The Willey Farms Story
In the summer of 1975, Donald and Irene Willey pulled an airline baggage cart filled
with fresh vegetables from the family farm to the end of their lane and started what
would soon grow to become Willey Farms. Donald and Irene’s then six young children
along with several nieces and nephews were employed throughout the summer months
working the fields and as top salesmen for the roadside stand.
In the late 70’s Donald left his full-time job with American Airlines in order to
focus on the blossoming family business. During those early years, the Willey’s sold
produce grown on the farm, purchased from area farmers, or obtained from the
terminal markets in Baltimore and Philadelphia. By the mid 80’s, Mr. and Mrs. Willey
had forged buying relationships with southern farmers in Georgia and South Carolina. These connections allowed them to offer “hot items” of sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelon, and cantaloupe weeks before the local season started. As customers came and sales grew, the baggage cart was quickly replaced by a small pole barn, then another one, and then a larger one!
With the expanding building, the mix of products grew. First came seasonal flowers, pumpkins, and Christmas trees. Then a wicker and nursery department was added. Next the family brought in candy, jams, jellies, and dairy products. A deli popped up afterward along with a section for natural foods.
Donald passed Willey Farms on to the second generation in 1988; who remain in charge still today. In November of 1997, Donald went on to be with His Father. Sadly, Irene joined Donald and her second husband Stan in heaven when she passed away on October 12th, 2017. She loved coming in to the market and talking with all the customers. She is greatly loved and greatly missed. (Mom Willey tribute video)
In the early morning of November 5th, 2018, Willey Farms had a devastating fire that destroyed the entire building. The fire quickly engulfed the wooden frame and within a matter of hours, 43 years of hard work was reduced to rubble. All that remained was the metal framework from the greenhouses. Christmas trees for that season had already been cut and purchased, though luckily, not yet delivered. So with a rented tent and a burn barrel, the crew forged ahead with an open air Christmas tree lot. Thanks to the support we received from the community that first winter season, the decision was made to move forward and build again – this time creating the Willey Farms Village. The garden center reopened on the original location in April 2019. The next month, the produce and natural foods market opened just up the road in a neighboring building. Today, with the vision and guidance of Chris and Sarah Willey, Willey Farms continues to grow the new village, honor its roots and serve the community.