Monday, Oct 24, 2016
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1 of oldest U.S. family farms awaits sale, still produces


Patrick Gale, 23, who was employed by the Tuttles last year, weeding, harvesting, and following orders, is a resident farmer this season on the 135 acres that is for sale in New Hampshire for $2.55 million. He's in a group of young farmers there raising produce. One of their highlights on the farm is a big sunflower patch.


DOVER, N.H. -- It's a good season for the sweet corn on the 379-year-old Tuttle Farm. It also looks good for the eggplant, peppers, pumpkins, and sunflowers produced by a group of visiting young farmers.

The New Hampshire farm, one of the oldest continuously operated family farms in America, raised a lot of interest -- and emotion -- a year ago when members of the 11th generation of Tuttles announced they were putting it up for sale.

Faced with debt and their own mortality, they said the 12th generation is either too young or too entrenched in other careers.

Today, the 135-acre farm is still on the market, even though the asking price has been dropped $800,000, from $3.35 million to $2.55 million.

Meanwhile, a new group of farmers unrelated to the family is helping to keep the operation going, trying a variety of crops, livestock, and organic farming practices and may even stay on after it's sold. They receive coaching and equipment from a nonprofit group that acts as a business incubator for farmers.

The enterprise is a first for New Hampshire but is a type of organization that has caught on throughout the country in recent years.

"We need to grow some more farmers here," said Suzanne Brown, founder of the two-year-old New Hampshire Institute of Agriculture and Forestry, who formerly lived on a small farm in Chester. "The average age is 56, and two-thirds of our farmers lose money."

Jameson Small and Patrick Gale, both 23, worked for the Tuttles last year, weeding and harvesting and following orders. This year, they are resident farmers.

"I'm not learning to farm; I am farming," Mr. Small said. "That's really the big thing that hit us -- wow, we're farmers now. … If something goes bad, it's our mistake. If something goes great, it's our glory."

Siblings Becky, Will, and Lucy Tuttle, who range in age from 59 to 66, are happy to see them.

With the exception of a cousin, Becky said, she never knew a young farmer while growing up. "I really did used to wonder, 'Who's going to grow the food? There isn't anybody learning how to grow food in the next generation,' " she said.

Two investors who've expressed interest in the Tuttle's land want to keep an organic farm operation, said Dan Barufaldi, the city of Dover's economic development director. They also want to find someone who can develop a Tuttle brand of products such as tomato sauce made from the farm's tomatoes and pesto from its basil.

"This is something that's very important to the city of Dover, not only because it's an icon," Mr. Barufaldi said. "It also is going to add a tourism attraction, it's going to be an educational attraction, it's going to be a wonderful to have a source for locally grown organic vegetables."

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