Szuster Farms in Yaphank recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, during which it has remained a family-owned and operated business.
The farm was established in 1920 by Polish immigrants Kazimierz and Teofila Szuster and at its height, grew to 280 acres of land, including the homestead, woodland, pasture and farmland.
Over the years, it has grown a variety of produce, including potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, garden vegetables, hay and more. It currently encompasses 46 acres.
The farm is now run by John Stehle, the great-grandson of the farm’s founders and, as it always has, operates as a wholesale business.
Stehle, 51, reached by phone while making a delivery with his wife, Jennifer, 46, said he worked with his four great uncles on the farm while growing up and took over the day-to-day operations in 2006.
In between working in the fields, “I need to maximize what I do every day,” Stehle said. “It’s a passion that you have to do this,” he added of being a farmer. “It’s just amazing. To be able to produce a product that is used by so many people. And do it the right way — the way I learned it. You have to have the heart.”
Jennifer said she is in awe of her husband and other farmers, who must be multifaceted craftspeople — part chemists, part weather forecasters, part irrigation specialists and part mechanics, among other things.
“Whatever comes your way, you can never tell,” John said. You can never tell what is going to sell.”
Added Jennifer: “When his boss is Mother Nature, it’s kind of unpredictable.”
The family first celebrated on Nov. 4, the actual anniversary of the farm, with a small gathering that met Covid-19 restrictions that included representatives of the broader Szuster family, and then another on Nov. 16 with Councilman Michael Loguercio, who wished the family congratulations on an “incredible milestone.”
Loguercio thanked the “several generations of hardworking family members who have tirelessly worked these fields and produced food to feed countless numbers of people throughout the years,” adding, “This farm and this family are very special to our community.”
Photo: Members of the extended Szuster family with Councilman Michael Loguercio (back row, fourth from left).