Big changes are coming to the historic Styer property on Woodbourne Road in Langhorne.
For the last two decades, Styer Orchard and the Market at Styer have been operated by two separate lessees, despite sharing a name. While Mike and Karen Field, followed by their son Tim in 2019, ran the orchard, Dave and Sharon Barberides managed the farm store.
When both agreements were set to expire on Jan. 31, the Middletown Township board of supervisors informed both families that one long-term lease with one party would be more beneficial. The Barberides’ and Tim were invited to submit proposals in December, and the board selected Tim to oversee the orchard and market. This, said the supervisors, will allow harvest from the orchard to be retailed at the store, which was the vision of founder T. Walter “Pop” Styer when he purchased the orchard property in 1910.
“[My wife] Kristin and I are grateful for this opportunity to unite the orchard and the market,” said Tim, who spent the majority of his childhood working the orchard under the direction of his parents. “We look forward to serving the community while carrying on ‘Pop’ Styer’s vision. I am most excited for my sons to grow up and have the same experiences as I had on the farm.”
Meanwhile, the Barberides’ are “devastated” over the unanimous decision to grant the long-term lease to Tim. In a Facebook post, Dave and Sharon explained how they learned the outcome during the supervisors’ Feb. 1 meeting along with the general public.
“We were given no personal warning before the meeting that the decision had been reached. It was obvious that Tim Field, all supervisors and the township manager knew ahead what the decision was. It was premeditated,” they wrote. “We weren’t even given the courtesy of being told personally. The only personal message came minutes after the meeting from [township manager Stephanie] Teoli Kuhls – we have only 30 days to clear out the store.”
Dave and Sharon went on to say that they wanted produce from the orchard to be sold at the store, but Mike and Tim Field denied their request.
“The orchard’s refusal to work with us was so deep that they even refused to give out our phone number to inquiring customers, despite the thousands of times we have given customers theirs,” they said.
“We are devastated by these events. This store feels like a family member to us. It truly feels like we are grieving a death … We are heartsick to leave, especially in this manner.”
The Barberides’ included a link to their proposal on the Market at Styers Facebook page, as well as an online petition, which was signed by over 8,000 people when The Times went to print.
During the supervisors’ meeting, the board expressed excitement over the Styer property’s next chapter, barely mentioning the store’s soon-to-be former owners.
“My feeling is that the previous setup really impeded both businesses, the store and the farm, from fulfilling their full potential. I am of the mindset that we need to move forward with this as a single-run enterprise so that the farm and the store can work collectively, jointly as one single operation,” said Mike Ksiazek. “I think that’s really the best overall use of the property for the residents of the township.”
“Pop” Styer purchased the initial 52 acres of Styer Orchard in 1910 for $4,500. His original plan was to create a tree nursery, but “Pop” shifted his business when the Great Depression hit to produce affordable fruits and vegetables for a community reeling from economic hardship and food insecurity.
He added a farm store in 1972, allowing for the retail of produce off the soon-to-be-bustling Woodbourne Road and positioning itself as a rural market for the new and thriving community of Levittown, located just down the road.
As “Pop” grew older, it was his dying wish to have his pride and joy preserved for future generations. The township purchased the property in 1999 for $2.2 million thanks to funding from the county and state Department of Conservation and National Resources. “Pop” passed away shortly after the sale on June 8, 1999, at the age of 102.
Now, on the heels of 20 years as separate operations, Tim intends to rebrand the business and unify the farm store and orchard.
At the store, he plans to maintain fresh food, bakery and grocery offerings, with produce coming directly from the orchard to the store for the first time in many years. He also wants to transition toward creating more products in-house by using produce from the orchard to create new signature and seasonal treats. There are also goals to relocate the cider press to the store to educate patrons about the cider-making process.
Changes proposed at the farm include planting new and modern apple varieties, as well as adding new pick-your-own crops, such as blackberries, strawberries and blueberries. Additionally, limited seasonal “agri-tainment” opportunities will be added, including a corn maze and nighttime hayrides in the fall and an old-fashioned holiday experience in the winter.
To minimize the displacement of farm store employees during the transition, Tim said he invited them to apply for continued employment under his operation of the market.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com