The Hoffman Farm Past to Present
Mike and Luann Hoffman have been pillars of the Ellington Farmers’ Market since 2007. While Luann has managed to get most of the town addicted to her incredible baked goods, Mike does everything from bringing antique tractors and calves to the market for our customers’ enjoyment, to building the track for the newly-popular Zucchini 500 car races. I thought you would enjoy the history of the Hoffman farm, on which land they are still farming today.
The Hoffman farm has been owned by the family since 1900 and has undergone many changes through the years. Purchased by Fritz and Eliza Hoffman for $2,500, it originally consisted of 125 acres of land with two houses and a barn. Fritz and Eliza followed others from Switzerland to the Ellington area for economic opportunity, and worked for five years before they had enough money to purchase the farm to which they moved with their eight children. They lived in the larger of the two houses on the property, which was built in 1814. The other, smaller house on the farm was constructed in 1789.
The “small” house built in 1789 as it stands today.
In 1905, with another child on the way, Fritz was diagnosed with a brain tumor and passed away, leaving Eliza to work the farm and care for their brood. Their oldest child, Lena, was only 14 years old. Newly widowed, Eliza was given much advice about what to do to keep the farm running and have income to pay the taxes, purchase supplies and feed her children. Her daughter Lena went to work at Hockanum Mills in Rockville as a sewer, and Ernest, the second oldest boy, went to work for the neighboring Bahler farm for wages while the other boys were trained on how to run the farm. They persevered, lived off the land, and 13 years later (1919) Eliza sold all the farm equipment and personal property to her son Alfred (Mike’s Grandfather). Alfred continued working the farm, which he named “Spring Glade Farm” and was later joined by his brother Fred.
Eliza Hoffman with view of farm 1927
When Alfred and Fred took over the farm, Fred purchased the seventy five acres and the older house on the west side of the property. At that time it had no electricity or plumbing. Fred built a barn, operated a small dairy and raised tobacco in the fields directly behind their house. Alfred got married in 1920 after revisions to the larger, 1814 farmhouse were made that included electricity and plumbing for his new bride. Hoffman Family History notes that Alfred survived several injuries during his farming tenure, including a bull-gorged chin, a broken back while chasing runaway horses and a partially severed finger from a fertilizer sower accident.
Aerial View Hoffman Farm 1950’s
In 1945 Alfred sold his part of the farm to his sons Walter and Edwin (Mike’s father), who continued raising cattle and milk cows. The two brothers continued to farm, purchasing about 70 acres of the adjoining Sandberg farm and barn, and expanding the milking operation until the mid-1960’s.
Some portions of the original 125 acre farm have since been sold, with some developed into house lots. In later years the smaller house and 27 acres were sold, but the larger 1814 homestead remains in the family, owned by James Hoffman, Walter’s son. Edwin built a home on the property for his growing family in 1953, and today Edwin’s sons divide ownership of the property.
An interesting note in Hoffman Family History states that east of the original house is a building that is believed to be the first schoolhouse in Ellington, Connecticut. It was built in 1792 at the southwest corner of Hoffman and Somers Roads and was moved in 1866 to its present location where it is today used for storage.
The original 1814 homestead as it stands today. The red building behind the house is believed to be the first schoolhouse in Ellington. Built in 1792 at the south west corner of Hoffman and Somers Roads, it was moved in 1866 to its present location.
Michael Hoffman, Edwin’s son, happily resides on the same land his family has worked for four generations. Most of the farm is now used for hay and pasturing of beef animals and a portion of the land is rented out for growing corn. His wife Luann operates the popular Luann’s Bakery (a home bakery located on the farm) and they still farm the land, though to a lesser degree than those who farmed before them.
Mike and Luann Hoffman continue farming the land their family has owned since 1900.
The following are excerpts from an interview with Mike about how his family has used the land that has been passed to them by his family:
“The farm was passed down to my grandfather, then to my father Edwin and his brother Walter. They expanded the dairy operation in 1950 and won many awards and had write-ups in farming magazines. In the 1960’s, they sold the farming operation to the hired hand, but not the land. Then sometime in the 1970s the hired hand purchased a farm in upper New York. So my father then started to raise beef for a hobby. I worked with dad but had my own beef cows, and in 1980 eventually bought my father out.”
Mike raises grass fed beef on his farm today.
“Today we have 11 cows due to calf at the end of March. We also have 11 calves that were born last year. We raise our beef to about 20 months of age. It is a closed herd, meaning that we do not purchase any cows or calves to add to the herd. This lowers the chance of any diseases entering our farm. We use no vaccines, antibodies or growth hormones. All our cows since 1983 have been born on our farm.”
“Our beef is pasture raised and grass fed. We feed no fermented products (corn silage) that would give the meat a sour taste. They are moved from pasture to pasture. Our pastures are divided to provide a 21-day rotation, meaning that the cows will not return to graze the same grass for 21 days, giving the grass time to grow. We also have 50 laying hens and sell eggs. We make around 4,000 bales of hay each year, selling 2,000 and feeding the rest to our cows and calves during the winter.”
Hoffman Farm ground beef, which they sell at the Ellington Farmers Market, is unique in that the entire cow is made into ground beef. It makes for an incredibly tasty ground beef! They also take orders for beef halves or quarters every fall.
Michael and Luann raised their five children on the farm, and share some memories and insights:
In the 1990’s, we had 5 sows and sold piglets. One sow once had 22 piglets, way above average. A good year!
We boarded horses in the 1990’s.
Now we raise 3 pigs each year; two to sell and one to eat.Our children were in 4-H and raised and showed swine and beef, winning many blue ribbons, especially in the carcass competition, meaning we had the best meat.
For 3 years our son Daniel raised 350 ring-necked pheasant and turkeys. One year a fox got into the pheasant pen and killed 263 young pheasant. Not a good year!
Because of their farming and 4H responsibilities our children have developed very good work ethics.
Today our grandchildren are starting to help with all the work.
It is a wonderful way to bring up children and we are looking forward to working the farm with our grandchildren.
Take a drive down Hoffman Road and view the original homestead and notice the verdant pastures, old stone walls, babbling brooks and rolling hills that comprise the land that Fritz Hoffman purchased in 1900. Hoffman Farm is an important part of Ellington’s rich agricultural history and it would appear that the Hoffman family plans to remain a part of our town’s farming tradition for years to come.