Salem Herbfarm encourages green thumbs

Anne Duncan, co-owner of The Salem Herbfarm in Salem, assists customers Sunday.
Anne Duncan, co-owner of The Salem Herbfarm in Salem, assists customers Sunday.

Salem - John Murphy and his family climbed out of their car Sunday morning and embarked on an annual right of passage.

Murphy loaded his children, John and Elise, into a small pull cart. His wife, Kristine, went ahead of the family, examining plants and herbs as she went.

Every Easter Sunday, the Murphys make a stop at The Salem Herbfarm. It's their way of acknowledging that spring is finally here.

"It's our yearly custom," said John Murphy, who said his family has made the Easter trip from their home in Glastonbury to Salem Herbfarm for six years now. "My wife plants herbs and the kids like the animals. And I look for new interesting shrubs."

Yes, Salem Herbfarm seems to have a little something for every person with any inkling of a green thumb.

The seasonal business prides itself on offering popular plants and herbs, said co-owner Anne Duncan. The business also has several gardening and souvenir items available in a gift barn. And Duncan and her husband, co-owner Joe Duncan, also fend for two goats, an emu, one llama, a few geese and several chickens.

So far, Anne Duncan said business has been slow this year, with lettuce being the most popular purchase item. Relatively cool weather and lack of sunshine have kept some families away since the Herbfarm opened April 1, she said.

But Duncan and her husband are no strangers to the whims and habits of their customers, having operated the Herbfarm for 15 years.

On Sunday, one of the two greenhouses was stocked with flat parsley, cilantro and nigella. The other was packed with geraniums, New Guinea Impatiens and pansies, and a number of smaller plants were nestled in a back nursery.

Anne Duncan said the variety has kept several customers coming back over the years.

"We can't grow everything, but we certainly try to," Anne Duncan said.

The farm dates back to the 1840s. In the 1860s, it was owned by Judge Austin O. Gallup, who the gift barn is named after.

Anne Duncan's grandparents, Alice and Edward Mitchell, eventually took over the farm in the 1920s. They passed it on to Margaret Mitchell, Anne Duncan's aunt, before the Duncans took over in 1997.

The 12-acre business enjoys its busiest days in May. Mother's Day is a particularly big event, Anne Duncan said.

The couple also offers planting and gardening advice to their customers and aims to keep the business creative.

In recent years, they've made several pots out of various items. Sunday, a number of plants were featured in an old bath tub, a sink and a toilet.

"We plant in anything and everything," Anne Duncan said. "Boots. Shoes. Whatever we can find."

jeff.johnson@theday.com

IF YOU GO

Where: 320 Hartford Road (about one mile north of Salem Four Corners). Open: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April 1 to June 30. For more information: Call (860) 859-3344 or visit www.salemherbfarm.com

Anne Duncan, co-owner of The Salem Herbfarm, works outdoors Sunday.
Anne Duncan, co-owner of The Salem Herbfarm, works outdoors Sunday.

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