The Middletown Township Board of Supervisors voted recently to enter into a long-term lease agreement for the Styer Orchard and Farm Store, continuing the Township’s commitment and determination to preserve not only the 109-acre farm and store, but the legacy of T. Walter “Pop” Styer. Operated under two separate lease agreements since 2000, the Township will now unify the production and the sale of fresh produce as Pop Styer did for decades. Existing farm operator, Tim Field, will lead this effort as he takes over the operation of the store. Field, a longtime Middletown Township resident, grew up on the property and took over management of orchard operations in 2019 when his parents stepped down from the business.
“The Township’s charge from Pop Styers all those years ago was to safeguard this property from development and to educate the community about agriculture.” said Middletown Township Board of Supervisors Chairperson Tom Tosti. “Tim Field and his team will help us live up to that charge.”
“Having the orchard and farm store run separately makes it harder for each of them to be successful,” said Supervisor Amy Strouse. “We need a vibrant orchard and a bustling farm store supporting each other; putting them under the same management is the best way to guarantee the long-term future of this Township-owned community asset.”
After voting on the new lease, the Board of Supervisors thanked existing store operators, Dave and Sharon Barberides and the employees at the Market at Styer Orchard for their dedication and work in operating the farm store. Existing store employees are encouraged to submit applications for employment with the new operator.
Tim Field grew up on the Styer property and spent much of his childhood working the orchards under the direction of his parents. When the opportunity arose in 2019, Tim and his then-fiancée Kristin moved back to the Styer property to take up orchard operations. Since getting married in 2019, Tim and Kristin welcomed twin sons Chase and Cole in September 2020.
“Kristin and I are grateful for this opportunity to unite the orchard and the market. 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,” commented Tim Field.
After two decades as separate operations, Field is planning to rebrand the businesses to communicate the unification of the farm store and orchard. At the farm store, he plans to maintain fresh food, bakery and grocery offerings, with produce coming from the orchard directly to the farm store for the first time in many years. He also intends to transition toward creating more products in-house, using produce from the orchard to create new signature and seasonal treats. There are also plans 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. Limited seasonal “agri-tainment” opportunities will be added such as a corn maze and nighttime hayrides in the fall and an old-fashioned holiday experience in the winter.
HONORING POP STYER’S LEGACY
T. Walter ‘Pop’ Styer purchased the property that is now referred to as Styer Orchard in 1910, paying $4,500 for the initial 52 acres of land. Located near the intersection of Woodbourne Road and Langhorne-Yardley Road, the property was originally planned as a tree nursery. During the Great Depression, the savvy Pop Styer shifted his business to producing affordable fruits and vegetables for a community reeling from economic hardship and food insecurity.
Adding a farm store in 1972, allowed Pop Styer to retail produce off the accessible and soon-to-be-bustling Woodbourne Road, poising itself as a rural market for the new and thriving community of Levittown just down the road. The market would see another boost as the Highland Gate, Cider Knoll, and Maple Point neighborhoods rose within walking distance in the 1980s.
As Pop grew older and as the pressure for development loomed heavy, he sought to preserve the farm as an asset to the community long beyond his lifetime, providing affordable produce and a means to educate future generations about agriculture. With a combination of funds from Middletown Township, Bucks County, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the Township purchased the Styer property for $2.2 million in 1999. Shortly after the sale, Pop Styer passed away on June 8, 1999, at the age of 102.
TWO BUSINESSES – ONE PROPERTY
Both the orchard and farm store at the Styer property have been operating under separate 20-year leases since the early 2000s. Dave Barberides has maintained sole operation of the farm store since 2004, bringing a range of fresh foods, baked goods, and home accessories to the community. The original lessees of the orchards were Mike and Karen Field, parents of Tim Field. Beginning orchard replanting and pick-your-own operations at the orchards in 2001, the Field family has produced bountiful harvests annually ever since.
Because there are two separate lease agreements with the Township for operation of the farm store and orchard, there are several restrictions that have been in place that limit the types of goods and services each could provide. Over the years, this has resulted in two independent businesses just yards apart.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
As the expiration of the two 20-year leases approached, the Township initiated discussions with both lessees regarding the future of the property. There were both formal and informal notices given that existing lease terms would not be extended. The clear resolve of the Board was that the best way to set the Styer property up for success was to lease the property to one party for a long term. Keeping true to the property’s roots and Pop Styer’s legacy, operating the farm store and orchard as one entity will allow the harvest from the orchard to be retailed at the storefront.
The Board of Supervisors’ rationale for this vision is that having one lessee oversee the operations of the entire property will allow the operator to have the freedom and latitude to grow their business without having to tiptoe around a lengthy, restrictive contract. Additionally, a long-term lease will assure that the lessee is able to invest in the vitality of the orchard and strategic interest of the operation. This strategy was used by none other than Pop Styer himself toward the end of his life.
In recognition of the existing relationships with the Township, the Board of Supervisors gave both Field and Barberides the opportunity to present proposals to take over the entire Styer property. Formal proposals were submitted to the Township in December 2020, followed by review and discussions. The Board of Supervisors was unanimous in the position to grant the lease agreements to Tim Field.
“It was clear that Tim had the best plan to unite the farm store and orchard into one operation,” said Supervisor Dawn Quirple. “We look forward to Tim keeping our favorite elements of Styer’s alive while bringing fresh ideas for the next generation.”
While an exact timeline for the transition of the farm store has not yet been determined, Field stated he intends to minimize downtime as much as possible.