In late 2012, Jeff and Teresa Gregson, who worked as lobbyists in Richmond and lived in Henrico County, began looking for a farm to buy.
Little did the first-time farmers know that three years later, they would join four other new farms on this yearâ??s Culpeper Harvest Days Farm Tour. The annual event showcases Culpeper Countyâ??s prosperous agri-business.
â??Itâ??s an opportunity for people to see what farm life is like,â? said Culpeper County Economic Development Director Carl Sachs.
The tour also allows people to see what is grown and raised on some of the 731 farms in Culpeper County. In 2012, farms occupied 126,395 acres, resulting in market product sales of $42.8 million.
â??Itâ??s our largest single business,â? said Sachs.
But the Gregsons were really interested in farming. They just wanted a change from the Richmond area lifestyle and pace. They were seeking tranquility.
â??We were looking for a place in the country,â? said Teresa.
They looked in Loudoun, Warren and Fauquier counties but nothing grabbed their attention. Their disappointment grew as nothing seemed to stand out.
On Jan. 20, 2013, Teresa began searching the Internet for farms for sale by owner.
â??I said to my husband, â??how about this one?â??â? Teresa recalled.
â??This oneâ? was a Christmas Tree farm on Carrico Mills Road. Jeff agreed to go look at it.
â??We just loved it,â? said 56-year-old Teresa. â??It was everything I wanted.â?
â??You pull into the driveway, look at it and go, wow,â? said Jeff.
Originally, the couple, who have been married 16 years, planned to buy a weekend country home but still live close to work during the week.
After purchasing the home in April 2013, they stayed in Culpeper on weekends and returned to the Richmond area during the week.
â??It got so we didnâ??t want to go back,â? said Teresa, who no longer works as a lobbyist.
Jeffâ??s clients, Amazon and Virginia Water Well Association, were OK with the decision to sell their Henrico County home and have Jeff commute from Culpeper.
But what to do with all the Christmas trees that dotted the 43-acre farm?
â??The trees were beautiful,â? said Teresa.
With no experience planting, raising and shearing Christmas trees, the couple made a decision â?? keep the trees. Other prospective buyers had planned to remove them, she said.
â??I knew I was going to do something to occupy my time,â? said Jeff, 65, about their decision to keep the trees. The couple also decided to try their hand as beekeepers.
â??I have always been fascinated by bees,â? said Teresa.
But the new farm needed a name. It was formerly known as Crazy Joeâ??s Christmas Tree Farm.
Bees and Trees Farm became the moniker for the well manicured farm with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Beside the 3,200 neatly sheared Christmas trees of various sizes on seven acres and the sign along the road, a visitor is greeted with a clever warning about the one colony and five hives along the driveway. â??Bee Alert,â? the sign warns.
With much of the honeybee habitat disappearing, the Gregsons planted wildflowers and clover to provide food. To maintain enough bees to harvest honey, the Gregsons have resorted to providing sugar water to feed the bees.
Teresa, who mainly tends to the bees with occasional help from Jeff, said mites are bee predators, but she refuses to apply chemicals to kill the mites.
â??That is where I draw the line,â? she said.
About every two weeks, Jeff hops on his riding lawnmower and cuts the grass around the neat rows of trees scattered in plots throughout the property. Cows lazily graze in the front pasture. Goats reside in a fenced-in area away from the house near a coop and hen house, where chickens provide fresh eggs.
A pumpkin patch, with pumpkins of various sizes, awaits farm visitors.
Bo, the Australian Shepherd, guards the homestead, which features â??Santaâ??s Hive,â? a fall and Christmas gift shop located in the converted garage.
People visiting the farm during the Farm Tour may reserve a Christmas tree for holiday pickup, said Jeff.
After being in business for just two years, the Gregsons are enthusiastic about participating in the Farm Tour.
Besides showcasing county farms, the Farm Tour also offers economic benefits, said Sachs.
About 65 percent of Farm Tour participants visit five or six farms and spend about $44. The total economic impact of the Farm Tour is about $73,500.
So why are the Gregsons first-timers on the Farm Tour?
â??We provide families an opportunity they canâ??t get anywhere else,â? said Teresa.
â??I just thought we were ready for it,â? Jeff chimed in.
Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Culpeper Harvest Days Farm Tour 2015
What: Self-guided 18th Annual Farm Tour
When: Sat. Oct. 3 and Sunday Oct. 4
Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Welcome Center at Culpeper Agricultural Enterprises, 10220 James Monroe Highway (U.S. Route 29 south of town)
Exhibits and events at Welcome Center: Antique Tractors, Piedmont Environmental Council, Culpeper County High School FFA, Piedmont Model Railroaders; giveaways; live poultry and small animal auction.
Farms and Exhibitors: Andora Farm and Stable, Bees and Trees Farm, Belmont Farm Distillery (Sat. only), CFC Farm and Home Center (Sat. only), Cornerstone Horsemanship, Independence Funie Farm, Kildee Farms â?? The Barn, Morningside Farm and Nursery, Moving Meadows Farm, Oak Shade Farm, Old House Vineyards, Saddle Ridge Farm, Verdun Adventure Bound, Waterford Run Farm and Forge and Wollam Gardens.
Phone: 540-727-3410, Culpeper County Economic Development Department