FLINT, MI — If you want to know which poultry eggs have a double or triple yolk or what breed of chicken is the best for meat or eggs, Hugh Godfrey is your man.
He ought to know: He’s been selling chicken and eggs for the past 50 years at the Flint Farmers’ Market.
On Saturday, March 1, the Flint Farmers’ Market will present Godfrey with an award in the shape of a golden egg around 11 a.m. to honor his half century of sales at the market.
Godfrey, 84, has been selling fresh farm chicken, chicken eggs, seed corn and grain nuts at Godfrey’s Poultry and Eggs at the Flint Farmers’ Market since 1964. The family owned-and-run business has always been a year-round vendor at the market. And surprisingly, he never gets sick of eating the chickens. “That’s what we’re having for dinner tonight. We always eat it,” he laughed.
The soft-spoken man on a recent day wore a red-and-black flannel shirt and red baseball cap. He smiles with striking blue eyes from behind his vending station that is covered in old pictures of his chickens — different kinds — and photos of his family. “It’s always been (about) family,” he said.
“He is a symbol of what this market is all about. He’s the real deal. When you think of a farmer’s market, you think of somebody who has lived on a farm and wants to bring their product for their customers. And that’s Hugh,” said Dick Ramsdell, Flint Farmers’ Market manager.
The market was a lot different back in the 1960s when he started selling there, Godfrey said. Its vendors sold mostly produce and it had 13 different poultry stalls. Godfrey watched it transform into what it is today, with a larger variety of products.
Now, there are only two poultry stalls at the market — Godfrey Poultry and Howard Farms. Ron and Linda Howard will not be moving to the new location in May when the market relocates to a former Flint Journal production building downtown.
“I wish they would come. They’re good friends and good people. They have land right next to our farm,” said Godfrey.
“He’s such a great guy,” said Linda Howard, owner of Howard Farms.
“He would do anything for anybody. He never changes. He’s been here a long time. He’s a good friend, as we all are down here. Fifty years — that’s a long time to be down here. You just keep doing what you love. He loves doing this,” said Howard.
When asked if he ever thought about leaving, Godfrey shook his head and said, “No. I enjoy it. I enjoy the people.”
“You really get to know the customers. We have so many nice customers. There are people from all walks of life. Summer is my favorite time of year at the market. It’s really busy and there is a lot of activity. The kids, grandkids, and now great-grandkids, always have something to do,” Godfrey said. “Family doesn’t stick together nowadays like they used to.”
Godfrey’s eggs have certainly made an impression on his customers, some of whom drive into Flint from surrounding suburbs just for his eggs. They are always less than a week old, but usually closer to three days old. His best sellers are the jumbo eggs.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid with my grandparents. I hate to say it, but it’s been about 50 years,” said John Akers, 59, of Genesee Township. “The eggs are the best eggs you’ve ever tasted. If you compare the store-bought jumbos to his jumbos, it’s like getting mediums. He has the best eggs there are on sale and that’s all there is to it.”
He’s the real deal. – Dick Ramsdell, Flint Farmers’ Market manager
“We’ve gotten spoiled on the eggs,” said Lisa Marie Templin, owner of Steady Eddy’s Cafe. Templin has noticed that Godfrey’s jumbo eggs often have a double yolk inside.
“That’s where we get all of our eggs, sometimes chicken. I won’t get eggs anywhere else but him now. You can tell there’s a big difference. The yolks are nice and bright.
“He and his family are wonderful people. We all call him ‘grandpa,'” said Templin.
It’s no surprise that Godrey’s eggs are the best, considering he has been a farmer his entire life. He worked on his parents’ and grandparents’ farms before he had his own. Farming has been his family’s only source of income since before he was born in 1930.
The first time he killed a chicken was when he was 7 or 8 years old. “You would just put them on a block and chop their heads off. And they would flop all over and run off into the corn field. You’d have to go find them,” he remembered.
Godfrey has a hunter’s mentality when it comes to feeling bad for the chickens: “It’s just a meal on the table.” He also loves deer hunting and fishing.
“We have two lakes on the farm and we used to fish quite a bit. I love to hunt deer. I’ve got 30 or 40 over the years.” Godfrey proudly displays his most impressive kill, a six-point buck with an 18-inch spread, in his living room.
He raised his own chickens for eggs and meat into the early 1990s, having up to 5,000 chickens on his farm at any given time. But now in his golden years, he gets them from his nephew, Larry Godfrey, and granddaughter, Kristi Mockeridge.
Hugh Godfrey was born in the living room of a house that sits on a 180-acre farm on Beard Road in Byron, Shiawassee County. The acreage includes a farm and three houses. It has been in his family for four generations. “It was my grandparents’ (house) and then my parents’ (house). Then it was mine and now it’s going to be hers,” he said, pointing to Mockeridge, 35.
“There were four of us born in that living room. The doctor just came out from Fowlerville and said, “Listen, when you’re ready to deliver, just bring me a cup of coffee and I’ll come deliver your baby. Dr. Jesse James Henry was my doctor’s name. Those were the good, old days,” Godfrey laughed.
Godfrey was married for 50 years before his wife, Carol Avonne Godfrey, died in 2007. He has three children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. The two met at Morrice Methodist Church and married in 1957. Carol Godfrey suffered from a genetic disease that kept her sick for the last 30 years of her life. “She was sick for years, but like I said, ”Til death do you part.” People don’t do that now.”
Now, Godfrey lives with his oldest daughter, Julie Cole. His brother, Robert Godfrey, his partner in Godfrey Poultry, lives next door. Mockeridge and her three children; Tyler, 11, Carter, 9, and Parker, 6, live in the house Godfrey was born in, located half a mile down the road. And Gordon Godfrey, Hugh Godfrey’s youngest brother, owns his own acreage and house across the street from Mockeridge.
When Godfrey was 34 years old, he and his brother started selling at the Farmer’s Market. “We just weren’t making a go of it on the farm with just eggs. I mean, you’re selling eggs for 35 to 40 cents a dozen down in Detroit. We couldn’t do it,” said Godfrey.
Mockeridge still has 140 chickens that she raises, 70 that lay brown eggs and 70 that lay green eggs. All of their white eggs and meat chickens come from Godfrey’s nephew, Larry Godfrey, from his farm in Bancroft.
After picking up their meat chickens from Larry Godfrey, they take them to a processing center. Godfrey remembers that as a young man they would use a funnel, cut the chicken’s throat and let the blood drain out. “You can’t do that on your own unless it’s for your own consumption. We load them up and take them down to Howell. It all has to be done professionally now,” said Mockeridge.
“It takes a lot of hard work. You have to know what to take the next day, how many chickens, how many eggs, brown eggs…” said Godfrey.
“I can’t imagine the dedication it takes (to do this) for 50 years,” Mockeridge said. “You get bad days where you want to give up. You get a bad season where you want to give up. But he taught me not to give up and to push through. Even during your bad days, there’s going to be a good day. And it’s going to all be worth it in the end. I’m working 33 hours a week, going to school, raising kids by myself, but had I not had that influence, I wouldn’t know how to do that,” said Mockeridge.
When asked when he plans on retiring, Godfrey smiled and said, “When I get ready. I don’t know when.” But for now, he and his family will be moving to the new Market location, 300 E. First St., in May.
Those wishing to share the celebration with Hugh Godfrey are encouraged to visit the market Saturday. There will be a giant card/banner for people to leave their well wishes.