Interview with Farmer Anne Geyer
How long have you been farming?
I have been farming since Fall 1982 when hired by an absentee landowner to establish and manage a profitable berry farm in Virginia. By 2005 I knew I wanted to find a way to have a berry farm that could hire motivated youth to harvest the summer berries and be funded by one of the nations first fruit-only Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. By 2008 I founded Agriberry Farm and CSA with this mission on 10 acres of rented ground along with 25 acres of purchased land near Richmond, VA.
What is your mantra as a farmer?
Agriberry : Cultivate A Taste For Life or "Eat More Berries" in reference to the healthy benefits of a diet high in the antioxidants specifically found in berries.
How long does berry season last in Virginia?
May into October, pending fall frosts. Although now with high tunnels and cultural practices with new primocane varieties, a light harvest into December is possible.
Can you share an interesting fact about berries that most people don't know?
Worldwide there are now dozens of scientists investigating the amazing interactive dynamics of consuming an array of colorful berries for improving health factors in vascular, gut, brain activity, aging, and cancer prevention.
How do you view your role in your local community?
I view my role in the local community as a unique leader in health and sustainability specifically in sharing the health and nutritional properties of farm direct berries/fruits. The other factor is having a local youth-based work force of up to 60 people in the summer months and knowing Agriberry is helping in a very direct way to support the local economy.
How would you describe your relationship with the land you farm?
We, all Agriberry stakeholders, are humble stewards of the land we rent and own with its multi-dimensional environment of soil, water and air that is dynamically in a seasonal flux of short and long term factors. Therefore our care and choices require an ongoing balancing of practices.
What is your favorite berry that you grow? How do you like to prepare it?
Well my life long favorite is the black cap raspberry I grew up eating wild as a child along the New York State Finger Lakes each summer. But truly the last three decades my favorite berry has become the berry that is currently ripe and ready to enjoy direct off the plant on any one harvest day. So, now in late October it is the red raspberry!
What is your hope for the future of food in the United States?
My hope is that Agriberry can contribute to the vision of the National Berry Health Initiative to triple US berry consumption by 2020. Talk about Nature's Pharmacy - berries are perfect sized gems of healthy food for all ages. Now with the ability to freeze and preserve a portion of the harvest for off season consumption, especially in berry smoothies, daily consumption of two to three half cup servings is very reasonable for more citizens than ever before.
What do you wish your consumers understood better about growing food?
Thanks for asking :) I wish more consumers understood that regardless of synthetic and/or organic practices that all registered sprays correctly applied to berries in the U.S. have undergone multitudes of scientific tests for food and worker safety. As family farmers this is very important factor for our well being as well as that of stakeholder workers and consumers.
Agriberry Farm & CSA was founded in 2008 by Anne and Chuck Geyer. Anne and Chuck met while working at the University of Maryland’s Horticultural Research Farm on a USDA berry production study. After getting married in 1982 they moved to Virginia to work on a 60-acre berry farm. In 2008, 25 years later, they found themselves the awardees of a USDA Specialty Crop Grant enabling them to lease their own piece of land and start a berry farm that also had a mission to develop young farmers.
The farm started out selling an innovative “all fruit” CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share that was sold primarily to the Richmond, VA market, one of the nation’s only fruit and berry CSAs. What started as a 9-week pilot, quickly evolved into a 20-week CSA program with more than 500 members.
In 2011 they were able to purchase their own 25 acres of land on Hanover’s scenic River Road. They now grow an assortment of fruits and berries including red, black and purple raspberries, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, plums and cherries. The property is now outfitted with a packing shed with freezer and refrigeration capability and a commercial kitchen for the preparation of a variety of value-added products.
Anne and Chuck are proudly committed to raising healthy and sustainably grown food and to telling the truth about the food they provide. The following paragraph from the Agriberry website sums up their philosophy quite well:
“As life-long farmers, the Geyers strive to raise healthy, sustainably grown food. As business owners, they work to craft lasting relationships that help nourish their community, other family-owned specialty farms, and the evolving local food networks. As parents, they hope to create a legacy of value for their children and as educators and community members they feel a special mission to share their belief in farming as a career and lifestyle.”