Anne Geyer established Agriberry in 2008 when she received a Specialty Crop Block Grant from the USDA. Because she has been growing and marketing berries in Virginia for over 25 years, the challenges of cane fruit are not new to her: labor for hand harvesting, temperature controlled storage, persnickety packaging, and quick, cold transportation.
To meet these challenges, Anne designed the business to combine the cultivation of cane fruit (raspberries and blackberries) with a pilot Youth Training Program. She recruits high school and college students on summer break, and hires them to harvest berries and take them to market. Along the way, they learn to care for the canes, safe harvesting and handling procedures, marketing techniques, and the impression that a perfectly ripe, juicy blackberry can make at a busy market.
“We plant new varieties to see how they do,” Anne says of the 12,000 raspberry and blackberry plants she cultivates in Hanover County, VA. “If we find a winner, we’ll be on the cutting edge of berry production.” She is looking for varieties that thrive in scorching Virginia summers, demonstrating productivity and resistance to mildew while transforming sunshine into plump, juicy purple-black berries. Agriberry is a low-spray operation, and does not use organophosphates on any fruit grown there.