Today we’d like to introduce you to Bridget Jones.
Bridget, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
The farm has been in my husband, Matt’s side of the family since the 1930s. Back then, it was a large farm spanning about 300 acres. They had orchards, various animals and also grew produce and, primarily, tobacco. Matt and I are fourth generation, and our children are fifth generation on the farm.
Once Matt’s dad and his siblings grew up, farming was becoming less of a sustainable career path in the area and children of farmers started taking trade jobs off the farm. Matt himself leads the restoration team for an Annapolis Yacht restoration and repair company. By the 1980s, our land began to be sold or broken up between children. The farm is now about 80 acres total, and on it live us with our children, Matt’s parents, and his siblings with their children. There are four houses total on the farm, each with acreage. Since being married and having kids, I worked part-time as a preschool teacher and handled social media management and marketing for various Annapolis area marine companies.
For about 20 years, after Matt’s grandfather passed, a farmer from a neighboring farm was farming our fields. This kept our land agricultural and also expanded the acres this farmer could farm. It was a win-win situation and not uncommon in our area. Sadly, he passed in early 2019. At this time, we had just put our youngest into Kindergarten and the preschool I was working at is where both of our children, and our nieces, went to preschool. Without them there, I just felt like it was time for me to move on. I had also been let go from my social media management positions, and things all just felt “up in the air” for me. I was definitely at a crossroads.
Even prior to Wildberry, Matt and I have always strived to create beauty and peace on our farm, like an escape from the noise of the world. We have always loved to host gatherings on the farm with our friends; bonfires, pumpkin carving parties, “Friendsgiving,” sledding when it snows in the winter, the list goes on… We have always dreamed about opening the farm up to our community much in the same way, so we can share the beauty and peace our family has created on our land. We are a spiritual family, and I was praying about the farm and where I should go next in terms of my career path. In talking with Matt’s sister one day, I felt like I finally had confirmation on what to do, and Wildberry Farm + Market was born!
These were the infant stages where we were trying to figure out what “opening the farm up to our community” looks like. Of course, I wanted to have a farm stand and sell our produce (we always have a big garden each year), and I have desperately wanted chickens for years… but what else could we offer in terms of the farm? Matt and I are both creatives, and we were brainstorming for months. We researched and poured over articles and laws. We even visited other Maryland area farms. We realized quickly that “Agritourism” in our state was becoming more and more accepted and even encouraged! This didn’t just mean a fall festival with hayrides, this included farm stands and farm to table meals, farm tours and classes. Our vision soon started to widen.
In late 2019, I had an idea to rent out part of the farm to photographers in our area. I reached out to a couple of photographer friends and also decided to post it on a couple of local mom groups on Facebook. The response was overwhelming! Matt and I were talking about the overwhelming interest and how we have to figure out a name for the farm. Back in the day, Matt was playing in the woods, and he came across the remains of an old dump on the property. He found an old farm sign that read, “Highfield Farm,” which would have been the farm’s name even prior to Matt’s family coming here in the ’30s. When Matt’s dad had a produce business back in the ’80s, they called the farm “Highfield Acres.” This name fits because we are on one of the highest elevations in the area, but Matt and I wanted something new and fresh. For us, this new era of the farm warranted something up to date and a little more unique. We started throwing out ideas left and right, but nothing sounded right. I suggested we think about what grows naturally up on the farm, and we were talking about the trees that are in the woods, the milkweed that grows wild in our backfield… then Matt mentioned the wild raspberries that grow everywhere up here, and ironically my maiden name is Berry. Wildberry Farm + Market finally had a name!
We opened up the farm as an exclusive photography location in Fall of 2019, and by spring of 2020 we were planning our farm stand. COVID obviously delayed our plans, but we knocked out a ton of projects on the farm including adding chickens, building gates, and planting rows of wildflowers in our fields. By June, our community was over being stuck inside and itching to be outside doing something, anything! Our opening weekend had been pushed back each month from March onward, and what began as an idea to just sell our produce, eggs, and flowers to our community morphed into a huge opening weekend on the farm. We invited a handful of vendor friends to come out to the farm for free and sell their goods, some were even wedding vendor friends who were affected by COVID. We ended up hosting two days opening weekend event. The turnout was amazing and just what the community needed after a hard spring.
