Rooted in History: Orr’s Farm Market
November 13, 2017|
By Kyle Franks
The farm-to-fork movement has captivated the country and only continues to grow in appreciation and prominence. With more than 70 established farm markets in West Virginia, each one strives to bring their customers fresh, local produce grown in the communities in which they serve.
Orr’s Farm Market is just one example of a small business that not only provides fresh produce but also brings agricultural education and stewardship to its local economy. Situated on over 1,000 acres in Martinsburg, it has been in business for more than 60 years.
What makes Orr’s Farm Market unique comes down to one word: family. This farm market is not only focused on produce, but it’s also focused on creating a space where families can make memories and learn life lessons while building an appreciation for the role agriculture plays in the state’s economy. These concepts are the building blocks of the business.
Building a Family Business
Orr’s Farm Market has been carefully run by three generations of the Orr family. Its beginnings were made in an ideal place during an unlikely era. During the Depression days in the mid-1930s, a young man by the name of George Orr Jr. began working with his grandfather on a small fruit and berry farm just outside of Martinsburg, WV, on the east side of North Mountain. George eventually joined the U.S. Navy, where he met his wife, Juanita. Upon retiring from the armed forces, he and his wife returned to Martinsburg, where they purchased a 60-acre orchard in 1954. In 1989, George passed away, leaving the farm to his wife, Juanita, and his three sons, Mike, Mark and G.W.
“We’ve all said that our dad had fruit growing in his blood,” says Mike. “Starting out with his grandfather, leaving for the military and finding his way back to where it all started says a lot about how much he cared about agriculture.”
In 1995, the Orr family opened their farm market. The vision was and continues to be providing fresh produce to local communities.
“Our roots, dating back to our father, are what we attribute our success to today,” says Mark. “Without his knowledge and hard work that he instilled in us, we might not have understood the importance of having those clean, healthy foods we strive to put on our customers’ tables day in and day out.”
Orr’s has continued on the path of expanding its platform on family traditions. Today, George’s children and grandchildren and the family’s close friends work to harvest yearly produce and look to sustain agricultural awareness in their community. George’s son, Mike, manages the wholesale sales, and his wife, Vicki, and daughter, Julie, run the office. Phil Bolyard, Julie’s husband, works as the IMP manager, and George’s son, Mark, manages the orchard. Mark’s daughter, Katy, handles the management of the farm market, and her husband, Don Dove, oversees the farm market’s packing operations.
“As you can see, we take pride in our family farm and want to continue walking down the path our dad began paving for our business more than 60 years ago,” says Mark.
Contributions to Agritourism
Orr’s began exploring agritourism when Katy Orr-Dove and her cousins started operating the farm’s first pick-your-own operation out of a small shed. There, customers picked sweet and tart cherries.
“My cousins and I would hand out empty paint cans for customers to fill up,” she says. “We eventually began to see a trend where the number of customers was increasing, so we decided to expand our pick-your-own platform into the other crops we were cultivating.”
This led to Orr’s Farm Market’s highly anticipated annual pick-your-own seasons.
“We see customers and families from all over coming out and enjoying the essence of picking their own fruits and vegetables,” says Katy. “It gives them a sense of satisfaction and gratitude in having the ability to pick healthy, all-natural foods to eat.”
Orr’s Farm Market is always offering up new events and learning opportunities for community members as well. It offers school tours and hayride tours as a way to engage children and educate them about best farming practices and the importance of healthy eating and a balanced diet. Within recent years, the farm market has begun booking bluegrass bands on the weekends as a way to support local music while adhering to its customers’ entertainment preferences.
The farm market also offers kids the chance to visit Spookley the Square Pumpkin and the pumpkin patch. This program aims to raise awareness for National Bullying Prevention that Orr’s introduced to children more than 10 years ago. The idea behind Spookley the Square Pumpkin is to teach children to embrace differences rather than criticize them. Orr’s Farm Market remains one of many farms across the nation that continues this effort in promoting the message of tolerance and acceptance among young children.
A Foundation of Farming
Orr’s Farm Market contributes its success to the family’s commitment to staying relevant in the industry. “We have continued our focus on staying ahead of the curve and keeping our farming practices relevant,” says Katy.
Each growing season, Orr’s Farm Market hosts several USDA scientists at its orchard. “We look to identify pests and diseases in our fruits to allow us to remain proactive in fighting these issues in the most natural ways before they become a challenge,” she says.
The Orr family consistently attends tours and classes associated with reputable best management organizations like the Horticultural Society of Maryland and the West Virginia Farmers Market Association.
“These classes help us remain on the forefront of trending techniques and varieties, marketing, agritourism and much more,” says Katy. “Networking with other farmers is another facet we use to keep us abreast of current trends and industry-wide issues.”
Orr’s Farm Market is working to make clean, healthy and local foods a staple in Martinsburg and the surrounding communities. When visitors come to Orr’s, they are not only enjoying the food but enjoying a business that has built its success from its ability to become a space where family and friends make memories.