Sunday, January 21, 2018

Origins of Hickory Hurst Farm's Name

History fascinates me. I'm always eager to share the origins of the farm's name. It's one of the most frequently asked questions of the farm.  

Surely you've heard of other farm names, e.g., Elmhurst Dairy, Maplehurst Farm. I bet you've also heard of town or street names such as Pinehurst or Lindenhurst. Looking at the etymology of hurst, its origins trace back to hyrst, in Old English, which means hillock, grove, eminence, or wooded sandbank. Aptly put, since my great-grandparents encountered numerous shagbark hickory trees--a grove--surrounding the farmhouse when they moved to the farm in 1908. A photo from 1920 shows at least two hickory trees shading the farmhouse in mid-summer (photo below). This photo looks northwest from the southeast corner of the farm. 

Hickory trees shading Hickory Hurst Farm, 1920
Hickory Hurst Farm, 1920

Another photo taken the same day, yet father away, includes the main barn and the shagbark hickories towering over the farmhouse in the right side of the photo. One family story handed down to me was that lightning struck and decimated the hickory tree in the right foreground (of the same photo). As a child, I vaguely remember playing in the pasture around the remnants of that stump. Numerous volunteer seedlings over the years would supplant the void left by that tree. 

Shagbark Hickory trees pasture, 1920, Hickory Hurst Farm
Hickory Hurst Farm pasture, 1920

Shagbark hickory trees are native to western New York State and to the eastern half of the United States. They tend to develop a deep tap root, grow slowly, and have a long life. A relative of the black walnut, they produce a substance called juglone, which inhibits the growth of other plants within their vicinity. Shagbark hickories tend to produce juglone at lower concentrations than their cousin; nevertheless, the juglone still impedes the growth of certain plants. Shagbark hickories do produce edible nuts that add delicious flavor to quick breads, cakes, and cookies. Squirrels and chipmunks hoard the nuts for winter fodder, too.

Speaking of longevity, the shagbark hickory that currently looms in front of the farmhouse is approximately 200 years old. The position of the current tree in respect to the house is most surely the same tree as seen in this 1875 photo when Norman Newbury owned the farm (photo below). Another photo taken more than a century later gives another perspective from a different vantage point.

Shagbark hickory, 1875, Hickory Hurst Farm
Norman Newbury residence, 1875 (forerunner of Hickory Hurst Farm)

Shagbark Hickory at Hickory Hurst Farm, 1979
Hickory Hurst Farm, 1979

The next time you have an "AHA hurst" moment, think about a grove of trees. And remember, too, Hickory Hurst Farm does have a name after all, one that is secondary with its other name, "Go back. You forgot the flowers."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Go back. You forgot the flowers.

Flower Stand 2003
Is all started as a joke.

My calculated attempts at drawing customers into the flower stand seemed to be an exercise in futility. Customers whizzed by at 55 miles an hour and I was trying to devise a scheme that would make the flower stand more noticeable AND entice people to stop. Reflecting back to the early days of the flower stand in 2003 leaves me with humbling memories. Cut flowers sat in quart-sized canning jars atop an aluminum folding table that rattled and toppled in the wind. A netted, domed camping tent provided temporary shelter from the rain and sun, however constant exposure to the elements had left the netting in tatters and a few broken jars. I'd just upgraded to a taller and wider tent for the flower stand (photo above). This one was tethered to cinder blocks and didn't hurl into the wind like its former cousin. A new thought plowed through my mind one day while I was mowing lawn.  

The sign works.

Mowing lawn for me is a rather mundane task, whether it's using the push mower or the riding mower. I can think of many other ways I'd rather be spending my time. However, I prefer to view that "down time" when mowing to think creatively about solving some of my nagging woes. I'd been rattling my mind for quite some time before the new idea bloomed. What also prompted the new gimmick was customers stopping to purchase bouquets of flowers as a gesture in forgiveness (to their significant others). They had hoped the gesture would release them from the proverbial dog house. Later that week I elbowed a friend and revealed my jingle to her, "Go back. You forgot the flowers". She cheered. Others loved it. A friend volunteered to paint the original sign and the jingle has followed us ever since. (We upgraded the sign in 2016, as pictured above.)

Throughout the years we've participated in area farmers' markets during the summer to sell our cut flowers, herbs, and produce. At one area farmers' market customers would constantly ask where Hickory Hurst Farm was located. After a while it was easier to tell them to look for our sign, "Go back. You forgot the flowers". Nine times out of ten, people knew the sign and that saved us repeating directions to the farm. Hundreds of farmers' market days later, customers still know us more by name as the jingle on the sign--Go back. You forgot the flowers--than as Hickory Hurst Farm.

This year marks 110 years of Hickory Hurst Farm. As we celebrate our farm's birthday and its four generations of ownership by the Ploss family, I invite you to stop by and wish us, "Happy Birthday!" This year I intend  to share our family's history from the horse-drawn days of 1908 to the tractor-wielding days of 2018. Keep your cup of coffee close and stay tuned as we unfurl in 2018. After all, that sign really serves as a subtle cue for people to stop and buy flowers.