New Hampshire Farm Closes After 378 Years

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.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

6 responses

  1. With some help, the Tuttle Farm could survive and flourish as it is now constituted for another century. What Tuttles really needs is help in refocusing and refining their business strategy. The Tuttle farm currently employs inefficient fifty year old farming equipment and techniques. The introduction of more modern farming techniques and a focus on a smaller selection of higher valued, higher quality crops would certainly help generate consistent profits. Perhaps a conversion to organic farming would generate higher returns. Tuttles Red Barn, the Tuttle's shop, has run into problems because their very high prices. Many people love the Red Barn's offerings but are put off by their very high prices. A better pricing strategy and a little bit of intelligent marketing would certainly help. The Tuttle's Red Barn enjoys considerable brand equity in the local community. Mu point is that Tuttles Farm as it is now configured has a viable future, but it needs better execution and a more focused business plan.

    1. Christine, thanks for your comments. Your observations are aligned with what I've observed out west. Produce from the farm is often sold with other produce of dubious origin, along with other products that may look great, but of course, are often overpriced. Many reasons could account for this–the long hours, the accumulation of debt, and dealing with younger generations that just are not interested–and a lack of purchasing power has a role as well. I don't know–that's what comes to mind.

      Respectthefarm, you could learn from Christine's tone. Whatever your opinion is, your tone is ridiculous and I'm asking for the comment to be removed. Save that vitriol for Yahoo News.

  2. Nostalgic article for me as a former New Hampshirite. Then I see the 3.35 mil price tag and say 'go for it Tuttles!' That's a lot of money for keeping the land in your family for so many generations. Go for it, and start anew, something that you currently love to do! Change is not always negative.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I think what's interesting is that people have assume they are cashing out for 3+ million–but I have a feeling that after paying off debt and other expenses, there will not be much. It's easy for us to hope things don't change–but the Tuttles are entitled to start a new life, too!

  3. i am doing my family tree and i was just wondering if by any chance that this tuttle family might be one of my many ancestors? In a way i hope so that way i can find out more information on the tuttle line and also hopefully to help reopen the farm if they havent sold it and IF they are part of me….i am very much into the organic farming and hoping against hope that they are part of my tree :-). If so then great if not i wish them the best on wherever and whatever they decide to do.

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