HISTORY OF OUR FAMILY FARM
America was changing in 1911. Model T Fords were replacing the horse and buggy. The electric washing machine was a new invention that made wringer/washers obsolete. Movie houses screened silent films. The Tango was the latest dance rage. Amidst all the changes in 1911, young immigrant Andreg Hanulcik arrived in America with a dream of transforming himself into fruit grower.
Andreg was born in the 19th century (1893), but he had a twenty-first century spirit. He left his home in Austro-Hungary to pursue a dream. As soon as he arrived in America, he changed his name to its English version, Andy. Traveling by railroad, he learned a new language and explored the country in search of the best land for farming. He saw cotton fields in Georgia, vineyards in California, dairy farms in Wisconsin, and acres of wheat fields in the Plains. After riding the rails and crisscrossing the country, he decided Idaho was the best spot for his agricultural venture, but put that plan on hold when he enlisted in the army during World War I.
When the war ended, Andy was passing through Ionia where he met and fell in love with Mary Bursikova, a young emigre from Czechoslovakia. Once again, he put farming on hold. He and Mary worked at the reed factory (then located on Dexter Street between Adams and Main in Ionia). The couple saved their money, wed in 1924 and started a family. Eventually they saved enough money to build a grocery/gas station on Lincoln Avenue in Ionia with a home behind it on Price Street. Andy continued to work at the factory while running the grocery & gas station, saving money for the time when his dream of farming would come true.
President Franklin Roosevelt gave World War I veterans a bonus in 1934. With the extra money, Andy shopped for farmland. In 1936 he bought the 60-acre Martha Marquette farm on Dildine Road in Easton Township and a Dodge touring car so that he could drive to work at the factory. The house in town was sold and the store was leased. Throughout the years, several businesses rented their former store, including Dr. Edward Sterner, who started his veterinarian practice there.
The first year on the farm was an adjustment. The house had no electricity. Kerosene lamps provided light, and a coal/wood burning stove heated the home. Their sons Andrew Jr. and John were enrolled in Haynor School. Andy bought a draft horse, a plow and several chickens. The whole family pitched in and helped. Andy and his sons pruned the orchard to get it back to peak production. Mary tended to the chickens, a garden, and housework. Between farm chores, Andy worked at the factory for about $15 a week.
Thanks to good weather, great soil and lots of hard work, the first apple crop exceeded expectations. Andy added strawberries, peaches, and more. Each harvest was sold directly from the farm and wholesale to the Strong Brothers’ Market (formerly on Steel Street between Main and Adams). In 1940, Andy quit working at the factory and bought his first tractor — a Ford Ferguson.
This June 1978 photo shows Mary Hanulcik (on the right) managing the original Dildine Road farm’s strawberry patch, and sorting berries with her best friends Josie Cernak (on the left) and Clara Christensen (bottom center of the photo) on the front porch of her house.
They say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. That is certainly true in this fruit-growing family. Andy’s youngest son, Andrew Jr., followed in his dad’s footsteps starting his own 176-acre fruit farm on Jefferson Road in 1958 with wife Dee in Ionia Township.
Today, Andy Jr.’s youngest son Alex carries on the family growing tradition with a 40-acre farm at 1425 North State Road in Easton Township (where the Hanulcik Farm Market and pick-your own strawberry patch is now located), and taking over operations on the other two farms started by his father and grandfather.