Westborough celebrates Nourse Farm’s 300th anniversary

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Aly Abayazeed, of Northborough and Omneya Elmasry, of Worcester help their children pick strawberries during the Nourse Farm 300th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday in Westborough. (Photo/Jon Ratner)

WESTBOROUGH – After 300 years of operation, Nourse Farm is filled with history.

Evolving over the decades, it has remained a feature of Westborough life since 1722.

It then celebrated its 300th anniversary this past weekend, running a weekend of events and receiving a commemorative plaque from U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern and other local, state and agricultural leaders.

“The whole family is filled with pride thinking about the legacy and many generations here and the fact that we’re one of the oldest farms in the country,” said Marsha Nourse in an interview last week. 

Jon Nourse, who is Marsha’s husband and part of the eighth generation of Nourses, reflected on how his ancestors went through everything from world wars to epidemics to keep working at the farm.  

“It’s a chance for us to show off our farm and talk about all of the challenges that our family must have gone through over the last 300 years,” Jon then said of this celebration. 

Nourse Farm celebrates 300 years

The farm was established in 1722 by the descendants of Rebecca Nurse, who was one of the 20 people executed during the Salem Witch Trials. 

Over three centuries, the site had remained a family farm, Jon said. 

When the family first arrived in the 1700s, Jon noted that the land was wooded. So, the trees were cut down and stumps were dug up so that the ground would be appropriate to plant on. 

“In those days, you couldn’t go to the grocery store and get what you wanted to eat,” Jon said. “You had to grow it yourself or you bartered with someone else. That’s how you survived.”

Jon walked through various milestones throughout the farm’s history, including how his great-grandfather, Benjamin Nourse, lived as an active farmer and planted numerous apple trees. 

According to the farm’s website, at the height of Benjamin Nourse’s agricultural career in the late 1800s, the farm had 57 varieties of apples, which were shipped to clients as far away as England. 

Jon’s father specialized in the dairy business. More recently, the farm has transitioned to fruit and vegetable growing.

Jon was the one who started the retail business and pick-your-own fruit opportunities. 

When he began farming in the 1970s, Jon said there was a push for farmers to have a retail outlet as a way to supplement their income. Prior to that point, farms would sell their products wholesale to stores and companies. 

The retail storefront was an alternative way to sell farm products directly to the general public while establishing an economic footing in the community. Jon said that portion of the business has grown exponentially over the years. 

“I enjoy the work,” Jon said. “I enjoy growing things.” 

“It’s very scientific taking that piece of ground and finding what’s going to grow on it well and getting a crop and making an income from it,” he continued. “It’s very challenging, but I find it very interesting to do.” 

When he’s involved in Nourse Farm’s retail operations, Jon added that he enjoys getting to meet new people and learning more about their eating habits. 

“It’s getting all of these things to click together,” Jon said.

The next 300 years

Jon said he sees the farm continuing into future generations and centuries, noting that the land is protected under a state program to be a farm forever. 

“Eventually, I’ll retire and somebody else will take it over and just keep moving forward,” Jon said.

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Nourse Farm in Westborough to celebrate 300th anniversary