Article

Connecticut farm began with deed from English king

April 30, 2014

Farmers have a saying that goes something like this: They didn’t inherit their farmland from the generation before them; they are borrowing it from their children.

The saying speaks to farmers’ commitment to passing their land to the next generation in the same – or better – condition in which they received it. It’s this respect and care for the environment that allows farmers to continue providing food for a growing population, generation after generation.

For some U.S. dairy farms, this commitment has been going on for quite some time … as in before George Washington became president!

Most U.S. dairy farms can trace their lineage back a handful of generations. Some farms, however, have quite the family tree:

King George I of Great Britain deeded land to Melissa Greenbacker’s ancestors in what is now central Connecticut. The year was 1723.

Ten generations later, the family business remains strong. It’s a rare distinction that Greenbacker doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s definitely special and something I draw inspiration from,” she said. “I meet people across the country, and it’s hard for them to understand that we’ve been farming for that long. It makes me feel honored to be doing this.”

The family was forced to sell the land in 1987 because of population growth in their town of Wallingford. However, they still have some acreage on the original site that has a home and their lawn and garden business.

They purchased an existing farm about 7 miles away in Durham, yet they haven’t lost sight of their roots. Greenbacker, 39, works with her parents, two uncles and an aunt in milking Brookfield Farm’s 157 cows each day. She is the farm’s youngest member and is hopeful her 16-year-old nephew will one day become the 11th generation.

The key to the farm’s longevity, Greenbacker says, is a generations-long respect for the environment and the cows.

“We also have a passion for the value of hard work,” she said. “My father likes to say this is a great place to raise a family and work as a family farm. I’m really blessed to farm with my family, and produce a high-quality and nutritious product such as milk.

“People stop and take pictures of our farm all the time. They enjoy seeing the cows, the scenery and open spaces. They see we have cared for the land for 10 generations. Hopefully, that will continue for another 10 generations.”

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