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After nearly forty years at Watson Farm, Don Minto has retired

Apr 1, 2020

Don and Heather Minto at Feast for the Farm
Don and Heather at Feast for the Farms in 2017

Since 1980 Don and Heather Minto have been Historic New England’s custodians of all farm activities at Watson Farm. With Don as farm manager and Heather as site manager (she retired in 2016) they made many changes to improve the land and share it with the public.

Over the years

The Mintos have been great caretakers of Watson Farm. Over the years they set up fencing, developed water systems, planned intensive rotational grazing, improved the heritage breed sheep for better textile production, changed the cattle herd to Red Devons for grass-fed beef production, and improved fertility of the soil.

Q&A highlights

Southern Rhode Island Site Manager Jane Hennedy interviewed Don for the current issue of Historic New England magazine. Here are a few highlights from their Q&A.

Jane: Tell me about your part in making changes for farmers and consumers.

Don: When we started, grass-fed and pastured production was not considered possible in this country. We created a model for other small farmers to follow that showcased sustainable, healthy food production at the local level. I was honored to speak to the state legislature about the importance of preserving and promoting agriculture. We’re proud we moved the local food movement forward in our community and throughout the region.

Jane: We all look forward to the times that you come here just to enjoy the beauty of the place. What are your favorite things to see from Watson Farm?

Don: Some of the incredible and lovely views of the pastoral, seaside landscape with a beautiful herd of Red Devons contentedly munching on the expansive grasslands of Conanicut Island! That and the big sky and watching the changing weather systems come and go.

Jane: Your work and your vision will always be a part of Watson Farm. What are your hopes for the farm for the next forty years?

Don: The vision of Tom Carr Watson Jr., when he stipulated that the farm continue as a working farm, was an amazing gift to Rhode Island. His preservation ethic gave me the energy, passion, determination, commitment, and focus to work really hard to have the farm reflect Rhode Island’s rich pastoral agrarian history. I would hope and have great confidence that under the capable stewardship of Max Sherman and Historic New England the farm will continue to be an important agricultural entity in the region, connecting visitors to the land.

It has been an honor

In recognition of their contributions to Jamestown and the state, in 2009 the Mintos were inducted into the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Agriculture Hall of Fame. At Historic New England, we applaud their many achievements, from engaging communities and developing partnerships, to welcoming visitors for tours and programs. Don and Heather, enjoy your retirement. We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming Watson Farm program.