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Tuttle's Family Farm | House for Sale

Tuttle’s Family Farm | House for Sale
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The Tuttle family is one of the few to have consistently plucked a livelihood from that stony soil. In the centuries since Charles I doled out land grants to New Hampshire’s first wave of farmers, all but the Tuttles at some point gave up on the land, and on the grueling 18-hour workdays, to pursue other lines of work. The Tuttles held out for almost 380 years.

But at what cost? Lucy wonders. Is the farm’s longevity testimony of her family’s disposition for farming, or of their sense of duty? Is the Tuttle legacy one of love for the land, or of stoic obligation to tradition? And what would it have taken to keep it going?

Lucy’s house sits just up the street from the red barn, overlooking the eastern fields. Will lives in the old farmhouse, where their grandparents lived when he and Lucy were young. Out back, a barn houses old tractors–some of the same ones from Lucy’s childhood, still in working condition.

She smiles when she replays some of her memories of the farm: lively family dinners, the antics of colorful farmhands, the night Will slept outside after being sprayed by a skunk he was trying to catch. Lucy grew up among three generations of Tuttles: her grandparents, her parents, and her siblings, Will and Becky. When the family sat down at night around a heavy wooden dinner table, her grandfather would boast that everything on the table except the salt had come from their fields. “And the rum,” someone would add–although the family did make their own hard cider from the apples her grandfather grew.

She smiles, too, when she speaks of her father. He was, she says, the consummate farmer. In the late 1950s, as an experiment, he cleared an acre of wooded land, just to see what it must have been like for the earliest Tuttles. He chopped the pine trees and cleared tractorloads of rocks. The soil was so acidic, so steeped in pine needles, that it took seven years for anything to grow. And the field was so remote it couldn’t be reached by irrigation. Some years the raccoons ate everything before the crops were ready. But that wasn’t the point: The point was that Hugh Tuttle could do what John Tuttle had done. Lucy knew that her father thought often, in the fields, about his ancestors. He felt connected to them through farming.

That sense of connection to her ancestors pulsed in Lucy’s veins, too, but she couldn’t be a leader on the farm: couldn’t clear an acre as an experiment; couldn’t plant an orchard or chop it down. As a teenager, she could only work in the store with her mother and a half-dozen other teenage girls, hired in the summer months to help serve as many as 1,000 customers a day. She could only look out the window at a nearby field, where teenage boys weeded the rows of carrots.

Lucy felt little passion for working the cash register. So in her early twenties, she left home in 1967 to pursue a life of the intellect in Europe; seeking high culture in Paris, she arrived just in time for the student riots of 1968. She stayed six years, teaching English.

While Lucy was gone, a reporter from Life magazine visited Dover to write a story about what appeared to be the imminent demise of the family’s farming legacy. Lucy read the article on the banks of the Seine, not the Bellamy. Tuttle Farm, the article proclaimed, would die with Hugh Tuttle. He had hoped that his only son, Will, would take it over. But Will, then 24 and a graduate of Tufts University, was working instead for Campbell’s Soup as a sales representative.

“People say to me, ‘How can you not take over? Think of all the tradition you’re letting go!'” Will was quoted as saying. “But you really have to love it to undertake anything like that. By the end of March my father starts cussing about how the snow isn’t melting fast enough. He just loves farming. The fact is, I just don’t get a kick out of seeing something grow.”

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