View from the back side of Nazareth of some of the old farm and maintenance buildings, taken sometime between 1871-1891

Much of the celebration of the Congregation’s rich heritage has often centered around the important and excellent works of mission and ministry for which the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were originally founded. While there is no doubt of the importance of these various ministries, the work that went on for years at Nazareth was equally important to the overall mission and ministry of the Congregation. This is especially true of the farm at Nazareth – which, for many years, supplied much of the food for the members of the Congregation as well as the students, visitors, workers, and in times of hardship — even the neighbors.

A report written in 1923 by Sister Mary Stephen Durbin and Sister Mary Joseph Ryan for The Kentucky Standard provides a very comprehensive view of the kind of work that took place at Nazareth that was essential to the survival of the Congregation for many years. The report states:

“Satisfactory crops of corn, grain, soy beans, alfalfa, and hay have been harvested this past year. From twenty-four acres of corn the 175-ton silo was filled. Of the remaining 75 acres, the greater part was ‘hogged down’ to the great satisfaction and well-being of Mr. John Woods’ pet Duroc Jerseys, numbering about 150. Of these, 110 were used to supply the Institution with appetizing country-cured ham and crisp breakfast bacon.

“A valued source of supply is the dairy, which receives special attention. About four years ago the Holstein breed was introduced; of the present dairy herd, ten are thoroughbreds. The barn is modern, roomy, sanitary and well kept, and is equipped with a patented milker. The Sister in charge of this department is ever on the alert for ‘poor milkers’ and woe betide the cow that does not measure up to the requirements of the Babcock test…”

The report goes on to describe in detail the flocks of chickens, ducks, and turkeys on the property. While it is difficult today to envision chickens scratching around on the front lawn, evidently it was a common occurrence at one time:

“The poultry yard proper adjoins the dairy lot but the chickens do not confine themselves to their own domain but wander at will over the golf links, through the orchard, and invade even the front lawn. The Sister in charge is partial to the Plymouth Rock. Over fifteen hundred chicks were put out last season. That a goodly number was raised is proved by the ‘chicken dinners’ which the pupils have enjoyed so frequently that a wit remarked that some old Alumna must have left Nazareth a ‘legacy.’”

In addition to the varied livestock at Nazareth, hordes of fruits and vegetables were also raised and used to help feed the inhabitants:

“Some of the Sisters have made a special study of fruit-raising and by judicious pruning and spraying increased the yield of apple, peach, and plum orchards and greatly improved the quality of the fruit. 1922 was a banner year for apples and over a thousand bushels were gathered from Nazareth’s orchards.”

Along with the apples, the Sisters’ report also mentions grapes, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, and blackberries; home-grown peanuts, popcorn, as well as pumpkins among the regular crops. The extensive gardens are described in detail:

“Nazareth’s fifteen-acre garden, famed for its excellent vegetables, has for the past few years been under the supervision of a skilled gardener, Mr. Andrew Lunio. His good management and untiring labors have been richly rewarded by the abundance and variety of garden products. Especially gratifying were the returns from the potato patch last season, which yielded four hundred bushels of sweet potatoes and over eight hundred bushels of the staple crop – Irish potatoes. During the summer season, lasting from the very early Spring till the heavy frosts, the Procuratrix need never wear a worried look; she is always sure of something for dinner. …”

We also learn more about the famous Nazareth “bee culture” that has been mentioned around this area for years:

“Bee culture, introduced a few years ago by Brother Denis, C.F.X., is proving a success. Brother Denis found apt pupils at Nazareth who not only share his enthusiasm but under his experienced direction have become expert apiarists. Last season five hundred pounds of honey was extracted and thirteen new swarms hived.”

Over the years many local beekeepers have claimed that their honey and bees can be traced back to the “Nazareth bees.”

With all of the bounty that had to be harvested and prepared, the report would not have been complete without mention of those whose job it was to prepare the many food items for consumption by the masses:

“Through all this unceasing round of activity, ‘one increasing purpose runs’ which sweetens and ennobles the most humble and prosaic task, for the workers in kitchen and dairy or among the poultry well know that without their help, Nazareth’s lofty mission could not be realized. By co-operation and co-ordination of all its forces in pursuit of the highest ideals, the Nazareth Sisterhood has long wielded a beneficent influence through its educational and charitable works. Strong and vigorous after the storms and calms of the century that is past, Nazareth promises more abundant fruitage in the centuries to come.”

A 1939 inventory of farm holdings listed the following buildings on the property:

  • Blacksmith Shop
  • Brooder House
  • Calf Shed
  • Cattle Barn
  • Chicken House
  • Coal House
  • Coal Oil Store
  • Corn Crib
  • Cow Barn
  • Dairy Barn
  • Farm Cistern
  • Fire Hose House
  • Filter House
  • Grain Store Room
  • Hen House
  • Hog House
  • Hog Shed
  • Horse Barn
  • Kindling Store House Mule Barn
  • New Implement House Power House
  • Silo
  • Slaughter House

Many Sisters served as overseers of the farm through the years, and also assisted with the processing of fruits and garden vegetables as needed. Unfortunately, very few photos exist of the farming days of Nazareth.

The Nazareth farm originally contained about 237 acres but additional property was added over time so that acreage exceeded somewhere between 800 and 1,000 acres. In 1923, it was reported that the farm had about 600 tillable acres. The farm operation was gradually dismantled and the land was eventually sold in 1977 as farming had become less of a necessity and was more costly to manage.

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