Teaneck's last farm closes its doors

By Howard Prosnitz, Staff Writer

Teaneck Suburbanite, January 27, 2011, p. 3

Lemone's FarmAfter more than 100 years, Teaneck's oldest family owned business has shut its doors. The Limone's Farm property at 892 Palisade Ave. is being offered for sale by LB Commercial Realty in Closter. The asking price for the 1,800-square-foot building, which is located on a .29 acre adjacent lot, is $550,000.

For Andre Limone, the third generation Limone to operate the farm, the closing aroused deep emotions.

"At first glance you see sadness. You may even see it as a death in this family. But I see it as many seeds planted. A plant must die before it can give off countless seeds. It is not the end. As with nature and with God, it is a seed of many new beginnings,' Limone said.

Chris Dennis, a Limone relative, blamed the economy for wiping out many small businesses.

"Times are tough. The big conglomerates are wiping out smaller businesses," said Dennis, a New Milford florist. "It's a shame that, because of the big box stores, a family business cannot survive today."

He recalled how his mother-in-law used to walk up and down side streets off Palisade Avenue selling the farm's produce from a cart.

In 1906 James Limone, a recent arrival from Italy contracted with William Walter Phelps to farm 85 acres of Phelps's land that included the area where Teaneck High School and Route 4 are located today.

Most of the produce that Limone raised went to market, but Phelps allowed him to sell surplus from a three sided shack on Palisade Avenue. That shack was the beginning of Limone's Farm.

The farm passed to James's son, Anthony, and in 1976, to the Anthony's nephew, Andre. In recent years, Andre Limone has sold garden supplies from the yard while operating a landscape, consulting and design company. Andre's wife, Therese, ran a catering business from the building. Limone will continue to operate his company, as he has for the past 15 years.

In the farm's early years, James Limone and his six children worked the land, initially plowing with horses.

"Sports and other recreational activities were not an option. They had to work on the farm," Andre Limone said.

By the 1970s, when he took over, Limone's farm sold a mix of its own produce and crops of other farmers.

Township historian Larry Robertson, who grew up on Palisade Avenue across the street from the farm, recalled that it once extended from the base of Merrison Street to Route 4 and included land between Palisade Avenue and the railroad tracks. The Limones grew vegetables and had raised chickens, Robertson recalled.

As late as the 1980s, Andre Limone grew corn on part of the farm where a medical building stands today.

Realtor Bob Calleo, of LB, noted that he had received inquires from landscapers interested in purchasing the property. But the township's current zoning code restricts its use to offices and medical buildings.

Farms flourished in Teaneck well into the second half of the 20th century. For more than 200 years a farm operated on the land that today is Upper Brett Park. Its last incarnation was as Rekow's Farm, which closed in the early 1960s, after which the town designated the area as parkland.

Until 1950, cows grazed at the Lewis's Dairy Farm on East Cedar Lane, where senior housing is located today. Raising long hair Angora goats was the specialty of the Ackerman farm on Teaneck Road, Robertson said, noting that the Ackerman farmhouse where the Verizon building is today and an adjacent barn extended more than 100 feet. The goat farm remained until early 1950s. Previously, the Ackerman Farm's fruit orchards extended from Teaneck Road almost to the railroad tracks. The orchards were cut down in 1948 to make way for apartment buildings. Another Teaneck goat farm was located on West Tryon Avenue. The goats remained until the 1960s.