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  Lee Bristol
Lee Bristol
Excerpts from a feature article written by TV host and author Barbara Damrosch, which appeared in Harrowsmith Country Life, July-August, 1992.

The Connecticut Yankee farmer, once famous for his thrift and practicality, is now an endangered species in a state known more for its corporate headquarters than its farms. Endangered — but not extinct. Lee Bristol believes you can still farm in the 21st Century, and with a little frugality, you can support yourself doing it.

It is as if Lee Bristol had retraced his steps to the point at which our farm economy lost its way — mired in loans, petrochemicals and heavy equipment — and continued along a more sensible path.

Lee and his wife, Diana, operate Bloomingfields Farm, located at the north end of a valley in the state's western hills and aptly named for their main crop: Daylilies. In fact, the first thing a summer visitor sees at the end of the Bristols' long dirt drive is a field of Daylily flowers in shades of lemon, gold, orange, peach, pink, red, and purple. Then the visitor sees a cluster of weathered-grey barns with three paddocks, a rustic, well-used well-sweep, half-a-dozen sheep, hay fields, pastures, a woodlot, and behind the house, a large organic vegetable garden, grown like the Daylilies.

The farm began in the late '60s, a time when homesteading was a popular idea. But Bloomingfields Farm, owes less to a '60s zeitgeist than to Lee Bristol's own roots. His father grew up on a farm in Canton, Connecticut, harnessing the horses at 2 am to take vegetables to market. Eventually his father became an accountant, but he also operated almost single-handedly a small nursery, Evergreen Gardens, and a family food garden, with his young son's willing help. Even as a child, Lee dreamed of owning his own farm. But he also had an adventurous streak.

Following his sophomore year at Harvard College, he spent a year and a half assisting a bird scientist in India, Pakistan, and Nepal. That experience gave Lee an early understanding that "there are very different ways of doing things in the world." Then comes what Lee calls a digression into academic life, during which he obtained a doctorate in ethnobotany, studied primitive agriculture in Colombia, taught at the University of Hawaii, and then went to Samoa to study the ethnobotany of medicinal plants there.

"At that point," Lee says, "I realized I could no longer go on just taking notes about how other people worked with the land, because I wasn't getting to do it at all myself."

So in 1969, he returned to Connecticut, found some excellent land, and started his own place — Bloomingfields Farm .

( © Country Life, 1992 )

Lee and Diana Bristol
Lee and Diana   

" Even as a child, Lee dreamed of owning his own farm. But he also had an adventurous streak."


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