The funny thing about God, and the farm, is that when I have a vision for something, the result is usually way bigger than I ever intended it to be. I thought we would host 2-5 photographers, we ended up hosting over 80 in 2020. I thought we would have a farmers market stand by the road, we ended up closing the year out with 30 vendors at our November 2020 market and 21 at our two day open-air Vintage Christmas Market in December of 2020. I thought I might host a workshop or two, they would sell out with people asking for more dates weeks prior to the workshop! I have been blown away by the farm, our community, and the amazing small business owners we have met in just one short year. We started at zero in October of 2019 and grew tenfold by December of 2020. It blows me away to think about it, and I am so grateful to share it with our community because the farm is such a special place.
2021 has already been exceptional, we built a new Market Stand trailer, launched a new photographer program, held a Photographer’s Open House in April, expanded our Field Market dates from one to two Saturdays a month, added many new and different workshops throughout the season, launched our Farm to Table Series with Graze Gourmet, and host yoga classes once a month with Yogi Allie, a local yoga instructor, plus I added new chickens to our flock to round out my rainbow eggs!
My advice for anyone is, if you have a dream, go for it. Work hard, make it happen, fall down and get back up. It’s scary, it’s messy, but it’s so worth it. I have never been happier than I have been owning and operating Wildberry. I have planted entire fields by hand only for deer to eat the entire crop. I have had sleepless nights not sure if I am doing the right thing. But I have also helped my neighbors by providing a safe place for them to sell their goods during COVID. I have provided a place for special needs families to come to an exclusive location for family pictures, away from judging eyes. The farm has fed the spirit of not only our family but our entire community the past year and a half, and if that is all we ever do I am thankful and grateful that we could provide a light in the darkest of times.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
COVID was obviously a huge challenge in 2020. The unknowns and constant changes had my anxiety so fired up there were nights I hardly slept. The farm is also a huge juggling act for us with Matt’s career off of the farm, he only has weekends to mow, maintain the farm, and fix equipment. We constantly feel like we are working against time. We also have had issues with various animals such as deer and groundhogs eating our crops.
We’ve been impressed with Wildberry Farm + Market, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Our farm offers produce, flowers and fresh eggs, and all of our farm events are centered around “Agritourism.” Agritourism is anything that is centered around your agriculture that brings people to your farm. We believe that knowing where your food comes from is just as important as eating it! We offer rainbow eggs by the dozen, and I purchase our spring chicks based on the color of egg they will lay. In each carton, you will find hues ranging from deep, chocolate brown, light brown, pink, green, blue, and white. We also offer our farm fresh produce in the summer months, as well as flowers we grow here on the farm.
Not only do we offer what we grow here on the farm, but we also offer the space. We host local photographers as an exclusive photography location, meaning one photographer with their client at a time. No need to wait for the best spots, the areas offered for photography are yours for the time you have booked!
One of my passions is supporting other local, small businesses and one way we do that is by hosting our Field Market during the season. We host local small businesses and food trucks for a morning of shopping small on the farm. It is one of my favorite community events we offer here at Wildberry! Each Field Market date includes 30 rotating vendors and two rotating food trucks ensuring a unique shopping experience each time.
Our workshops all center around our agriculture and include flower arranging, flower crown making, and fall and winter wreath workshops. We also launched a Farm to Table series this year with Graze Gourmet featuring our eggs and produce!
Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Prior to COVID, I joined a local networking group for creatives in the Annapolis area. I made a ton of new small business friends and really enjoyed the once a month networking events. Once COVID hit, a lot of Maryland area creatives were so supportive of one another over social media, and for a long while that is how I have been networking. Now that things are opening back up, we have hosted a creatives happy hour on the farm, and we also make it a point to go to other small business’ launch parties, anniversary parties, and any other events we can make it out to. Showing up for other local small businesses is something that is really important to us!
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.wildberryfarmmarket.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wildberryfarmmarket/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wildberryfarmmarket/
- Other: https://www.pinterest.com/wildberryfarmmarket
Megan Evans Photography Jennifer Casey Photography