Styer Orchard Master Plan
- Middletown Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Styer Orchard is an agricultural oasis in Middletown Township, the third most populated municipality in Bucks County. Less than 8% of the land in this community is presently used for farming, and the pressure for new residential, commercial and industrial development continues to mount. As farmland is converted to other land uses, evidence of Middletown Township’s agricultural history is being lost.
T. Walter Styer, Jr.., more affectionately known as “Pop,” was a resident of Middletown Township from 1910 to 1999. Along with his family, he operated a 109-acre orchard located just southwest of the intersection of Langhorne-Yardley and Woodbourne Roads. To ensure that the farm would continue to be a community resource in accordance with Pop Styers’ last will and testament, his heirs sold the farm to Middletown Township and established a trust fund to help maintain the property for public enjoyment. Heritage Conservancy was appointed the administrator of the trust, known as the T. Walter Styer, Jr. Horticultural Fund.
Heritage Conservancy’s responsibilities in administering the Horticultural Fund include “(1) funding programs and improvements relating to the raising of fruits and vegetables and/or general agricultural or environmental education activities and (2) assisting Middletown Township in its overall management of the Orchard.” These duties involve developing appropriate long- and short-term plans to ensure the survival of the Orchard and its use as a community resource and allocating funds for the maintenance and operation of the property, including the repairs and purchase of equipment and the development and implementation of environmental education programs and activities.
Heritage Conservancy has prepared a master plan that identifies ways in which Styer Orchard can be improved to support fruit and vegetable farming and to determine how educational programs can be used to foster community awareness of the role of agriculture in healthy living. This plan was developed for Middletown Township in partnership with a farmer and storekeeper who have licenses with the township to operate the orchard and market. The master plan includes recommendations regarding improvements to the property, business operations and the visitor experience. The plan is currently under consideration by the township.
To date, proceeds from the trust fund managed by Heritage Conservancy have been used to repair the cold storage area, buy a new tractor and sprayer, clear out aging and damaged fruit trees to make way for new plantings and install deer fencing to protect the crops. An Earth Day festival at the farm included a backyard wildlife presentation by the conservancy for township residents.