The family tradition continues. Pictured, left to right, Charles Berry, C.H. Berry, Chuck Berry and Chase Berry. (Special Photo)
COVINGTON — The Berry family farm has managed to stay relevant throughout the last 120 years, though it’s taken some reinvention on the part of the Berry family.
“We’re very fortunate, especially when you look back over almost 120 years, a lot of changes have taken place,” said Chuck Berry, whose father, C.H. Berry, owns the farm.
Now known as Berry’s Tree Farm, it was recently named a Georgia Centennial Family Farm by the The Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The award recognizes farms owned by members of the same family for 100 years or more that are not listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Chuck Berry’s great-great-grandfather, Charles Woodson Berry, purchased more than 200 acres of farmland in the Almon Community from Thomas Merriwether in 1894. The property was deeded to the Berry family in 1902 after Merriwether’s death.
The farm was a dairy and row crop operation for more than 80 years, with the family raising corn, hay and Jersey cows.
After the death of Charles Woodson Berry, the property was passed on to his wife and four children. It was eventually purchased by Charles “Charlie” Hamilton Berry Sr., who continued to operate the farm as a dairy and sold milk to the former Sealtest Dairies in Atlanta.
Charlie Berry’s two children divided the farm in 1983, and more than 100 acres were sold for development in 2004. The remaining 100-plus acres is still owned by C.H. Berry and his wife, Hilda. His son, Charles Hamilton Berry III, and grandson, Chuck, are active in farm operations.
With dairy farming becoming cost-prohibitive, the family ended that operation in 1969 and the final herd of cows was sold in 1977. That same year, the first crop of Christmas trees was planted. The first trees were sold five years later.
Over the last 25 years the Berrys have added an equipment repair shop, greenhouse and retail sales office, pond house used for meals and gatherings, concession stand, public restrooms and a Santa’s house, all to keep the farm vital.
Berry said they offer activities for children and families — such as a petting zoo — to stand out from big box retailers and roadside stands. Cut-your-own tree operations suffered when artificial trees became popular, but now things have come full circle, he said.
“There’s a big push now for cut-your-own, pick-your-own type operations. We’ve been doing it for years, even before it was a big thing,” he said. Berry said he’s seeing folks who used to come as children 20 years ago now bringing their own children.
“In the early 2000s, everything was computers, everybody was in a hurry, nobody had time to stop,” Berry said. But now, folks are realizing the value in slowing down and enjoying the simple pleasures in life, like picking out your own live Christmas tree, he said.
Berry’s Tree Farm was one of 24 named a Georgia Centennial Family Farm this year.
“As we know the way property has sold the last few years, it’s a pretty decent achievement to know we’ve been able to hold onto something that long,” he said.
The tree farm’s season begins Nov. 24. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. The farm is located at 70 Mt. Tabor Road.