Berry Lovers Farm sticks to its roots by farming organically grown produce in Clarksville.
This summer, heirloom cherry tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggs, eggplant and sweet peppers are for sale at the Berry Lovers Farm stand, which is only open from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
The farm and stand are located at 31897 Organic Growers Lane, just off Route 26, near the Route 17 intersection. The eggs sold at the stand come from chickens that live on the farm and are fed only organic food grown there.
Husband and wife Jimmy and Kathy Guido bought the 11-acre parcel in 2015. They said it was difficult to find a piece of land for their organic farm, because most of the land in the area has been used for conventional farming. There is a three-year waiting period before conventionally-farmed land can be farmed under the term “organic.”
Jimmy Guido's story is one of a “city boy-turned-farmer,” as he describes it.
Guido grew up in Washington, D.C., where he lived most of his life. In D.C., his father got him working in refrigeration and air conditioning, and by the age of 15, he was working nearly fulltime and supporting himself. He eventually worked in mortgages as well.
Then, about 10 years ago, he and his family moved to Maryland, where he began planting tomatoes for fun. He found that the tomatoes that he grew tasted different than those he bought at the grocery store. Guido then became more interested in food and learned more about the chemicals in foods, which made him want to grow organic foods.
“Growing organic food is a way to heal your body and the earth,” Guido said, “It is our duty to take care of ourselves, our kids and our planet.”
Guido said there was a learning curve for organic farming, but it was worth it to give his children the best food possible.
“It's been my mission to grow organic vegetables for my kids,” he said.
Guido has been farming organically since 2007 and has lived in Ocean View since 2012. And even though it was difficult to find land to farm organically in the area, he was set on buying land there because he loves the area, he said.
“It's nice to just take your kids to the beach and relax after a long day on the farm,” Guido added.
It's early days, still, at Berry Lovers Farm, and people are still discovering the new stand.
“There isn't really a lot of business at the stand,” said Kathy Guido, “but it has been picking up in the past few weeks.”
She said that many people hear about the produce stand by word of mouth and via Berry Lovers Farm's Facebook page. The Guidos also just put a sign out on Route 26 to advertise their stand.
All of the food grown on Berry Lovers Farm goes to local restaurants, the produce stand and community supported agriculture (CSA). Local restaurants that the farm has sold to include the SoDel Concepts restaurant group and Just Hooked. The CSA model is one in which a farmer offers “shares” to the public. People who purchase the shares receive produce each week during the harvest season.
Because the farm is so new, the Guidos are still waiting for their berry crops to mature. Blueberries and strawberries will not be picked until next year, Jimmy Guido said, “to encourage the foliage to grow fuller plants.” Jimmy Guido said that he personally planted the blueberries.
Even though the berries take three years to grow, Jimmy Guido admitted that he's stolen a few of the early blueberries for himself. Berry Lovers will also grow raspberries, blackberries and elderberries — a berry with medicinal benefits that is often used in cough syrups.
Jimmy Guido said they are hoping to have pick-your-own berries next year.
“And, if all goes well, we'll have a festival for blueberry-picking,” he said. “But that may not happen for a few years.” The growers are also aiming to get into a local farmer's market.
In addition to berries, the Guidos recently planted apples, which they said should be ready in November.
Running the farm hasn't come without its challenges. This year, the farm lost 18 of its chickens to a fox.
But the Guidos plan to purchase a 30-by-72-foot-high tunnel to expand their growing season and a shed to use as a storefront for their produce stand.
In addition to raising acres of organic produce, the Guidos are raising four children, ages 9, 11, 13 and 15. The farm is quite the family operation, as the couple says that only they and, occasionally, two of their children work on the farm. There are also plans to one day have their house built on the back of the lot.
The Guido family is enthusiastic about organic farming and takes pride in the Berry Lovers Farm's produce.
“We try to make sure that our food is the best and the freshest,” said Jimmy Guido, “We only pick what we plan on selling that day.”