Produce stand funds college for Willow twins
Summer vacation means a leisurely break for most kids. For McCrae and Micheala Vitek-Mills, it’s a time to put in several months of hard work in their garden.
“After you get everything into the ground you have a short window to go somewhere and do things,” McCrae said. “Then you have to start weeding and weeding and weeding.”
What started as a small, backyard garden has turned into a full-time operation for the sisters.
“I’m older by one minute,” McCrae said.
The 14-year-old fraternal twins will be freshmen at Houston High School this fall.
They said people are always asking them about their relationship with each other.
“’Do you like being twins?’ Uh yeah, occasionally,” McCrae laughed. “Yeah we have our moments.”
“We get a long okay. We do have our moments,” Micheala echoed.
Those moments of disagreement weren’t enough to keep them from becoming business partners.
The girls started a company called Chaga Chicks, selling dried mushroom powder people like to make into tea.
They also grow and harvest about two dozen varieties of vegetables for their farm stand and sell hundreds of pounds of beets to 203 Kombucha in Palmer.
“We know we have to be here and it’s a big deal because there’s a lot of work that has to be put in it otherwise it won’t grow. And if you had a bad year you have to give it more maintenance,” McCrae said. “It gives us a lot of responsibility.”
Their dad, Bryan Mills, is a custom log furniture maker and former Iditarod musher.
“I was on the trail when these two were born. I was in Takotna doing my 24-hour layover,” Mills said.
His daughters started working with him at a young age. He’s happy they’ve expanded their entrepreneurial skills by taking on the daily grind in the garden that used to be part of his dog lot.
“I’m proud because they take the initiative to do a lot of things on their own. I don’t even have to tell them,” Mills said.
The girls have been running the farm stand since they were about seven years old. The money they raise goes into their college fund.
“I’m definitely going to get a degree in agriculture, that’s the one thing I know,” McCrae said.
Micheala said she wants to take a road trip with her sister after graduation but is undecided on a college major. “I was thinking of doing furniture with my dad for a little while, thinking about what I would want to do.”
Every Wednesday throughout the summer you can find the Chaga Chicks farm stand set up along the Parks Highway in Willow.
It’s an opportunity for the locals to stock up on low-priced produce and gives the girls a new skill set.
“Meeting new people, that’s kind of cool and it teaches us how to be independent in business,” Micheala said.
With school just around the corner, the girls said they’re sort of excited for class to start. But they’d rather be in the garden.
“It’s a lot more fun than doing schoolwork,” Micheala said.
In the meantime, they’ll continue their harvest, putting every dollar toward their future.
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