In 1632, an English settler, John Tuttle, made his way across the pond to the New World. At that time there were only 100 European colonists in what would become the state of New Hampshire. King Charles I granted Tuttle a small land grant in this area. Tuttle felled trees and started a small farm. Over time, the 20 acre farm grew ten-fold; meanwhile the surrounding forest gave way to highways and houses. Eleven generations worked on this land, but the current generation will be the last. The farm, or “Tuttle’s Red Barn,” which by some accounts is the oldest continually operating farm in the United States, will close.
It was a great run for Tuttle’s descendants, most recently siblings Lucy and Will Tuttle, who tilled the land near Dover, NH, for 40 years. Berries, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and corn–which made the farm especially legendary–all came from the land. But farming is a tough job, and economics eventually took their toll. On a letter posted on the farm’s web site, the Tuttles said some of the reasons were personal: their hearts, imagination, bodies, and minds were exhausted, not to mention their finances.
Many blame the loss of family farms like that of the Tuttles’ on the rise of corporate farms. But other factors made life and work more difficult for the Tuttle family. Pick-your-own farms, organic farming, the increase in local products, and more farmers’ markets in New Hampshire all put the squeeze on the farm. The Tuttles did what any smart business owners would do: diversify and create adjacent businesses, including baked goods, gardening products, cheeses, and plants. But local economics, reflective of much of the United States, were factors as well:
Many people are out of work, while a good number of our older customers have lost much of their investment income. Over the past several years, customers have gone from using shopping carts to using shopping baskets to using just their hands to gather what they can afford to purchase.
The farm is now on the market for US$3.35 million. It will be a tough sell: the state designated the farm as conservation land in 2006, so the farm cannot turn into housing tracts or shopping centers, which has turned more of this state of 1.3 million people into an extended suburb of nearby Boston. Despite the increased interest in organic produce, few will jump at the chance to take a shot at farming: agribusiness combined with the increase in local and organic products make for a high entry barrier into this space.
Many will lament the farm’s closing, but few would work the long hours required to keep such an operation going. The Tuttles, generation after generation, had a great ride. We should probably thank the Tuttles for sticking to their labor of love as long as they did.