Port Matilda, Pennsylvania
Jason and Megan Coopey, owners of Way Fruit Farm, embraced the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity.
Way Fruit Farm, located near The Pennsylvania State University, produce apples, peaches, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, sweet corn and pumpkins. The Coopeys sell all these fruits, as well as other local vegetables at Way Fruit Farm’s retail facility and at a few local farmers markets in the State College area.
A storied family history
Jane and Caleb Way were the first generation of the Way family to farm in Halfmoon Valley, Pennsylvania, beginning in 1792.
A few generations later in 1872, Jane and Caleb’s grandson, Robert A. Way, married Lucretia Fisher. Lucretia’s father was in the apple business and, for a wedding gift, gifted 1,000 apple trees to the newlyweds. Robert and Lucretia planted the trees on the Way property, starting the orchard that continues to produce fruit for Way Fruit Farm today.
Megan, a 6th generation Way, took over the farm in 2008, with her husband Jason. Together, like the generations before them, they expanded the business into new markets.
Way Fruit Farm now boasts two new, energy-efficient apple coolers as well as an updated apple sorting and cider press facility in a newly erected building. The 1950s apple storage facility, originally built by Megan’s grandfather, Elwood Way, has been repurposed to hold an expanded retail facility for fruit, seasonal local vegetables and all sorts of local grocery items, as well as The Way Café, Bakery and Deli.
New generation, new challenges
Everything was going well for Megan and Jason; they were carrying on the Way family legacy and managing the operation just as they’d hoped. And then the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“We found that the biggest change for us during pandemic, in our minds, was the balance of life,” Megan said. “The whole balance of life was thrown out for everyone. It took a lot of adjustment.”
The pandemic brought unimaginable degrees of uncertainty for Way Fruit Farm. Megan and Jason didn’t know what would happen to their business or to their way of life. “The pandemic was crazy for everything. And I think everybody going into it didn't know really where life was going to go,” Jason said.
Farm Credit: a partner in good times and bad
That’s when Megan and Jason reached out to their loan officer at AgChoice Farm Credit.
“I asked if we could we look at our credit lines and everything else to make sure that we're well positioned to survive this,” Jason said. “We worked with our agents throughout the entire thing to make sure that we had the liquidity that we would need throughout the course of the pandemic.”
Undeterred by setbacks
Despite the challenges they’ve faced due to the pandemic, Megan and Jason are determined to continue to grow their business.
“Here at Way Fruit Farm, we have a unique view on life. We're farmers, but I also see us as entrepreneurs,” Jason said. “As much as this pandemic … has been awful in some ways, I've also seen that it's a spot for us to grow.”
In fact, for Megan, the business feels as if it’s teetering on the edge of new advancements. “I feel like we are on the precipice of exploding as a business,” she said. “We'll never be nationwide Way Fruit Farm, but that doesn't mean that we can't expand ourselves in other ways.”
The Coopeys plan to take what they’ve learned in 2020 and transform those challenges into progress. “I'm hoping that as we go forward, we can grow from this moment, and we can use, as bad as it's been, to help us succeed in the future,” said Jason.