Andra Hurst Simmons stands on the grounds of the historic Hurst Ranch in West Covina, CA, one of the last working farms in the East San Gabriel Valley.

Andra Hurst Simmons

The Keeper of the Ranch

Andra’s great-grandparents moved to Southern California from Ohio with their children in the late 1800s, at the height of the pioneer migration to the western U.S. They found the perfect property —150 acres of walnut orchards— in then-rural West Covina in 1906. “My great-grandfather sensed that the bottom was going to fall out of the walnut market, so he began to take (the trees) out systematically and replace them with both Valencia and Navel oranges,” says Andra, who grew up running around its groves with her siblings and cousins. Today, the Hurst Ranch is one of the last working farms left in the East San Gabriel Valley, now occupying just 3 1/2 acres, with much fewer orange trees left. “It was my family’s wish that people in our community have something where they can go and get a taste of what it was like to live in those early days,” says Andra. “Back then, we were neighbors helping neighbors.” Every week, the staff at Hurst Ranch hosts dozens of grade school students from throughout the East San Gabriel Valley who visit the ranch’s vegetable garden, juice the oranges, and hear captivating stories of the ranch’s not-so-distant past from Andra herself.