History of Dame Farm
In 1890, Donald Dame purchased what is now known as Dame Farm from the Steere family. The Dames made their living from a variety of sources, predominantly dairy cows and apple orchards. In 1969, the State of Rhode Island exercised eminent domain, removing ownership of the land from the Dame family.
The land lay fallow for several years, although James A. Dame, Sr. and his wife, Effie, continued to reside in the farmhouse. The Rhode Island Historical Farm Association began renting part of the farmhouse and using it as a command post for guided tours and a historical museum. The Dames began sub-leasing the land from the RIHFA in the early 1970s and resumed farming on the premises.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, the Dame family ran a replacement heifer operation--purchasing female calves, raising them to breeding age, breeding them, and selling them to dairy farmers shortly before they calved. They also raised large amounts of sweet corn, silage corn, and apples, most of which were sold on the wholesale market. As time went on, the Dames shifted their focus from wholesale to retail, developing a farm stand that now carries a wide variety of fresh produce raised right on the farm. Cows no longer fill the barn,having been replaced by three draft horses. Bill, Bob, and Dave are favorites with visitors of all ages.
At the present time, the Dames are the sole lessees of Dame Farm. Three generations of Dames currently make their livings primarily from the farm. Dame Farm and Orchards is a private business, financed and operated by the Dame family. They receive neither funding nor labor nor subsidies from the State of Rhode Island. Dame Farm is now, as it was in 1890, a true family farm.