Summer! At Godfrey’s Farm
Twins Emily and Jane Godfrey sample strawberries the day before the season opens.
This Mid-Shore patch of heaven is the perfect place to pick your own fruits and vegetables
By Amelia Blades Steward | Photos by Stephen Walker
When third-generation farmers Tom and Lisa Godfrey took over their family farm in 1999, they credited Tom’s parents as great role models as they began the adventure of caring for a 600-acre farm in Sudlersville.
Tom’s grandparents, Robert and Hazel Godfrey, first had a farm in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. Their son George and his wife Mary moved to the Eastern Shore in 1952, mainly focused on growing asparagus. Their son Tom and his siblings grew cantaloupes on the side.
“When I was younger, Dad would drop us kids off in the middle of a huge field of tomatoes or peppers and expect us to pick. It was always dewy and cold or hot and sweltering. The rows stretched nearly to the horizon. I was overtaken with dread and hopelessness. I wanted to be anywhere else,” Tom recalls.
Top: The inviting exterior of Godrey’s Farm Market. Right: Lisa Godfrey with twins Jane and Emily with George “Pa” Godfrey and his combine in 2004. Left: Tom kicked back in his farm office in 1995.
When Tom was in high school, he did not want to farm. He started college at the University of Maryland without knowing what degree he wanted to pursue. He reflects, “I wanted something different but didn’t know what. That idea never came to me and time ran out, eventually, you have to choose something to get through college, so I settled on an agronomy soils degree.”
It was Tom’s mother’s idea for him to do something adventurous his senior year. He went to Colorado State to take his last semester and transferred credits back to the University of Maryland to complete his degree. It was at Colorado State that he met Lisa.
The Godfrey’s Farm continued Tom’s family legacy of growing asparagus, which was his parents’ specialty while they managed the farm. Today, 250 acres of the 600 acres are hand-harvested crops, including 150 acres of sweet corn, 60 acres of asparagus, and 40 acres of peaches, cantaloupes, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and blueberries. The balance of the farm includes 75 acres of green beans contracted for fresh market, as well as grain and processing crops which change year to year.
Tom comments, “I grew up in a farm family growing grain crops, fruit and vegetables. We grew some things under contract to processing companies and we also sold things directly to the public. When I was young, 150 acres of the home farm was planted in only asparagus, hedgerow to hedgerow.” They grew for the Green Giant Co. in Woodside, Delaware.
Top: Tom Godfrey displays hundreds of tomato plants which will be sold to customers to plant in their home gardens. Middle: Grandmother Mary Godfrey arranges flower bundles to sell at the market. Bottom: Lisa Godfrey arranges trays of annuals for sale in the front of the market.
“We also sold to the public and had U-Pick strawberries,” he added. “Sometime in the late 1970s, that plant closed and then we were all direct marketing to the public. We cut our acreage way back on asparagus and pursued other crops.”
Over the years, he said, this included many different delicious vegetables, including peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, string beans, and lima beans.
Lisa states, “Asparagus is our most popular crop. It is a perennial crop that produces shoots every day for about six to seven weeks between May and June. The U-Pick has changed over the years. Families today pick small amounts for the experience of doing it, where their grandparents may have picked large amounts to can or freeze. U-Pick options include strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and blackberries.”
Years ago, everyone bought local. Tom explains that people got large quantities of produce to can and freeze and eat fresh during the season. Then transportation of produce got better and things began to be shipped from all over and year-round. Many things became available all of the time in the grocery stores, and the need to freeze and can vanished, as did the concept of seasonal eating.
“Some people today don’t even know when the local seasons are,” Tom laments. “Lately, there has been a shift in thinking toward locally-grown food, sparked, I think, by some food safety problems. This has caused mistrust of the food chain industry. Ideas spread and take hold very quickly now with the reality of social media. So we are getting more attention now, although we were always here. I am paying attention to the concerns I perceive that the public has and we are trying to do what will earn trust in our products.”
The farm practices Integrated Pest Management and is Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certified. Over the years, Godfrey’s has diversified its market offerings to include cut flowers, locally-produced cheese from Eve’s Cheese; yogurt, milk, eggs, and chicken from Lancaster County; Parkside Deli chicken salad; prepared foods and meats from the Meat Locker and pork from Langenfelder Farm; Hershey’s ice cream; homemade salsa, slushies, pies, and baked goods. The family also sold fruit and vegetables to stores in Annapolis since the early 1970’s. The restaurant sales to the Baltimore/DC metropolitan area restaurants started within the last 15 years.
Lisa reflects, “It’s been a great place to raise a family. A lot of our customers know our kids and have watched our two girls grow up. This job has also given me the ability to work and spend time with them.”
Their children have been involved in everything at the market, including selling their own wares.
Top: George Godfrey on a tractor in the 70s. Bottom: The Godfrey family in the 1970s.
Back row, left to right, are grandparents Robert and Hazel Godfrey, parents George and Mary Godfrey, and brother George Godfrey, Jr. Front row, left to right, are sisters Sarah and Molly Godfrey with Tom Godfrey and their dog Rufus.
“One day we found them selling tomatoes at their own table outside,” Lisa adds. “We had to stop them because they were undercutting our prices inside.”
Dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 has challenged the farm to think differently about selling products.
“It has forced us to create online ordering, which has actually been a very positive thing,” Lisa says. “It has added another dimension to our business by letting people see everything we carry online.”
With COVID-19, Godfrey’s will be implementing new safety rules, including washing hands before picking, not bringing food into the fields, and not allowing pets in the fields.
“What better place to get fresh food than six feet apart in a strawberry patch? We know a lot of the people who come year after year,” she quips.
In summer, Godfrey’s Farm has another attraction – its ice cream. Lisa explains, “In addition to our U-Pick fruit, which has been a good way to get people to come to the farm, we get a lot of ice cream traffic. There is a reunion in our rockers when we start offering ice cream again each spring. Every year, people come back to catch up with their friends and see what’s new.”
Tom reflects. “I’ve always taken for granted my place in the agricultural world. I’ve never known anything else. It’s like asking a fish what it’s like to be wet all the time. When I consciously make a point to think about it, I feel fortunate for what I have and am glad to have been given this path. My parents, of course, set me on this track, they were the true pioneers, did all the heavy lifting and took, what seems to me now like, incredible risks.”
Lisa adds, “There is nothing better than when the sun is shining and we have enough product and people want it. It’s great to see their arms full of what we grew.”
SUDLERSVILLE FIRE COMPANY PEACH FESTIVAL
August 1, 12-4 p.m.
Online ordering is available, Open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
302 Leager Road, Sudlersville, MD
firstname.lastname@example.org • 410-438-3509