Appalachian Grown: Daystar Farm

West Virginia

NESTORVILLE, W.Va. – Picture it, almost a thousand acres of picture-perfect, green farm and woodlands — that’s Daystar Farm.

The family-owned and operated farm comprises about 400 acres of farmland. It’s run by husband and wife duo Mitch and Cathy Stemler, along with the help of one full-time employee. The Stemlers have owned the property for about 20 years, the last six of which they have dedicated to full-time farming.

The Stemlers, Cathy (left) and Mitch (right)

“We raise pastured pork, we feed non-GMO ration, and we grass feed and finish cattle, and we have some poultry and vegetables,” Mitch Stemler said.

The Stemlers will be the first ones to tell you that farming is not an easy career. However, farming is something they are passionate about.

It’s not just farming, but, also, doing things the natural way. Because at their core, the duo are conservationists who want to do things the natural way.

“Just for health reasons, you know, with the prevalence of cancer and everything you know, just going back to the way it used to be,” Stemler said. “We finish everything on grass, so it has a different fat make-up compared to when you finish on corn. And it’s just more healthy for everybody.”

Daystar’s approach to raising animals applies to the almost 200 heads of cows and calves, all the pigs and poultry.

They care for the animals as if they were family, but they care for the land, too.

“Yes, definitely and improving the land, you know, we’ve done a lot of things here,” Stemler said. “We work with the local NRCS, which is the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and they help us a lot in different programs to improve erosion and just better the farm.”

A better farm means better produce and meat products.

The animals are not just raised properly, but they are also slaughtered in a humane manner.

Pigs feeding on the farm

“Where we have these animals slaughtered, they do handle them very humanely,” Stemler said. “I’ve been to other slaughterhouses where they don’t treat the animals as the way they should.”

The mistreatment of animals is not a problem at Daystar. They don’t even process their meat with unnecessary chemicals. They just keep it simple and straightforward.

“When we process our food — like all of our sausages are made without nitrates,” Stemler said. “We try to do everything as natural as we can. We do the things that we can without sugar. You know, just try to make it as healthy as we possibly can.”

Daystar’s pigs and piglets eating and playing around

This pays off because the Stemlers said, often, they cannot keep up with the demand from customers.

Their products are loved and cherished by all their customers.

“Our food, I believe, is more nutrient-dense, like our pork is — the meat is red,” Stemler said. “It’s not white like, you know, they call the pork ‘the other white meat’, you know? I mean, like chicken. Because it’s out moving around in the fields, it’s grazing on plants, insects and it just builds muscle, more muscle. The fat is interlayered within that muscle, so it’s marbled nicely, and it has a different taste.”

Appreciation of Daystar Farm’s products became even more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stemler said.

Concerns about food availability, especially at the start of the pandemic, made many people flock to Daystar Farm.

“We did a lot of pre-orders, or back and forth on emails, you know,” Stemler said. “And we did drop-offs while the farmers market was closed. And then when it reopened, we used a website through the farmers market where people could contact us without, you know, doing in-person sales.”

Mitch Stemler in the and his pigs

Daystar sells its products at two farmer’s markets. One in Morgantown and the other in Philippi.

“We mostly use go through the Morgantown Farmers Market,” Stemler said. “We, also, work with some CSAs like Mountain Harvest Farms and Charm Farm over in Beverly. And then just through Facebook. But we’re so busy working, producing everything and taking care of the farm that we don’t have time to market it too many other ways, so it keeps us plenty busy.”

Anyone can buy Daystar’s produce at the farmer’s markets, or come to the farm to pick up their food.

Through these outlets, the Stemlers plowed their way through the initial brunt of the pandemic.

And now, the Stemlers are thinking of expanding their range from just farming to agrotourism.

According to The National Agricultural Law Center, “simply stated, agritourism could be thought of as the crossroads of tourism and agriculture.  Stated more technically, agritourism can be defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism in order to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors and generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner.”

“We’re in the process,” Stemler said. “We’re going to be building the road up to the top of the farm right now. It’s not an all-weather road. That’s in our plans, hopefully, by the end of this year, if not definitely next year. And we have purchased a building that we have, already, placed at the top of the farm, which is going to be a cabin, so we hope to do something like some agritourism. Even something, maybe, where people work on the farm, you know what I mean — experience that kind of vacation, that type of thing.”

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