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Modern Living in the Old South

Modern Living in the Old South

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Strawberry Fields Forever

The strawberries that come from the fields of Westbury Farms are sweet, but not as sweet as the people behind the scenes, Keri Anne and Jeff Westbury and Billy and Kim Walker.

The two teams of husband on the farm will help instill an appreciation warmer and the season came to an end, they for agriculture and the farmers themselves; because without them, life as we know it would not exist, and right now they need our support more than ever.

Keri Anne, Jeff, and their six-year-old daughter Avery Anne, are far from strangers to the agricultural community. Jeff comes from a long line of farmers in his family, and although his family’s farm was mainly focused on row crops like corn and soybeans, Westbury was equipped with the skills and knowledge that he learned from the generations of farmers that preceded him. These skills were put to good use, as the couple decided to start their very own u-pick strawberry farm, utilizing the land that surrounded their house in Harleyville. Though Jeff was used to cultivating crops of a much larger scale, they did their research and learned that strawberries don’t need a lot of acreage. They didn’t need much to grow the amount of straw- berries needed for the amount of customers they were expecting. They decided to start their business with a single acre dedicated to the berries. Keri Anne and Jeff worked as a team, just the two of them. From the field preparation to the seed planting to the protection they offered the plants from pests and the colder winter months, they did it all.

The couple faced a bit of hesitation at the beginning of their season from the residents of Harleyville, a tight-knit community that were mostly concerned that Keri Anne and Jeff’s new business venture would change that small town closeness that they felt with one another. The two entrepreneurs reassured them of their intentions, and all was well. As the weather got warmer and the season came to an end, they came to a very important conclusion. Westbury Farms Strawberries lacked the amount of strawberries they could offer their customers, and another acre was added to the farm. This trend has continued each year, and after every season, they have had to add another acre of land to the Harleyville farm. For a couple of years beginning in 2020, they successfully sold their strawberries from the side of the road, next to the Lowes of Hwy 17 in Summerville, which helps prove the importance of hard work, and that if you have the level of tenacity that the Westburys have, anything can be accomplished. Given their undeniable success and their annual acre additions, it wasn’t hard to jump on the opportunity to open their second farm in one of Summerville’s most iconic and “untouchable” locations.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Billy and Kim Walker have a different view of the aforementioned “untouchable” location than the majority of Summervillians. To them, this is their home, and while they certainly under- stand the appeal of the farm, it wasn’t meant to be a tourist attraction. It’s hard to see it now, but as Billy says, “The town came to the farm, not the other way around.” In fact, the location of Billy’s property was once considered the rural part of Summerville. Before the interstate, before the parkway and the shopping malls that surround it, there wasn’t much else around the farm aside from dirt roads. Billy spent much of his childhood at the farm, as it has been in his family since the 1950s.The Walkers became the sole caretakers of the property in 2005, and have done their best to keep everything as intact and original as possible; providing regular maintenance on the structures around the farm, keeping the cattle farm up and running, and tending to the horses in the stables are just a few of the jobs that keep the couple busy, not to mention Billy’s day job that he works throughout the week. There’s rarely time to rest when you live on a working farm, but over the past couple of years, Billy and Kim have been looking for something new to add to their lives, something community-based that they can be an active part of, something that Keri and Jeff longed for as well.

Unaware of one another and their shared visions for the future, they had no plans to meet. As fate would have it, the Walkers and Westburys visited the same local Christmas tree farm on the same day, where they were soon introduced by a mutual friend who coincidentally happened to be in the same place at the same time as the future business partners. Having the same goals, passions, and lifestyles, the two couples hit it off almost immediately. Their shared respect for the business, along with their involvement in the farming community connected them in a way that most of us won’t ever under- stand. The families wanted to find a way to help the public understand the importance of farmers and how imperative they are in our daily lives, hoping to instill a sense of appreciation for the agricultural industry as a whole.

The team worked together and came up with a plan. The owners of Westbury Farms Strawberries went straight to work on the land they now rented from the Walkers. They managed to prepare the fields and plant the seeds before the end October of 2021, praying that the weather would cooperate and that their newest u-pick operation would be up and running by Spring of 2022. As the strawberries grew, Keri, Jeff, Kim, and Billy all worked together to get the farm ready for business. They cleaned up the property, and renovated the hay barn into Marymeade Market, a shop intended to give local vendors, crafters, and cultivators another chance to showcase their products.

Keri Anne and Jeff haven’t been the only members of the family to take pride in whatthe farm offers; at only six years old, Avery Anne came up with the brilliant idea to have a safe space inside of the market, a kids corner equipped with crayons, coloring pages, books, and the cutest little picnic table. She wanted this space to give their smaller patrons something to do instead of following their parents around the market. Avery even selected what she thought to be the safest corner of the building for the table, one that makes it nearly impossible for a child to sneak out of the market without being noticed by their
accompanying adult. It was only right to pay homage to the creator of the space with a large sign bearing a proper name that she picked out herself. “Avery Anne’s Art Corner.”

Since the official opening of Westbury Farms Strawberries at Marymeade Market that took place in March, the amount. of visitors they see coming through their gates each weekend is beyond what they could have ever imagined, and the owners couldn’t be more grateful. They are constantly coming up with ways to show their appreciation, and in the few months they have been open, they have already hosted Sum- merville’s 1st Annual Strawberry Festival, a community Easter egg hunt, and a special event for kids to craft a personalized gift in honor of Mother’s Day. As far as what the future holds, they hope to add some variety as far as the produce they grow to sell which in turn would help to keep the farm open throughout the seasons. However, families will always be their number one focus on the farm; the Westburys want to meet everyone that stops by. Above all, the best part of it all for both. AM

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