Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, September 13, 1986, Image 56

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Slyer Family Finds Produce Business Enjoyable Despite Long Hours
BY BARBARA MILLER
Lycoming Co. Correspondent
LEWISBURG - What’s it like
being the wife of a produce farm
er.
Cathy Styer, a native born
Pittsburgher, says she’s writing a
hook about her experiences as a
produce farmer’s wife entitled, “If
They Could See Me Now.”
Daisy Styer, Cathy’s sister-in
law, notes she never gets up or
■oes to bed before she has to.
Edna Styer, mother-in-law of
Cathy and Daisy, observes she
feels guilty sitting down
sometimes.”
Each of the three women works
fulltime helping her husband
operate a farm produce market.
The Styer families represent a
total of 60 years of produce
marketing.
Edna Slyer and her husband,
Ualph, of Muncy, have been in the
produce business for 43 years.
Potatoes and blueberries are their
major crops although they also
retail pears, strawberries, and
blackberries. Of their 20 acres of
potatoes, most will be sold
wholesale, Edna says.
Daisy and Tom Styer, Muncy,
began their operation 11 years ago.
This year they planted 21 acres of
sweet corn, 15 acres of pumpkins,
and 10 acres of strawberries on
their 75 acre farm. They grow a
variety of crops such as peppers
and cucumbers and four years ago
added a greenhouse which enables
them to raise their own vegetable
and flower plants.
After working with Ralph and
Edna for a tune, Cathy and Sam
Styer purchased a 100-acre farm
near Lewisburg where they opened
a produce market five and half
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Cathy and Sam Styer put peaches into 2-quart containers in preparation for opening
the store.
<i i. .
years ago. They furnish peppers
and tomatoes for a nearby can
nery, although their biggest crop
this year was 30 acres planted in
pumpkins. They retail pumpkins
along with strawberries, black
raspberries, cabbage and various
kinds of beans.
The three women were seated on
runged chairs around a much used
wooden table on a recent evening
in Daisy’s family room. It was 8
p.m., the end of a 17 or 18 hour day
for sorrie, in the midst of their
busiest season. And the women
discussed what it is like to be the
wife of a produce farmer.
Cathy, scurrying in at 8 p.m. and
the last to arrive, observed shortly
that she’d had no lunch, or supper
and had seen almost nothing of her
husband all day. Daisy nodded
assent when she heard Cathy
mention the omitted meals.
Then brows wrinkled for a few
minutes as they discussed whether
the first frost of the season might
occur that evening. Predicted
temperatures were near freezing
levels. If the frost materialized,
tender peppers and cucumbers
would require irrigation to prevent
freezing.
In each of their produce
operations the women said their
primary responsibility was to
manage the market while their
husbands took care of planting and
harvesting the crops. Although
when busy, they said, everyone,
including other family members,
helped do whatever was needed to
get the work done.
“I still help in the fields when
needed and Tom helps in the
market when he’s needed,” Daisy
remarked.
How well were the women able to
mesh their roles as wives and
mothers with the long hours
Tom and Daisy Styer of Muncy stand outside their market.
demanded to run a successful
produce operation? Edna, with the
help of Ralph, reared six children
while helping maintain a market;
she says she took things “from day
to day. You did what you had to
do.”
For Cathy, who came 12 years
ago from the city to the country,
life on the farm has been a con
tinuing revelation. She still recalls
her first close encounter with a
cow. “She was huge,” she said.
And although her father-in-law
assured her she would come to like
chickens, she hasn’t yet. She still
feels intimidated by them, she
explained. Not by their size, but by
their very numbers.
With a degree in business and
secretarial science, Cathy worked
for a public utility in Pittsburgh
before she married. Subsequently,
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Cathy, Edna and Daisy Styer share a late-night cup of coffee after a long day
W y /
she says, she learned that “farm
ers do not have a time schedule”
and claims she now puts in “36
hour days.”
Getting back to how she blends
roles, Cathy observed, “It is hard
to do it all.” She gets up at 4:45
a.m. but sometimes finds herself
hanging up clothes at 7 p.m. Cathy
and Sam are the parents of Jean,
12, and Robyn, 9.
“It’s funsville trying to fit
everybody into the schedule,”
Daisy observes with a similar
comment. Finding enough time to
do housework and getting meals on
time for her family are a constant
challenge.
In what has to be some kind of a
record, Daisy reports that one
night Tom’s supper was warmed
up seven tunes due to interruptions
before he was able to eat it. Daisy
and Tom have three children,
twins, Keith and Kevin, 18, and
Richard, 15.
What part of their market
operation do the women enjoy
most? Cathy and Daisy mentioned
they enjoyed giving farm tours to
children.
“I enjoy my tours. They’re a lot
of work and I’m dead tired, but I
enjoy it,” Cathy states.
On the tours, Cathy says, the
children visit and teed farm
animals such as chickens and pigs,
go for a hayride, pick a pumpkin,
and then snack on cider and ap-
Ralph and Edna Styer stand under a tree by produce scales
where they have done much of their business for the past 43
years.
pies. Other groups such as
Brownies, Scout troops, and the
handicapped enjoy the tours.
According to Daisy, 2,800 kids
toured her farm last year.
The tours, Cathy and Daisy
agree, serve as their number one
promotional tool. When the
children are allowed to do
something such as feed the
chickens, Daisy says, they
remember it and come back.
In addition to liking the people,
Edna listed another reason for
enjoying the produce business. She
said she enjoyed being together
with Ralph. The Styers have been
married almost 50 years.
“It’s altogether different when
they go off to work,” she observed.
“I’ve enjoyed having Dad around
. . . Raising six kids, it was a big
help.”
What did the ladies like least
about their operation’
"The hassle. It’s always a
hassle,” Daisy replied with no
hesitation. “Everybody wants
everything when it’s not ripe.”
“They always want pears when
they’re green,” agreed Edna.
“The hassle is up in the top ten,”
Cathy observed wryly, noting that
she dislikes trying to juggle
everything around in the store.
What advice would the women
offer to anyone thinking of opening
a produce market?
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