275 years and counting: Making a sacrifice to maintain a family legacy

Just days before passing away from cancer in July 2016, Craig Stinson of Stinson Farm in Princeton was on his tractor bailing hay. “He had lost feeling in both of his legs and was using his upper body to compensate for basically not having any legs. He’d hold both of his canes,” his son Dylan recalls. “He died with six pack abs.”

 

Dylan Stinson was a full-time student athlete at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) when his father Craig was diagnosed with cancer that eventually spread to his spine. An electrician by day, Craig also operated Stinson Farm, an 11th generation workplace that he undertook in 2006.

 

“It was a dairy farm until ’93,” says Dylan. “We had Holstein cows. My grandfather was also the school bus driver, and every morning they would milk the cows. We then transitioned into grass-fed beef, chickens, and turkeys spring through fall. This farm was initiated in 1743. We’ve been around for 275 years and this is the 11th generation. Growing up, my brother Kevin and I always helped out. There’s an old saying: There’s never a shortage of work at a farm.”

 

Balancing hefty mechanical engineering courses while playing wide receiver for WPI’s football team, however, also presented a shortage of work. So when Dylan’s father passed away, Dylan and his brother faced a similar challenge to what Craig undertook in 2006 when he took over the farm. Kevin signed on right out of high school and operated the farm with girlfriend Jenny Cournoyer, but Dylan, who had just started a job in Connecticut two months before his father’s death was needed to keep the farm alive. “I would work all week, then make the trip back to Princeton. Back then, I would drive over 500 miles each week back and forth. Cutting, drying, bailing hay all had to get done before dark,” he says.

 

Kevin Stinson and Jenny Cournoyer

 

The schedule became such a burden that Dylan found a mechanical engineering job in central Massachusetts to be closer to the farm. He also brought longtime girlfriend Kaitlin Poss, a farm girl as well as a fellow engineer, with him to live on the farm. “I lived on 40 acres in Colorado,” she says. “My sister and I would split wood and drive the tractors. Farming was something Dylan and I had in common and brought us together when we met at WPI.”

 

“It’s a group effort between me, Kaitlin, Kevin, and his girlfriend Jenny. And we do it to maintain the legacy,” Dylan says.

 

Current projects include renovating the barn and bailing, always bailing. “Craig didn’t have a negative bone in his body,” Kaitlin says. “We do it for him.”

 

In a world that all too often stereotypes millenials as lazy or entitled, just travel down gravel-laid Thompson Road and see these young Princeton residents hard at work. But set your alarm and bring your work boots, because, as the saying goes, there is never a shortage of work on a farm.

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