Community outreach important
for Virginia’s Tyler Wegmeyer
After growing up on a Michigan dairy farm and working as a sta; member for the U.S. Congress, Tyler Wegmeyer of Hamilton, Va., found his calling as a full-time farmer not far from Washington, D.C.
He farms in historic and a;uent Loudoun County, Va., where he
has developed a unique business model to bring people out to his
farms, where strawberries and pumpkins are his primary crops.
His success as a strawberry and pumpkin farmer has led to
Wegmeyer being selected as the state winner of the Swisher
Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. He
joins nine other individuals as finalists for the overall award that
will be announced Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Sunbelt Expo.
He started on a small scale and now farms 250 acres — 225
acres rented land and 25 acres of owned land. He says his main
goal is to bring people out to his farms to teach them where their
food comes from.
Prior to farming, Wegmeyer graduated from Michigan State
University and worked as a sta; member for Congress, starting as
an intern and eventually working on farm legislation in both the
House and Senate. During his travels for Congress, he visited with
farmers, keeping in mind possible options for his own farm. Once
he started farming, he put some of those ideas into use on his
Last year, his yields were 21,000 pounds of strawberries per
acre from eight acres of drip irrigated berries. He grew 85 acres
of pumpkins and gourds, with about 25 percent of that land
drip irrigated. Pumpkin yields vary by variety, and he plants 50
Wegmeyer also grows corn, which yielded 160 bushels per acre
from 30 acres and soybeans that yielded 60 bushels per acre from
90 acres. He has an additional 10 acres of drip irrigated vegetables
and sweet corn.
THOUSANDS OF VISI TORS
He estimates that 30,000 people come to his strawberry fields and
FALL FESTIVAL AT TRACTION
40,000 come to his
His goal is that
people who visit
his farm will leave
with a positive image of agriculture. Additionally, Wegmeyer runs
a community supported agriculture enterprise that provides fresh
vegetables to 50 families who pay an annual subscription.
He markets wholesale strawberries to local grocery stores,
other marketing outlets, and local schools. He handles retail
strawberry and pumpkin sales by farm stands and u-pick. “Our
wholesale pumpkins are marketed up and down the East Coast,
direct to grocery stores, store warehouses, and local markets and
nurseries,” he says.
As a young producer, his first challenge was finding land to
rent. He eventually focused on small tracts on busy highways
near dense population centers. Social media is important for
marketing his crops and promoting agritourism. He also uses print
advertising, roadside signs, and messages to local schools to bring
people out to his farms.
He uses new technology, such as tablets and smart phones, to
take payments, track inventories, and map fields. This technology
and the use of plasticulture is visible to his customers. “We
are unapologetic in saying that the latest modern agriculture
technology is of benefit to them and the environment,” he says.
One of his locations o;ers a fall festival each year that
encompasses a corn maze, hayrides, animal exhibits, pumpkin
cannons, and activities aimed at attracting children to the farm.
Wegmeyer is active in New Jerusalem Lutheran Church and
serves on the boards of local Southern States cooperatives
and Loudoun County Heritage Farm Museum. He’s a member
of Loudoun Chamber of Commerce and served on the board
and as president of Loudoun County Farm Bureau. He has been
Tyler Wegmeyer and wife Harriet, top, and Tyler
Wegmeyer and Jim Hilleary, who nominated Tyler
for the Farmer of the Year award.