Struggling family-owned farms continue to disappear

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) - Small family farms have been slowly disappearing for decades and this will likely be the case of Minor's Farm in Bristol. Founded in 1864, the 30-acre parcel on Chippens Hill is operated by Paul C. Minor; his wife, Vicki; and father, Paul J. Minor. Mark Minor, the brother of Paul C., separately harvests the hay.

"It's kind of the end of an era," said Paul Minor. "I don't know if this would necessarily be our last year, but if not, I don't see it happening much longer. With 48 years with fall stuff, I just know I won't be physically able to continue to do this and it's not easy to run a farm or stay in business in Connecticut."

Minor, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 1970, added that the younger generation of the Minor family went to college and have moved out-of-state as have many others, those of different ages, because the cost of living is much lower and the job market is more plentiful.

"All of our kids, mine and my brother Mark's, have jobs in areas that are booming," said Minor. "My son is in North Carolina and my daughter is in Virginia. Mark has two girls, one in Virginia and one in Texas."

Minor, who retired from Southern New England Telephone at age 52 as the director of external affairs, also adds that when he compares what he has to pay for taxes on his house against what others do with much larger homes in other areas, such relocations make sense.

Once a full-fledged farm in earlier decades, Minor's Farm has basically downsized to its store being open, holding fall activities for children and scheduling his visits with his pig, Daisy, to libraries across the country to promote reading.

"We only grow hay and our pumpkins and things are purchased outside," said Minor. "We have had different mission statements through the years and this is "Making family fun and memories is what we do best."

That's giving the children of today who visit a chance to see what their older generations of family members had experienced on either a daily or routine basis in growing up and as adults.

The visiting kids ride the Minors' train, and purchase pumpkins and candy and other items in the farm store. These children appear at the farm on field trips or with family members to also witness the old barns, the large open fields and the overall ambience of old New England past.

Traveling the country to visit libraries with Daisy in promoting reading is something Paul Minor, 69, can continue for years to come.

"I can still do my pig out on reading programs," said Minor. "I can still carry on in my old age. Our new mission is 'To encourage children to develop a love for reading.' "

And this traveling has helped put Bristol on the map.

"Mom (the late Jane Minor) was on a cruise and was at the dinner table when someone asked her where she was from," said Minor. "She told them she was from Bristol, and then was asked, 'Do you know a guy who has a pig and goes to libraries?' " ...

... During three months in the winter, the Minors, along with Daisy and her two pugs, Lily Pug and Dixie Cup, reside in Florida where Paul Minor visits nursing and convalescent homes to bring the good old days memories to the elderly, those who most likely lived on or visited farms growing up. In 1900, for example, 42 percent of the population lived on farms with only about 2 percent doing so today.

The mission statement for this is "Revising childhood memories," said Minor. "Their roots go back to agriculture. They might have gone to their grandfather's farm for vacation, not the beach as the families do today."

But for now, it's the fall season once again, when the Minors will share the farm experience with visitors.

And what is an option if and when the farm has to permanently close one day?

"My brother and I agree that if someone is looking to develop property, we have 30 acres," said Minor. "Five years ago I wouldn't talk about it. I have to face reality."



Information from: The Bristol Press,