When Italian immigrant Tom Roperti started the farm in 1948 with 50 turkeys in what then was called Livonia Township, sod farms and apple orchards were nearby. The five-acre farm survives more than half a century later, with Roperti's daughter Christine and her two sons in the middle of preparing 4,000 Thanksgiving turkeys.
The self-styled "Turkey Lady" says several misinformed customers told her they heard this was her last year in business.
"Right now, I'm healthy and I have no plans of leaving," Christine Roperti told The Detroit News for a Friday story. "I may be 59, but I feel like I'm 39. My brain says one thing and my body says, 'Oh, no you don't.'"
Shopping malls, strip malls, big-box stores, office parks and subdivisions like Deerwoods have swallowed up much of Livonia's farmland. Roperti has received many offers for her property, but she's not interested in selling.
"We'd love to develop the turkey farm, but I don't think it's on the market right now," said Jim Szkrybalo, a real estate agent in charge of Deerwoods, which opened in 2002. "They're good neighbors."
Right now, the Ropertis are particularly busy neighbors as well. Preparations for Thanksgiving season begin in August, when 9-week-old turkeys are delivered to the farm from Holly. The birds are fed corn once a week and are "dressed" — that is, killed — the day before the order is filled. About 25 people inspect the turkeys for feathers, then bag and tag them.
The farm operates from Oct. 1 to Dec. 23. Besides Thanksgiving turkeys, it also sells 500 for Christmas.
"Everybody eats turkey for Thanksgiving whether they want to or not," Roperti said. "On Christmas, everybody eats different things."
Yvonne Belletini bought her first turkey at Roperti's when she lived in Livonia in 1988. On Tuesday, she plans to get an 18- to 20-pounder after making the three-hour drive from her home in Caseville, near the tip of Michigan's Thumb.
"It's too bad they're not open year-round. I would buy then too," Belletini said. "My kids know the difference between their turkey and store-bought turkey. (Roperti's) taste so much better."
Mayor Jack Engebretson said he considers the farm a Livonia landmark.
"How many people can drive through a community and say they're driving past a turkey farm?" he said. "It's something that has tremendous history and is a great amenity in our community."