Farm and Family History
Anne and Chuck Geyer met as recent college graduates, while working at the University of Maryland’s Research and Education Center on a USDA berry production study. In 1982 the newlyweds moved to Virginia and established a 60-acre berry farm on land owned by an old family in Tidewater, Virginia. They spent the next 25 years growing and marketing assorted berries and tree fruits, and raising their children–Pierson, Colleen and Mary Claire.
Guided by dreams of owning their own farm, Anne applied for and was awarded a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant in 2008 to start a berry farm. They selected Hanover County as the site for the new farm, thanks to its rich agricultural heritage and convenient access to large populations and transportation arteries. She initially leased 10 acres of land from Chuck McGhee’s Grainfield Farm, located along the banks of the historic Pamunkey River.
As these fields prospered and Richmond’s appetite for berries began to awaken, in 2011 the Geyers purchased 25 acres near Hanover Courthouse, already named “Woodberry Farm,” which has become the main campus for their farm.In 2012 the Geyers built a fruit packing shed and parking area adjacent to River Road. The shed multi-tasks with a commercial kitchen, walk-in freezer, refrigeration and farm office, enabling the Geyers to continue expanding production each season.
Having their own land fulfilled the dream all farmers share, and Chuck soon began building their “forever home” on the property. As Anne says, “I just have to keep pinching myself.” The family adds new plantings each season at Woodberry, where they currently grow red, black, and purple raspberries, more than 10 varieties of blackberries, plus peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, blueberries and cherries.
Inventing the Fruit CSA
Faced with a bumper crops of perishable berries ripening every day of the week, Anne soon launched her innovative “all fruit” CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Her 9-week pilot program in 2009 quickly evolved into today’s 20-week Full Season CSA program, which now has more than 500 members in three distribution areas.
The CSA program, emphasizes farm-direct support and weekday distribution, and remains the mainstay of the farm. Year-round financial support provided by the CSA members has enabled Anne and Chuck to build strong partner relationships with other area farmers and to help fulfill Anne’s dream of a summer-long “Young Worker Training Program.” This program enables area youth to gain first-time work experience, hands-on agricultural experience, and a deeper appreciation of their own food supply.
Paying It Forward
Aspiring farmers often feel that inherited land or resources are needed to start a farm. Agriberry Farm was founded with no land or working capital at the height of an economic downturn. The Geyers hope their success will inspire the start of more new Specialty Crop farms. The Geyers remain deeply grateful for the support of their long-time customers, family and the USDA grants that made their start possible.