Agricultural guru Bob Gregory teaches and promotes healthy and sustainable living in West Virginia.
Before establishing Berea Gardens in Calhoun County in 2009, Bob Gregory spent many years of his agronomist career in the California sun, working with some of the richest soil in the country. He grew up in rural Sacramento Valley, where he later managed several large agricultural operations in addition to traveling to and from Latin America for consulting work. So, how did this Golden State native end up in our great Mountain State?
Well, Bob Gregory and his wife, Lynnita, moved to the East Coast in 2001, where Gregory taught sustainable agriculture at a small missionary training college in Virginia. While he loved teaching, he also loved practicing sustainable agriculture himself. This combination of passions inspired him to build a business where he could have the best of both worlds.
In 2009, Gregory and his wife bought a farm in West Virginia and established their own agricultural-educational operation: the Berea Gardens Agriculture Center. “It was definitely a providential purchase,” Gregory says, “because just a couple weeks after we made the offer on the 120-acre farm, the county auctioned off the school building that we’re now occupying as well.” Since many residents of the southern part of Calhoun County attended school in this very building, there was a lot of curiosity about what the Gregorys planned to do with the property. As it turns out, the couple decided to hold sustainable agriculture classes in the very same classrooms where Calhoun County students had learned to read and write.
As many as 90 varieties of vegetables might be growing in the gardens at any given time, according to Gregory. “We have two acres of intense production and seven high tunnels for season extension,” he says, “and it’s intensely hard work, but that doesn’t matter to those who have a real passion for it.”
With years of experience in sustainable agriculture, Bob Gregory has developed a unique and effective approach to soil chemistry. “I apply mineral treatments to the soil,” he says, “which fully charges plants with the entire set of 35 elements that are essential for optimum human health. Not to mention, completely nutritious plants taste much better.” He also deals with weeds, pests, and diseases differently than many growers, ditching toxic chemicals and relying instead on natural techniques such as trap cropping.
Over the years, the Gregorys have participated in countless farmers markets and sold produce to various local restaurants, cafes, and schools. But the work they do at Berea Gardens has never been about profit—it’s simply about promoting a healthy lifestyle. “I think it’s really important for people to be aware of the quality of their food, because it’s critical for their health. For that reason, we try to keep our prices competitive with big-name grocery stores,” Gregory says, “but our customers are getting so much more quality for what they’re spending.”