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Hull-O Farms gets state designation as historic business

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Hull-O Farms in Durham was designated as part of the New York State Historic Business Preservation Registry. Pictured, left to right, are Charlene Hull; John Hull; Frank Hull; Jared Hull; Sherry Hull; state Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-41; and Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

DURHAM — A local farm that has been run by the same family for 237 years has received designation as part of the New York State Historic Business Preservation Registry.

Hull-O Farms was nominated for the honor by state Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-41, after Hinchey read a 2019 article in which the Hulls described their experience and challenges as farmers.

“They were honest and open enough to share their story and their love for this incredible 200-year-old family farm,” Hinchey said. “The story and the love they had was palpable and it was heartbreaking, and yet we see that and we hear that in the agriculture space all across our state and all across our country. I wanted to help and I wanted to learn.”

Hinchey nominated the farm for inclusion in the New York State Historic Business Preservation Registry, which was established by the state Legislature in 2020 to honor and promote New York businesses that have been in operation for at least 50 years and have made significant contributions to the history of their community.

“It is really important for us as a community and as a society to honor our history and to remember our history and protect it, and there is no greater heritage, no greater history, than our agricultural history, especially here in New York state,” Hinchey said. “This farm and this family, who have been the stewards of this land, there is no better recipient, and there is no one better to honor than the Hull family.”

With the designation, Hull-O Farms is included in a searchable database that is open to anyone seeking out information or farm stay vacations.

“It will help with tourism and with establishing their role in the history and stewardship of New York state agriculture,” Hinchey said.

Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, is a former dairy farmer and said the Hull family has long deserved recognition for their work in keeping up a family farm that dates back to the era of the American Revolution.

“As a former dairy farmer and a strong advocate for our farmers in upstate New York, I can understand and recognize the hard work that has gone into building this beautiful farm into what it is today,” Tague said. “When John Hull, previously a soldier in the Continental Army during our war for independence, started this farm in 1786, I bet he was not expecting it to still be standing after seven generations, let alone becoming a recognized historic business in the state of New York. The family and farm have adapted to whatever the world throws at it while still providing the best possible farm experience for their customer and it’s award worthy.”

Frank Hull, known affectionately as Farmer Frank, said his family came to the area hundreds of years ago from Durham, Connecticut, and gave the town its name.

“My ancestors fought in the American Revolution and after the Revolution they came through swamps and timber and they saw this gorgeous valley,” Hull said. “They settled here in the hills — it was called Meetinghouse Hill.”

State Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-41, nominated Hull-O Farms for the honor and presented them with certificates recognizing the farm’s inclusion on the registry. Contributed photo

Hull-O Farms sits on 275 acres and was started by John and Sally Hull, who emigrated to the United States from England in the 18th century. They started the farm in 1786 after the Revolution and it is today run by Frank and Sherry Hull, along with their sons.

The farm sells fresh meats and offers farm vacations for families that want a taste of what living on and running a historic farm entails.

Frank Hull still does all the field work at the farm despite physical challenges and regales the farm’s visitors with stories of the history of the area, his wife Sherry Hull said.

“In spite of suffering with great physical pain, he has been selfless and heroic and courageous and resourceful and a visionary, and dedicated beyond measure to this farm and its heritage,” Sherry Hull said.

Her husband always saw “great potential” behind the farm even at its most challenging times.

“Because of his vision, over 10,000 guests have graced our doorsteps for these past 30 years,” Hull said. “And 10,000 guests have stepped into the shoes of a humble farmer and his family. Guests come willing to embrace the unknown and are very courageous in their own right. In this generation, it was Frank’s imagination that allowed our family to share this valley with our guests who over and over again remind us how remarkable, beautiful and magnificent it is to be able to wake up in this valley.”

One of those families, she said, recently came from Singapore to vacation at a historic New York farm.

Agriculture is an important aspect of the state’s economy and history and must be protected, Hinchey said.

“It’s businesses like this, farms like this, families like this that make our community what it is,” Hinchey said. “They are the ones that we have to protect and support and make sure that that history stays and that they can be prosperous into the future.”

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