carter and Cole Resnik and John Yakim observing bee-box frames. (Submitted photo)
When asked if Kevin and Megan Resnik believe their sons will eventually follow in their footsteps and take up running the farm, both agreed the boys have shown a real interest in it.
“I imagine Cole is one of very few 3 year olds who knows most of the different types of plants we grow by sight, can pick out which are weeds, and isn't afraid to get in there and pull them,” Kevin Resnik says.
Older son Carter appears to be more of a thinker. “He is really starting to be interested in the intricacies of different varieties, how we harvest and wash and pack, and also sell the produce,” Megan Resnik says. “He is always wanting to watch bee videos on YouTube and asks John (Yakim) lots of questions when we see him.”
Lettuce varieties in the greenhouse at CCR. (Emily Pidgeon photo special to Tube City Almanac)
Do the Resniks play favorites when it comes to growing a crop?
“Asking market gardeners [what] their favorite crop is, [is] like asking grandma who her favorite grandchild is!” Kevin Resnik says. But he adds that while he will always have a love for growing tomatoes and peppers, he enjoys the challenge adding new plants and making their produce marketable.
Sons Carter and Cole enjoy strawberries, tomatoes, corn and peas, and while Megan Resnik says her favorites change each year, she’s fond of carrots and tomatoes.
Growing crops, running a farm and profitable business, working full-time and raising children is no easy task. Kevin and Megan Resnik say they’re grateful for help they’ve had from their families in building their dream.
“Our family has been so supportive in everything we have done so far and we really don't think we could be where we are without their help, guidance, and support — we really want to thank them all especially both of our moms and dads,” Kevin Resnik says.
Emily Pidgeon is a freelance writer from McKeesport. She may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published June 04, 2020.