As Katy Orr-Dove loaded a group of second graders onto a wagon during a field trip at Orr’s Farm Market last year, she noticed a little boy tearing up. His classmates started teasing him. She asked him if he was okay. “I’m sorry, I’m just so excited,” he says. “This is the first time I’ve ever been on a hayride.”
It’s easy to understand how the little guy got overwhelmed. In addition to its retail and wholesale business, Orr’s Farm Market in Martinsburg offers pick-your-own produce, festivals, live music, and educational tours. Orr-Dove, the general manager, understands the role a local farm market plays in developing healthy nutrition habits and providing new experiences for kids. That’s partly why she returned to the family farm 13 years ago.
Orr’s Farm Market began in 1995, but the farm goes back to the 1950s when Orr-Dove’s grandfather, George S. Orr, Jr., purchased his first orchard. The soil wasn’t good there, though, so he and his wife looked at the ridge between Martinsburg and Winchester, Virginia, and purchased the current farm market’s land.
The Orrs acquired hundreds more acres as adjacent dairy farms went out of business. In the early 1960s, the family built a packing shed to sell their produce wholesale. Through the 1980s, their farm sold packed peaches, pears, plums, and more to grocery stores, schools, other farm markets, and peddlers.
As word spread about the fresh produce at Orr’s Farm, people started to walk right up to the packing shed and ask for bushels of peaches and apples. It became clear the farm needed to evolve to serve the local community. And over the past 23 years, the business has only continued to expand. “We’ve seen growth every year in our farm market,” says Mark Orr, one of George’s three sons and current owner of the family business. “When we’re busy, it’s hard for people to walk through.”
Orr’s Farm Market now runs a full retail business, selling its produce to customers while also packing produce for wholesale customers throughout the region. Agri-tourism has exploded—crowds come for the cherry blossom trees in the spring, berries and live bluegrass music in the summer, and pick-your-own pumpkins in the fall. When the farm market held its first public pumpkin picking, they just gave visitors a ride into a pumpkin field. Now, the pumpkin patch is decorated each year with elaborate themes and it partners with an anti-bullying campaign. “Making happy memories at our farm is something we can give back to Martinsburg,” Orr-Dove says. “A lot of our customers come at least seasonally. They’ll come from out of the area once a year, to the pumpkin patch or to get their bushels of apples.”
School trips and other youth groups come to Orr’s Farm Market frequently, and Orr-Dove gets to lead those groups through a curriculum that teaches the value of fresh food and farming. She noticed her own children would not always eat the produce she bought at the grocery store but, “if you bring them to the farm and let them pick for themselves, they’ll eat it,” she says. “A lot of children have never been on a farm. That’s why I love the school tours, because it’s not just the children whose parents would bring them to a farm.”
Most of the farm’s operations are handled by the family—Mark, his wife Melissa, his daughters Olivia and Katy, Katy’s husband Don, and his two nephews, Eric and Robbie. The farm also has many longtime employees like Tammy Jones, the assistant market manager, and Donna Kolb, the produce supervisor. “We’ve had several employees who have retired after 50 years, and some who are working here now for 30 years,” Mark Orr says.
Growth has not slowed down for Orr’s Farm Market. This summer, the family will expand its market building, allowing room to sell more West Virginia-made products. Just outside, they hope to rework their bison barnyard. It turns out buffalo are fun to watch but aren’t as fun to interact with, so the Orrs will add other animals like chickens, goats, cattle, and ponies, turning the area into a pedestrian farm where visitors can touch the animals, work in the garden, and pretend to be farmers for the day. “I think my father would be proud of the operation. He would be tickled to death for the giant crowds,” Mark Orr says. “It’s going to be a lot to keep up with, but it’s exciting at the same time.” 682 Orr Drive, Martinsburg, 304.263.1168 orrsfarmmarket.com