Today, we are interviewing Anne F. Geyer, the founder of Agriberry Farm, which makes Agriberry Agriblend Jam. Yum!!
Thanks for joining us, Anne!
What ignited the spark in you to start your business? Tell us the story of how you and your business idea first met! :-)
As a child, my sisters and I looked forward to picking wild berries together each summer and enjoying the fruits of our labors. When my husband and I were in our mid-20s, we worked for University of Maryland and USDA in a berry research program. By chance, we were offered the opportunity to start a farm business for a Tidewater, VA landowner in 1983. As we were deciding what crops to explore, my childhood passion for berries came to mind, along with the emerging awareness of the nutritional power of berries.
As our family grew, we realized we wanted to start our own farm to create more of an opportunity for our children. We founded our new farm in 2007, planting blackberries and raspberries on leased land in Hanover County.
Over the years, I also began to understand that very few of today’s young people had the chance to work on family farms during their formative years, as so many had in prior generations. One of our primary goals in starting our own farm was to help paying forward our good fortune by providing hands-on employment opportunities for young people on the farm. The intensive, 100% hand labor required to grow and harvest cane berries seemed to be an ideal match.
To help launch the new farm, I applied for a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant to set up the business and brand. In 2008, I offered one of the nation’s first all-fruit CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), beginning with with 60 members in the Richmond area. By 2009, I had rented 10 acres in Hanover, planted 12,000 raspberry and blackberry plants, and hired our first young workers from the area.
What are the principles, values, or motto behind your business? What impact do you want to have on the Richmond community?
The mission of Agriberry Farm is to grow great berries and to be a premier agricultural training opportunity to help inspire a new generation of farmers.
The motto of Agriberry Farm is “Cultivate a Taste for Life.” We recognize that in addition to simply growing fruit, a nutrient-rich food crop, we must help inspire our friends and neighbors to learn more about their food supply and the benefits of healthier eating. We feel our role extends to creating a broader appreciation for the benefits of healthy, local eating, and how fruit can enrich uses for fruit across the four seasons cultivates a deeper appreciation for their value.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Sounds like family plays a big role in Agriberry Farms!
My husband Chuck and I have worked together at farming for more than 35 years, and now our son Pierson, who holds a Masters in Education, is our Field Supervisor/Trainer and attends the Baltimore Market. Our daughter, Colleen, who has earned three culinary degrees, now helps with the farm’s kitchen products and helps manage our RVA markets. One of my sisters is our bookkeeper and local wholesale manager, while another sister runs the Annapolis area CSA, and a niece and her husband run the Williamsburg area CSA and markets.
Did you grow up in Richmond? What's your attachment to the city?
I grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York. My husband and I moved to Virginia in the mid-1980s to begin farming, and we settled in Hanover County in 2003 for the excellent schools for our three teenagers. As we became more familiar with Richmond, we realized the growing support in the area for farmers' markets and local food. We also felt there would be a large number of young workers in the area available to provide a quality seasonal labor source.
What's your favorite part about Richmond?
My favorite part of Richmond is its deep historical roots, followed by the access to the incredible James River. Also, the area is great for bicycling, and support for this is improving every year.