Farmer Charley and Nana’s story is really a precious one to tell, so, let’s just start at the beginning …
Once Upon a Time
There was a boy named Charles Helwig who grew up on a farm. The Helwig family (carpenters, farmers and dairymen) came from Germany in the middle 1800s and settled in New Boston, Michigan. Little Charlie was born into a family of six children — oldest son of Edward and Mildred Helwig, who had a dairy farm. After Charlie’s birth, the family (needing a larger home) bought another farm on West Rd near New Boston — and began raising chickens!
The farm was home to more than 5,000 chickens — and they sold eggs to the famous Delray Bakery in Detroit when it was just beginning. Charlie worked on the farm with his siblings and helped care for the chickens — and helped his father on the egg route, selling fresh eggs to the bakery and other businesses in the area.
When Charlie was age 12, his father had an accident on the farm, losing one hand. So, it was necessary for his son to become the man of the house. He started his own little vegetable garden, selling his produce with the eggs for extra spending money.
Upon graduating from Huron High School, he went to college and then served in the Army with the MP Corps. After service to his country was completed, Charlie and his brother formed Helwig Brothers Farms and began raising grain crops. They were successful in farming over 4,000 acres of land.
A Fairy Tale Wedding
At age 47, Charlie met Margie (lovingly called Nana) at church and there was an instant spark between them. After a courtship of about 2 years, they married in 1999 in the church where they met. But — let’s find out about Margie!
Margie was one of four children born to John and Twila King in Toledo, Ohio. Farming was in her blood, as grandparents, Charles and Edith Rose, had owned one of the largest tree farms in Hornell, New York. She lived in Toledo until about the third grade when the family moved to the country — and she loved it! Margie grew up, married and had two children, moving back into the city again.
She worked for the Huron School District in the Transportation department for 18 years and suddenly decided to go back to school. Off she went to study massage therapy and eventually opened her own business. Anyone who knows her now, will verify that Nana “has the touch”! While helping to set up a church ‘hoedown’ weekend event, she encountered poor Charlie who had hurt his back. So, off came his shirt and while Margie was mending his muscles, she stole his heart. The rest is history!
Fix Farm becomes Kackleberry Farm
After the unexpected passing of Charlie’s brother, they sold the farm in New Boston and in 2003 bought the 48-acre Fix Farm in Monroe. It had been in the Fix family almost one-hundred years! The old farm house, built in the middle 1800s was desperately in need of repairs and the Helwigs joked that they were either going to fix the farm or it was going to fix them!
After a renovation of the house and farm buildings, Charlie and Margie had a chance encounter with a corn maze! After visiting a local maze, Margie’s daughter suggested that the Helwigs start one at their own farm. In thinking that families do not spend enough quality time together — they determined that they had just the right place to create a wholesome environment for family fun. So, Farmer Charley’s Corn Maze Adventures was born in 2005.
It started small without many amenities. In 2006, Margie found The MAiZE organization and attended their annual conference in Seattle, Washington. They joined. With the camaraderie and support of fellow farmers from across the country, Farmer Charley’s grew and grew.
In 2013, Charlie had heart surgery that left him and Margie with sobering thoughts about the future. They wanted to leave a legacy with the farm and realized that it was not just about “Farmer Charley and Nana”. So, they took up the name Kackleberry Farm from friends in Georgia who had sold their agri-tourism venture of the same name. Charlie feels that this is taking him full circle, back to the chickens and eggs from the farm of his youth.