Farming in Lunenburg
An editorial by the Lunenburg Historical Commission and Amory Phelps and Becky Lantry
Did you know...
"There is crispness in the air and the tillers of the soil are bringing in the last of the harvest.”
Lunenburg has a long history as a farming community. In the late 1800’s Lunenburg realized that having neither water power nor railway facilities it would not be an industrial center. What Lunenburg did have was sweet soil that was easily cultivated and a location that was next to the industrial centers of Fitchburg and Leominster.
As the town leaned more and more toward agriculture various businesses connected with farming began to thrive. Milton E. Fisk ran a seed business in the 1890’s. All farmers had cider mills, for as Reverend Peter Whitney tell us “It is a place famed for cider, as there highlands are excellent for orchardry.” Perhaps that is what prompted Governor George S. Boutwell’s father, Sewell Boutwell, to bring the first Baldwin apples to Lunenburg. George Boutwell spent his youth in Lunenburg living in the Boutwell homestead, built in 1834, now the home Dr. Sven Bruun, located on Sunny Hill Road.
There were many maple trees in Lunenburg and in the spring a great deal of maple syrup was made. Parties were held during the sugar making season. Today the Latanzi family had revived Ewen’s sugar shack located on Elmwood Road.
The gentle rolling hills and valleys of Lunenburg were a sight to behold. Fresh green valleys abounded with wild turkeys and the land here was great for raising crops to sustain both man and beast. Few houses dotted the landscape. Vegetables and fruit were raised in abundance and the surplus products were taking to Boston in ox carts. Farmers would often exchange their crops for the necessities of life which could not be grown. These journeys to Boston with the ox carts were long and hard and the trips were far and few between.
Around 1812 many hop wines were grown here. Isaac Cowdrey took them as far away as New York, the trip taking as long as 39 days. Sometimes three wagons were used, each drawn by four oxen led by a horse. At night the men slept under the ox carts, the ground their pillow. Today enjoy a walk or hike at the Cowdrey conservation area located on Mass. Ave.
Several families operated milk routes; Clifford Lane, Edward Perrin, Winnie Brown, Norman G. Bigelow, George Witcomb and Frank Lancey who established the admirable, remarkable record of daily, consecutive deliveries for 30 years. Stillman farm located on Lancaster Ave and MacMillan Cherry Hill farm continue this tradition of producing milk in Lunenburg. Stillman farm continues the tradition of delivering milk to your home today.
There were many large fruit farms in the town. These were owned by Herbert Mead, James Harrington, Stillman Stone and sons, Martin Johnson and John Wooldredge. Mr. Mead also raised asparagus in such large quantity it is said he actually controlled the price in the Fitchburg market. Flat Hill Orchards, Lanni’s and Dick’s Market continue the fruit farm tradition with famous varieties as the white peaches and Honey Crisp apples along with other wonderful fruits and vegetables. Each markets their products both locally and to the Greater Boston area.
Lunenburg was always well known for its poultry farms. In 1977 Aro’s Egg Farm off Howard Street was one of the largest and most modern egg producing plants in the area having over 100,000 hens. At one time Lunenburg had over 200 active farms, now you can count on one hand the number of farms in Lunenburg. In the past it took a farm to feed a community; today it takes a community to support the farms.
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