Eddie Richard with his daughter, Kayla Lawrence, and granddaughter, Dakota, in front of the fruit market sign.

Just outside of Middletown in Frederick County, Richard’s Fruit Market, established in 1953 by James Sr. and Mary Richard, is a favorite local spot for fresh fruit, vegetables, jams, meats, and seasonal flowers. Even more notable are their peaches and apples, which are celebrated with festivals every year. The fruit market is owned and operated by the Richard family, whose farm was established in 1878 and has been in the family for five generations. The family just welcomed the newest addition and sixth generation, Dakota, in the fall of 2018. Mary retired at the end of 2018 after 65 years of service to the market, leaving her son, Eddie, and granddaughter, Kayla, to manage the family business. The farm, like many others in Virginia throughout the past few years, has had to adapt to harsh growing conditions due to several wet seasons and extreme temperatures leading to a devastating impact on their crops. Additionally, Fredrick County has seen a stark increase in subdivisions and other urban development. The Richard family knew they needed to act fast to ensure that Mary’s legacy would be preserved and that the family farm would stay intact for future generations.

After discussing the future of the farm, the Richard family decided to place their 60-acre farm under a conservation easement to be forever protected. Conservation Partners and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation were able to assist the family in achieving their goal and the conservation easement was recorded in November of 2018, just before Mary’s retirement.

An orchard row on the Richard farm.

“There is so much development happening right around the farm and all over the county,” says Eddie. “We knew that if we didn’t do something permanent, the future of this farm that has been in the family for five generations could be at risk.” He looked over at Kayla and his seven-month old granddaughter and added, “I also wanted to provide a future for them. Placing the farm in a conservation easement allows the farm to be forever protected and allows for some financial security for our
Market- for them.”

Tori Kennedy, Process Manager at Conservation Partners, knew the importance of making the easement happen. “I joined Conservation Partners in August of 2018 and my first assignment was Richard’s Fruit Market,” says Kennedy. “I drove out to the Market to introduce myself to the family and discuss their background and goals of the easement. While driving on the back roads, I saw several subdivisions being built contrasted by abandoned farms and orchards. Walking into the market, I was warmly greeted by Kayla, pregnant with Dakota, and her father, Eddie. When I left, I was instantly impacted by this family and knew that I had to do my best to make sure the easement was successful and that the process would go as smoothly as possible.” Tori worked with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, VDOT, Frederick County, and the Richard family’s attorney and appraiser to ensure that the easement would record by the end of that year.

Kayla and Dakota Lawrence with their horse.

“Conservation Partners and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation were great to work with,” states Kayla. “We are so grateful to the Foundation for agreeing to hold the easement. They were very helpful and responsive throughout the process. Conservation Partners was very efficient and always available to answer our questions and reassure us that everything would work out. They went above and beyond to make sure our process ran smoothly and faced any challenges that arose on our behalf so that we could focus on the Market and Dakota’s birth.”

Richard’s Fruit Market took advantage of the Advance Funding Program offered by Conservation Partners to alleviate the financial burdens associated with the easement donation process. This enabled the Market to remain financially stable after a very wet season.

The Market is ready for the 2019 season and is ready to expand even more. Their greenhouse is full of sprouting produce including tomatoes,
cucumbers, and squash and they have several rows of seasonal flowers planted for a “pick-your-own” flower garden. The orchards are flourishing, and the family is hopeful for a very successful harvest. The farm also offers fun, family-friendly educational activities that allow local kids to visit with farm animals. Eddie will also be offering a gardening series for adults
starting summer and fall of 2019.

The greenhouse with lots of fresh produce and flowers growing inside.

“Part of why I love what I do is that while we are out accomplishing important land conservation in Virginia, we are also building relationships with the landowners and helping them turn their vision for their land into reality,” adds Kennedy.

For more information on land conservation, please call Conservation Partners at (540) 464-1899 or visit our website at www.conservationpartnersllc.com.