Perhaps the best description of Steve Berryman’s farm in Surry, Va., is small, efficient, pristine…and sweet.
“It was during my last semester at Virginia Tech University in 1999 that I found myself looking into vegetables and fruits,” says Berryman. “The following fall, I carried out my plans and initiated a strawberry operation.”
And the growth continued the following year with the addition of sweet corn and pumpkins.
Over the eight years Berryman has been farming, he has grown from eight to 35 acres leading to his selection as the 2007 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for Virginia. He was selected for the honor in judging conducted by the Virginia Tech University Extension Service and was nominated by Glenn Slade.
“The majority of my crops (65 percent) are sold through my pick-your-own operation,” says Berryman. “Ánother 20 percent are sold pre-picked at my farm stand while 10 percent are sold at a local farmer’s market. The last 5 percent of my crops are sold wholesale to buyers with roadside stands. Plus, I still continue to help out on my family’s farm whenever possible and especially during my farm’s off season.”
Berryman started with strawberries and continues them today with three acres with a yield of 8,000 quarts per acre. Sweet corn covers 12 acres while pumpkins and gourds are grown on six acres.
There are also six acres of butter beans yielding 80 bushels per acre and one acre of watermelons that produces 12,100 pounds. Also included is one-half acre of cantaloupe producing 1,500 pounds.
Berryman and his wife Jordon have a son — one-year-old Jake.
Previous state winners from Virginia include: Nelson Gardner of Bridgewater, 1990; Russell Inskeep of Culpepper, 1991; Harry Bennett of Covington, 1992; Hilton Hudson of Alton, 1993; Buck McCann of Carson, 1994; George M. Ashman, Jr. of Amelia, 1995; Bill Blalock of Baskerville, 1996; G. H. Peery III of Ceres, 1997; James Bennett of Red House, 1998; Ernest Copenhaver of Meadowview, 1999; John Davis of Port Royal, 2000; James Huffard III of Crockett, 2001; J. Hudson Reese of Scottsburg, 2002; Charles Parkerson of Suffolk, 2003; Lance Everett of Stony Creek, 2004; Monk Sanford of Orange, 2005; and Paul House of Nokesville, 2006.
Virginia has had two overall winners with Nelson Gardner of Bridgewater in 1990 and Charles Parkerson of Suffolk, 2003.