86 years. Nine decades. Four generations.
No matter how you measure it, Meyer's Farm and the family behind it have stood the test of time, along the way becoming a local institution and a favorite stop for Long Islanders seeking fresh produce.
"My family has been on this land since 1924. My great grandfather came here from Elmont and bought this farm," says Pete Meyer, IV, speaking proudly of Peter Meyer, Sr. and his original purchase of a plot of land on Woodbury Road at Piquet's Lane.
Over those many years, the Meyer family weathered the great depression by selling off part of their land to Edward Tinker, whose estimated 130-acre estate was on the grounds currently occupied by Syosset Woodbury Park and the Crossways Park business development.
They thrived during World War II supplying potatoes that the government purchased to help feed the troops, and have at various times expanded and downsized, adjusted and adapted to meet changing market demands and consumer tastes.
Now, this rare farm amidst residential and commercial properties that is, according to Meyer, one of only two remaining farms in the Town of Oyster Bay, is positioned to continue operating well into the future.
Pete Meyer and his brother Joe are the fourth generation of farmers in the family on this land.
"Right now I run the farm here... it's 8-1/2 acres, and this is also the retail end," he says. "My father and my brother run the growing out in Calverton... we farm 100 acres there."
Although there were six kids in the family growing up, it fell upon Pete and Joe as the two oldest boys to help out on the farm.
"At first I really didn't like it because all my friends were playing... riding their bikes," Meyer remembers. "And we were stuck here planting, picking tomatoes, doing this and that."
"But then when I got into high school, I started liking it again... going out east [to the Calverton farm] in the summertime and working the machinery," he says. "I was like 14 or 15 years old and I was driving trucks on the farm... it was great."
By the time he graduated from Syosset High School, he was hooked on the family business. "I just loved it and I didn't want to do anything else," he recalls.
Meyer says the vast majority of what they harvest is sold through their farmstand, and it's there that they built their reputation.
"We're picking it and putting it on the truck at seven o'clock in the morning, it's here at nine and customers are in here buying it," notes Meyer. "That's how we got to be big as a retail farm stand, because that's what people want. They want fresh at a good price."
"We run back and forth [to Calverton] sometimes 2 times a day," he says, adding with a grin. "It's funny... I tell people that and they think it's a big journey going out there, but to us, it's nothing – it's like running down to Plainview."
Meyer says they grow about 35 items, the hottest summer sellers being sweet corn, tomatoes and beans.
"And now going into the fall, people start to cook again," he says. "So we get into cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, beets... those kinds of things."
In addition to operating the farmstand through Thanksgiving, they sell Christmas trees, wreaths and poinsettia plants for the holiday season. Then, in winter they have hothouses in which they grow plants for the spring and early summer.
"It's definitely a tough life... it's seven days a week, rain or shine, even when you're sick," Meyer says of being a farmer. "You're a mechanic, a carpenter, a welder, you're running a business, driving trucks... it's just so involved."
"But I still love it," he adds, "and how many people do you come in contact with that can say 'I love what I do?'"
Meyer loves it so much, in fact that he, along with his brother and father have committed to keeping the land zoned for farming.
"In 2007, the county approached us and asked us if we'd like to sell the building rights on this property," he explains, "And we decided we still really wanted to keep farming, so we said, 'Yeah, let's go for it.'" Under the agreement, the Meyers retain ownership of the property, but agree to keep the land for agricultural use only.
As for a fifth generation in the family business, Meyer isn't sure.
"I have 3 kids – my daughter is 14 and my sons are 13 and 11," he says, "and I would really like them to go to college."
[I'll say to them] "You know, this is always going to be here – you can always do this. Go and see what's out there. See if there's something better," he concludes, "And if you want to come back I'd love it – I wish you would."
Meyer's Farm, located on Woodbury Rd. at Piquet's Lane, is open from 9:00 to 5:00, 7 days a week.