Top:Ed Gazy with daughter Roseann, son Albert and cousin Vitaly Gazsi; tomatoes in greenhouse; Bottom: Overlooking the hillside; some of the crops
Gazy Brothers Farms in Oxford, CT celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. On a warm spring day, I had the pleasure of visiting the farm and meeting Ed Gazy, the third generation who tills and cultivates this land. First and foremost, the value of the farm consists of the produce and vegetables which are the fruits of the family’s labor. No, no one works the land alone; after all, it is an impossible task. Today, Ed’s children —Dominic, Roseann, Nicholas and Albert — share his commitment and passion in tilling the soil. Furthermore, Ed is joined by two of his brothers, Peter and Tony; they also have some hired help.
Ah! The story of the farm actually begins with József Gazsi who is Ed’s grandfather. József was born in Boldogkőváralja, Hungary in 1882. He immigrated to America in 1890. It may be worth noting that he did not immigrate with the rest of his family who had arrived sometime earlier. Financially it was not feasible. He was left in Hungary with a calf. When he had raised it and was successful in selling it, he was able to purchase his passage here. He was probably accompanied by an adult, a friend or relative of the family.
Anna Elizabeth Lukács was born in 1886 in Nádaska, Hungary — today Nádaska is called Trst’ny and is part of Slovakia. Anna immigrated to America in 1899. The two met in Connecticut and were married in 1905. Initially, they lived in Ansonia. In 1928, József and Anna purchased over a hundred acres in Oxford, CT.
Working diligently and cultivating the soil, they established a successful farm. Ed pointed out that their task was quite arduous for originally horses and oxen were used to plow the soil. Their farm contained 22 cows and they also raised chickens along with vegetables. Surely József and Anna had some knowledge of farming or were very quick learners, for the farm was very successful.
Anna sold milk, butter, farmers’ cheese, eggs and chickens to Hungarians in the area. They in turn often gave her small gifts. I have the impression that there were times often enough when instead of receiving payment in cash, goods were exchanged. In 1960, some of the land was sold.
József and Anna had four children: Joseph, Paul, Steve and Elizabeth. However, only one followed in his father’s footsteps — Joseph, Ed’s dad, was the one who stayed to plough the land. Like his father before him, Ed became a farmer. He voiced that though the family today uses modern equipment, the farm still presents challenges. He recently purchased a fourth tractor, a bean-picker which is expensive, but will pay for itself in the cost it will save on labor.
Today the Gazy Brothers Farms consists of 80 acres of which only 25 are utilized for farming. The farm produces 50 different vegetables and plants — tomatoes are the main crop, followed by beans. The farm also sells hanging baskets with flowers which they grow in the greenhouse; he mentioned that they did well selling them for Mothers’ Day. In addition, the family sells pumpkins, Christmas wreaths, and logs are sold for lumber and firewood.
Gazy Brothers Farms has had nice success with growing tomatoes. In the past the farm also provided tomatoes to the cannery in New Haven. They had chickens at the time and added chicken manure to fertilize tomatoes which held them back, so the cannery could stay open two weeks longer.
Ed was delighted to share that in the 1940s, one of their fields held the world record for corn production, producing 300 bushels of corn per acre. He said that while they may not have an exact record to verify this, he believes it to be true.
Today the farm sells its produce at roadside stands and at some farmers’ markets. In addition, it provides other farmers with things they don’t grow.
Annette Hansell is József’s and Anna’s granddaughter and shared memories as well. Annette especially recalls the delicious Hungarian dishes Anna prepared which she surely passed on to her children. Some of the dishes Annette recalls are: chicken paprikás with galuska (soft noodles, dumplings), stuffed cabbage, mákos/diós (poppy seed rolls, walnut rolls), caraway seed soup (which they called “brown soup”) and cabbage soup. Ed especially fondly remembered the green pumpkin soup his family made and still does!*
So, I was left with one question, “Was the family name Gazsi changed in spelling to Gazy when József came to America?” Such things occurred as one’s immigration papers were processed. However, this did not happen in this case. Ed chuckled a little and shared that one of his uncle Paul’s teachers was the one to change the spelling to Gazy. Yes, phonetically it makes sense in the English language!
We wish the Gazy Brothers Farms a happy 100th anniversary and continued success!
- - - - - - -
*This recipe was given to us by Alexis Gazy of Gazy Brothers Farm, who thinks it was a Depression era recipe, when food was scarce and pumpkins were available to make a meal out of. She wrote that it can also be made with zucchini instead. It was not written down, but handed down by word of mouth, so there are no measurements included.
”Shred a green, unripe, sugar pumpkin, onion. Sautée onion in butter. Add pumpkin, salt, pepper, some water or broth and simmer until tender. Mash down when tender. Let cool a bit and add sour cream or other heavy cream, half and half, etc.”
She also told us about some more family cooking.
"Another favorite was the chicken paprikás, a simple dish of sautéed onions, lots of paprika with browned chicken simmered, cooled a bit and sour cream added. One pan recipes are the best! And oh how they loved their blackberry pies from the wild berries around the farm!!!”
- - - - - - -
Judit Vasmatics Paolini is a member of the Southern Connecticut State University Alumni Association Board of Directors, former lecturer at Tunxis Community College, and a member of the Magyar News Online Editorial Board.