At the pickle farm in Gilpin, corn is king
Doris Myers of Gilpin had opinions as a young lady about who she would marry.
“I always said I’d never marry a farmer,” she said.
But, after 58 years of marriage to farmer Ralph Myers, Doris, 80, has embraced the rural lifestyle her husband always knew. Together, they own and operate Myers Pickle Farm in Gilpin, founded in 1866.
“She said she was going to marry a college man or someone different,” quips Ralph Myers, the 82-year-old fourth-generation farmer.
Ralph worked for U.S. Steel in Vandergrift after graduating from Leechburg High School.
“I hated it. I made $14 a day — but it was too easy and I always wanted to farm. I like being outside and being my own boss,” Ralph Myers said.
From his quick one-liners to his farming recollections, a visit with Ralph entertains while educating about his busy farming lifestyle.
“My dad (Lloyd Myers) was ahead of me and he was getting older and I took over,” says Ralph, on his decision to follow in his family’s farming footsteps. “Everyone else quit or died. I’m the last full-time farmer in Gilpin Township.”
The Myers Pickle Farm produce stand has been in continuous operation along Route 66 since 1925.
The Myers raised four daughters on their farm, where Ralph was born.
They rely on help from about eight relatives to operate the seasonal stand known for its sweet corn, potatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, zucchini, pumpkins and more.
The pickle reference has remained in the name — the 300-plus acre farm was once the “go-to” spot for loading up on cucumbers to make pickles.
“Cucumbers were planted on 100 acres back then with 150 people working for 20 cents an hour to pick them,” Ralph Myers says.
Cucumbers are still grown and sold here — often specially priced at five for a dollar.
“The name of the farm is because it’s all they raised back then, was cucumbers, and everything else came later,” said family member Susan Hepler. “People think we can them. We don’t have time to can pickles.”
For Ralph, early mornings and long days on one of his seven tractors are the norm.
“First thing we do daily is the corn — we pick that, then all of the rest.”
“I don’t have enough tractors,” Ralph said. “Farming is harder than it used to be. When I’m on the tractor thinking. … I’m thinking about getting done.”
Ralph recalls when customers flocked to the family’s produce stand during the 1940s, coming from as far away as Greensburg and Kittanning, to buy “bushels” of cucumbers.
“Nobody really cans anymore,” he says. “But, back then, we were the farm that had all of the pickles. We were picking 500 bushels of cucumbers a day.”
Nowadays at the stand, sweet corn is king.
“We pick it fresh daily,” says grandson Seth Hepler of Gilpin.
Corn is sold by the single ear, half-dozen or dozen.
“Corn and potatoes — those are our two biggest crops,” Ralph Myers says.
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.