OLD FARM, NEW TRICK
Oct 4, 1999 - David and Lorraine Tuttle live on the family farm that has been producing crops since 1743. Though
David has been active with his local Farm Service Agency office for many years, it wasn't until 1997 that he became
interested in crop insurance. "USDA was doing research for what would become the new Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR)
pilot progam, basing coverage on historic Schedule F tax forms, not on crop data. I contacted farmers in New England to get the baseline data that was needed to develop the program."
With a wide range of crops that had previously been ineligible for any type of crop insurance, the new program sounded
good to the Tuttle family. "I've discovered a good use for old tax forms. For the first time, we have been able to
buy insurance that will protect our farm income. I bought the most coverage that I could get for my farm," said Tuttle.
AGR coverage can be bought at 65, 75, or 80 percent levels, with a 75-percent payment rate.
On the 215-acre farm, about 40 acres are cultivated with crops that can range from asparagus to zucchini and a variety of fruit and berries, with some acreage devoted to corn and potatoes. To be able to buy the highest coverage, a producer must grow at least eight different agricultural commodities. "We also have 115 acres in the Maine Certified Tree Farm program, and some land is set aside for pasture," Tuttle added.
The Tuttle family originally just sold to the wholesale market, but in 1993 they began retailing much of their produce in a farm stand. That trend is continuing today with 85 percent of their produce being sold there, and plans are to make that 100 percent. Other new developments include greenhouses that now produce nursery products that make up a third of the farm's income.
Customers can buy fresh produce from mid-May till the end of October. The day after Thanksgiving, the stand opens again to sell trees and greenery for the holidays.
Always with an eye on the future, Tuttle says their oldest son, though backpacking in Europe after graduating this spring from the University of Maine, will be joining the family business when he returns. Another son and a daughter help out during breaks, but don't plan to make a career on the farm.