DOAG: HISTORIC PORTER FARM PROTECTED FOREVER UNDER STATE’S FARMLAND PRESERVATION PROGRAM



                                                 

HISTORIC PORTER FARM PROTECTED FOREVER UNDER STATE’S FARMLAND PRESERVATION PROGRAM

 

December 6, 2017

 

 

HEBRON - Mike Porter was a teenager when he began milking cows and harvesting crops on his family’s farm more than four decades ago.

 

“I’ve been working here full-time since the day I graduated high school in 1972,” Porter recalled this week, “and I can’t think of anything I would have rather done.”

 

And by conveying development rights to the state for nearly 200 acres of the former dairy farm that now grows corn and hay for others, Porter and his wife Donna Lee have assured that the land will be forever farmed.

 

“I didn’t want to sell to a developer,” Mike Porter said this week at the Porter Road farm that has been in his family for nearly a century and is now under the state’s Farmland Preservation Program. “I’m proud to be able to protect this land so that the legacy of my grandfather Winthrop S. Porter, and my father Douglas H. Porter will always remain.”

 

Porter Farm is the tenth to be preserved under the program in Hebron, encompassing more than 1,000 acres of farmland.

 

Those who participate in the program may continue to own and work the land, or may convey their land to others, but a permanent deed restriction assures More than 350 farms and 43,000 acres of farmland statewide have been preserved under the program, including 16 farms this year.

 

Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky said Porter Farm faced significant pressure of being developed for houses or a solar-energy array.

 

Nearly 90 of the 200 acres preserved are classified as prime and statewide important farmland soils.

 

“This property contains highly-productive cropland that is vital to support dairy farms that have been a staple of Hebron’s history and are still an important part of the community’s economy and character,” Reviczky said. “I commend the Porter family for their commitment to honoring their agricultural heritage, and future, by ensuring that this land will always be available to farm.”

 

That heritage began when Mike’s grandparents, Hebron natives Winthrop and Ethel (Hills) Porter, bought the farm in 1919. 

 

Winthrop, who once served as Hebron’s first selectman, raised a small dairy herd and cut and sold timber harvested from the property that was mainly used for making railroad ties. 

 

“As the timber business declined he added to the dairy herd,” said Mike, noting that the farm’s milking parlor is believed to be one of the first in Connecticut.

 

Mike’s father Douglas eventually took over the farm, where his mother Mary still lives in a historic blacksmith shop that she and Douglas converted into a farmhouse.

 

Mary also was a former president of the Connecticut Farm Bureau, and was involved in the formation of the state farmland preservation program in 1978.

 

Mike began running the farm in 1983, and increased the dairy herd to about 300, where it remained for many years until he sold the herd in 2001.

 

He now grows about 120 acres each of corn and hay – including some on leased land.

 

The entire corn crop is bought by his cousin and neighbor, dairy farmer Greg Hills, whose family’s 149-acre farm was founded in 1895 and preserved under the state program in 1989.

 

Nearly all of Porter’s hay is sold to individual customers as feed for horses. 

 

Mike still does the bulk of the work himself, with the help of a small crew of mostly retired local men he hires during planting and harvesting. 

 

His wife Donna Lee said that Mike continues to draw inspiration from his father and grandfather, and the farm’s continued operation and preservation would not have happened without his determination.   

 

“He really has been the sole strength of this farm for many years now,” Donna Lee said. “And he is so proud to leave this land and this legacy for future generations.”

 

Their adult daughter, Amy, is next in line to inherit the farm.

 

“She’s going to be the next steward, in whatever form that takes,” Donna Lee said.   

 

For now, Mike plans to keep the farm operating at about its current level.

 

“This is what I love to do,” he said, “and I’m going to keep going until I can’t do it anymore.”


For more information on participating in the

Farmland Preservation Program, please contact Cameron Weimar, Director, at 860-713-2511 or DoAg.Farmland@ct.gov