Conly Garfield Greer
Conly Garfield Greer was born in Crumpler, NC, in 1883 to Moses and Lavinia Greer. Like the Carr daughters, Conly Greer attended Virginia State College (now Virginia State University) in Petersburg where he studied agriculture. With his marriage to Mary Louise Carr, daughter of Hugh, in December 1913, Conly Greer took over the responsibilities of River View farm. In 1918, Greer was hired by the Virginia Agricultural Extension Division, then a segregated institution, as Albemarle County’s first black extension agent. His responsibilities included teaching productive agricultural techniques and modern farming practices to local black farmers. To fulfill this role, he made frequent visits to black-owned farms throughout the County and used his own farm as a demonstration model.
A noted conservationist, Greer’s greatest joy was to see his farm produce at its best. He served as the County extension agent 35 years until his retirement in 1953. He is buried in the family cemetery at the Ivy Creek Natural Area.
Conly and Mary had one daughter, Louise Evangeline Greer, who also pursued and worked in higher education.
Note: some historic documents spell his first name as “Conley”.
Recollection by James R. Butler of Conly Greer
In 1953 Mr. Conly G. Greer retired as Albemarle County Extension Agent and Mr. James R. Butler assumed the position. Mr. Butler’s memories of the Greer farm and of Mr. Greer are given below.
When Mr. Conly Greer married Mary Carr, the farm that she had inherited consisted of the house, the many building and sheds so typical of a working farm, and about fifteen acres of land. By 1953 Mr. Greer had expanded the farm to over 200 acres and the boundary was very similar to that of today’s Ivy Creek Natural Area.
The large white barn, the central focus for all of ICNA, was built using lumber cut from the farm. The structure was a special design recommended by the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) in the late thirties. The barn was a showcase for other county farms as was the entire farm and those farming practices used by Mr. Greer. He followed the best management practices of his day and many farmers came to the farm to learn. As extension agent and noted conservationist, Mr. Greer did quite a few conservation plans for minority farmers in Albemarle.
In the early years the main agricultural emphasis on the farm was on growing corn, wheat, hay, and on keeping ten or twelve dairy cows (the milk was skimmed and the cream was sold locally), many hogs (they were fed left over food and waste from the cafeterias at the University of Virginia and the UVa Hospital), and quite a few layer hens. Two breeder houses and a layer house for chickens were located along today’s path that leads to the barn.
By the early 1950’s the emphasis on livestock at the farm had turned to horses and cattle. Only the best agricultural practices were still used and Mr. Greer was exceptionally proud of the quality of the crops and livestock grown and raised on the farm. He had the greatest respect for his land and treated it with dignity. His greatest joy was to produce an exceptional corn harvest or raise top quality livestock; his greatest pride was to see his land produce at its best. This joy and pride he shared and encouraged among others, especially blacks. He had high ideals for his race, just as he had for his land.
Mr. Butler’s many visits to the farm proved his friendship with and respect for Mr. Greer as a gentleman, a true conservationist, and a model farmer. This respect and friendship was mutual between two men that left their legacies in Albemarle County.