There’s a feeling of excitement about Father’s Day as the berry season ushers in a broad selection of delightful fruit until Labor Day. At the Bethesda Farmer’s Market, Agriberry draws a lot of attention from locals seeking the sweet flavors of strawberries, blueberries, and peaches June 19. One woman asks for samples, nods with confidence, and proceeds her purchase.
Here it’s a place where people value and pay for quality. For Susan Noyce, it’s another busy Sunday in Bethesda – the only farmer’s market they reach in the DC metropolitan region. Every weekend they cart their berries out of Hanover, MD for eager buyers. I met with Susan to hear how about this family farm’s story and what she enjoys. She says the name Agriberry derives from the array of berries going on at the farm! It’s been a family farm since 1980.
The science of berry health is unbelievable!Susan Noyce, Agriberry
How many acres is the farm?
When did it start?
The farm started in 2008, it is my sister’s (Ann Geyer) and her husband (Chuck Geyer), and son (Preston Geyer). Their son is taking over the farm in the next few years.
Where are you located?
Hanover, VA, just north of Richmond.
Where can we find you?
We have farmer’s markets in Richmond, Charlottesville, Williamsburg, Baltimore, Annapolis, and Bethesda. The Bethesda one is the only one in the DC area.
What products do you offer?
We have red raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, sweet cherries, peaches. It’s all high season fruit from Father’s Day through Labor Day.
I see that the prices here are a bit higher than the grocery store. For example $6 for a container of strawberries. Why’s that?
It’s more expensive yes, but it is a family farm that supports a living wage to make that sustainable we have to price that product and to stay competitive. We want people to eat local fruit that’s our primary goal. We want to be the best local fruit. We strive to have the best berries.
What do you like and what’s inspiring about your work?
It’s really the good fruit and getting it into the city. The farm is also a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) so we have members. The CSAs are at the home bases and they subscribe to 20 weeks during the fruit season. We have 175 CSA members in Annapolis and 600 in Richmond. CSA is our top business, followed by the farmer’s market, and then lastly the wholesale market.
What’s most inspiring is that specialty crop farming only consists of 2 percent of the American farms. We are doing heritage farming and growing our own sustainable food. Berries are so damn good for you!
How many workers are there?
We need 40 pickers to stay in business. We are always hiring to keep production at best yields. We pay living wage – we have long term employees in their 20s and 30s and trying to get them into farming. My sister’s son Pearson will be taking over. Family farming is a rare and delightful thing.
Do you have pick-your-own?
Yes, but it’s very targeted and with reserved times.
How was this season’s strawberry crop?
We had a rainy season and it was hard on the berries. They can tolerate heat but not rain. They’re very weather dependent.