Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mr. Nute's Peach Fed Free Range Turkeys

Three hundred years after the original Nute colonist arrived in New Hampshire, our grandfather made a bold move to leave New England for Medora, Kentucky, there to manage a successful and innovative orchard enhanced by thousands of turkeys. And this is the story.

Raymond grew up in a well to do family in Fall River, Massachusetts, and as a young man attended first Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then the Massachusetts Agricultural College, now the University of Massachusetts. Unlike his father who was a mechanical engineer, Raymond majored in "pomology", the study of raising fruit. Whatever possessed this young man to study fruit raising is anyone's guess. He came from a long line of farmers starting with the original Nute was killed in his garden by Indians in the 1600's, interrupted briefly when his farmer/teacher grandfather moved from New Hampshire to Boston.

He was an officer of the Rifle Club, ran a 5 minute mile, and went to school with young men with names like Murray Danforth Lincoln, Merton Chesleigh Lane, and Lewis Phillips Howard. He could have had a life of ease living in the city, but after graduating in 1914, he got himself a farm in Lakeville, Massachusetts, a few miles outside town with a good sized house,

and barn.

Nor was the family happy when Raymond soon took a young wife, Alice, who was the daughter of a grocer. "She wasn't good enough for them", Raymond's daughter, Jeannette, recalls. Over the next five years, they lived on the New England farm and had two children. What made Raymond and Alice move their young family to rural Kentucky in 1920? Was it Raymond's best friend at Mass Ag moving to Ohio to found Nationwide Insurance, a cooperative insurance company for farmers? Was he recruited to Kentucky Orchards by the owner?  According to Jeannette, he wanted a place to try out his ideas.

Whatever the reason, the young farmer brought scientific farming to Kentucky with a flourish. A 1924 article in the Farmers Home Journal says:

"R.E. Nute is one of the most remarkable fruit pioneers in Kentucky, and the constant wonder of his neighbors, who predicted loss from the start because of his ideas on scientific growing.

That hill-top of apparently worthless land is now the wonder of the countryside. To begin with, Mr. Nute had to build a road to the top that auto trucks could navigate. The road was built. A saw mill was constructed so that lumber on the property could be converted into houses and a packing shed.

The ground was torn up and prepared with the aid of a Fordson and various plows, harrows, cultivators, and the like. Trees by the thousand were planted where only a few old ones were on hand for a nucleus. None in those parts believed in such modern devices as thinning out and spraying and cultivating.

Nute did. He knew how. He came from Massachusetts with his family and buckled down to work. The trees were pruned, dusted, sprayed, cultivated. A big bean spray pump and duster, taking care of two or more rows at a time, destroyed all insects and pests. Borers were gotten rid of with "paracide" planted around the trunks every year. Lime sulphur dust took care of the upper works of the orchard.

Although Mr. Nute has already attained a one-pound peach, on rare occasions slightly over a pound, a two pound peach is one of his ambitions.

His packing house is another wonder to fruit growers, who now come for miles to see, and often to buy peaches. Not long ago visitors made the pilgrimage to the top of the hill in such numbers one day that $100 worth of peaches were sold in the front yard. Some of the peaches are snapped up at 10 cents apiece as curiosities. Last year a number of Mr. Nute's products took first prizes in the Kentucky State fair."

This photo was taken at the Massachusetts farm shortly before their move to Kentucky. They still have that refined New England look.

A short time later, they are looking more like Kentucky farmers.

Raymond's fame as an orchardist brought other agriculturists from around the country and he was sought as a speaker for meetings and radio. By 1928, Raymond was looking another way to boost his orchard's profitability and from this came the concept of raising turkeys in his 100 acre orchard. From a start of two hens and a tom, his flock grew to over 7000 birds, and a mill was added to the orchard to grind the grain. The birds provided natural and labor free fertilization, ate the insects, weeds, and dead fruit on the ground, and apple trees that usually produced fruit every three years were yielding fruit every year.

So grew Raymond's fame as a turkey grower and innovator, and he became known as the Turkey King of Kentucky. He collaborated with the University of Kentucky, presided over State Farm Bureau meetings, and continued to raise his family on the farm.

Then, in the midst of this tremendous success, it ends in 1937, and Raymond moved his family away to small town Washington, Kentucky, then to Vanceburg and became agricultural agent for Lewis County, never again to show the world what a hard working young man from Massachusetts with a Mass Ag education could do with a 100 acres of hard scrabble land, some peach and apple trees and a few turkeys. What happened? Jeannette says the owner of the orchard died and the land was sold.

This Thanksgiving as you all are enjoying your fabulous turkey dinner, eating until you can't push yourself away from the table, be thankful for the farmers in the country who have made it all possible with a few hours cooking on your part.

1 comment:

Pat said...

This was great, Kath! I didn't know any of this about
Grandpa. He seemed so sweet, quiet, and unassuming.