General Manager Henry Sunda checks early spring blooms on blueberries.
Photo by Bruce R. Partain
Hayter Trust receives ag honor
The Hayter family has been involved in agribusiness and community service in the Nacogdoches area for six generations. John J. Hayter arrived from Virginia in 1841. Over the next ten years he purchased tracts of land, much of which had been the former Spanish governor’s ranch, M De Los Santos Coy. This created the 8,600 contiguous acre farm west of Nacogdoches now adjoining the upper end of Lake Nacogdoches. Originally more than 3,000 acres were farmed for cotton, corn and peas, with the balance being in standing timber.
John Hayter’s grandson Jeff Hayter was one of the founders of the Stone Fort Bank in Nacogdoches, and his wife donated land to Stephen F. Austin State University.
In the 1930s Sam B. Hayter, the fourth generation, developed a dairy at the farm and Pure Milk and Ice, a milk processing plant in Nacogdoches.
In 1946 the first gas lease was signed and several gas wells drilled at the farm. One of the original gas wells is still in production.
After World War II, Sam B. Hayter built a sawmill on the farm and began to produce lumber from his own timber and timber from the surrounding area. A feed store in town and a pea canning operation at the farm called the Stone Fort Pea Company were among his other agribusiness endeavors.
Upon Sam B. Hayter’s death in 1955 the farm and family homestead at 1411 North St. were placed into a family trust. Soon after, a significant amount of timber was cut from the farm to pay the inheritance tax.
For the following 10 years, little activity occurred other than to protect the forest. Timber activity started again in the late1960s with small, annual timber sales being made. In 1976 a full time forester was hired to implement more intensive forest management activities, and over the next decade silvacultural activities such as controlled burning and other timber improvement operations were implemented. By 1986, clearcuts of the farm’s shortleaf pine timber started to make way for the planting of improved loblolly pine plantations. Today the farm contains over 100 loblolly pine plantations ranging from one to 30 years of age.
Recreational hunting was established on the farm in the early 1980s. As a result of the more intensive timber management activities, wildlife habitat steadily improved, increasing the deer, turkey and quail populations. With the cooperation of local hunting club members, the professionally managed wildlife on the farm has grown into high quality trophy class hunting.
In 1988 a 50-acre blueberry field was established on some of the deep sandy soils that cover one third of the farm. These soils - marginal for growing pine timber - are well suited for blueberries when watered daily with the clear spring water that flows from the streams adjacent to the field. One of the largest blueberry fields in Texas, the Hayter blueberry field has contributed to making Nacogdoches County recognized as the blueberry center of the state. There are 65 acres under cultivation that produce an average of 300,000 pounds annually.
In 2009, the Texas Blueberry Festival in Nacogdoches marked a record attendance and the Hayter Farm sold more than 17,000 pounds of blueberries.
The farm serves as an outdoor classroom for a number of groups. College labs from the departments of forestry, horticulture, biology, botany and archeology of Stephen F. Austin State University are regular visitors. The farm also provides a stop for workshops conducted by the Texas Forest Service and the county’s Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
In addition to hosting outdoor classrooms, the Hayter Trust, in 1994 placed 119 botanically-unique acres adjacent to the blueberry field into the Mill Creek Garden and Plant Sanctuary in cooperation with the SFA Department of Agriculture. The Sanctuary is for the purpose of research that promotes the conservation, selection and use of native plants of eastern Texas. A member of the Hayter family established an endowment with SFA to help fund the research. Mill Creek Gardens is home to annual summer “Pineywoods Camps” run by the Environmental Education Department of the SFA Gardens. The camps provide hands-on, experimental learning opportunities for all ages.
One of the more interesting groups to visit the farm was entomologists from throughout the Southwest. They came to witness the excavation of one of the healthy Leaf Cutting Ant colonies that thrive in the deep, arid sands near the blueberry field. The most distant guests have been from China, including the vice-president of Nanjing Forestry University and the Director of Research from the Institute of Botany, Jiangsu Province.
The Hayter family has been and continues to be a positive force in the agribusiness and educational community both locally and internationally.
About the banquet
The Ninth Annual Agriculture Appreciation and Awareness Banquet is Monday, March 29, at Banita Creek Hall, 401 W. Main St. in downtown Nacogdoches. The event will begin with a meet and greet at 6 p.m., buffet opens at 6:30 p.m. and the program begins at 7 p.m. Legendary football coach and rancher Gene Stallings is the keynote speaker.
Scholarships will be awarded to students studying or intending to study agriculture, forestry or environmental science at SFA.
Also honored this year are the Jerry Nichols Family for the Farm Family of the Year award, sponsored by Tipton Ford; Albert Thompson for the Pete Smith Agricultural Pioneer award, sponsored by Heritage Land Bank; and Dr. Dale Perritt for the Agriculture Educator of the Year award, sponsored by Citizens 1st Bank.
The banquet is a cooperative effort of local agencies interested in promoting and honoring agriculture in Nacogdoches County. Local agencies include Nacogdoches County Farm Bureau, Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce, Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Cooperative Extension Program, Pineywoods RC&D, Stephen F. Austin State University - Agriculture Department and Texas Forest Service.
Banquet tickets are $22 each or $200 per table of eight and are available now at the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce, 2516 North Street. Businesses are welcome to sponsor tables to provide complimentary admission for youth agriculture groups. Click to download the registration form. Call the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce, 560-5533, or go to www.nacogdoches.org for tickets and table reservations.