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First:

Nick

Last:

Mullins

Co-Applicant / Spouse:

Elizabeth Mullins

Email:

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Past and present farming experience:

Experience in our family is varied. I grew up in the central Appalachian mountains where my family farmed and worked in the coal mines. Unfortunately, mining slowly reduced the agricultural base of our region. Today few farms remain and a century’s worth of coal mining and natural gas drilling has permanently damaged/polluted our land and water resources. Though my family and I do not consider ourselves professional production farmers, we have experience raising gardens with additional time spent working on vegetable and cattle operations. We also have plenty of “rural sensibilities.” I’ve done a little bit of everything, from carpentry work to working as an underground mine mechanic and certified electrician. After leaving the mining industry, I attended college where I studied sustainability and environmental studies. I geared my education toward understanding and communicating the need for people to lead simpler lives and grow their own food. Some of this included learning permaculture concepts, local food security, and ecological design, which are just fancy ways of saying growing food locally without the need for outside inputs and building homes that will keep you comfortable without relying on foreign resources. Currently, my wife and I are teaching in western Penobscot county as we continue our search for a new home to set down our roots. Our dream is to eventually create an educational farm for foster kids that will reconnect them with nature and a better understanding of where their food comes from.

Counties being considered:
  • Androscoggin County
  • Aroostook County
  • Cumberland County
  • Franklin County
  • Hancock County
  • Kennebec County
  • Knox County
  • Lincoln County
  • Oxford County
  • Penobscot County
  • Piscataquis County
  • Sagadahoc County
  • Somerset County
  • Waldo County
  • Washington County
  • York County
Types of enterprises considered:
  • Apple/Fruit
  • Berries
  • Goats
  • Grains
  • Greenhouse
  • Hay/Forage
  • Herbs
  • Pasture
  • Poultry
  • Row Crops
  • Sheep
  • Sugaring
  • Vegetables
  • Woodlot
Total Acres Desired:

Dreaming: 100+ | Realistically 15+

Tillable Acres:

No less than 3

Wooded acres:

10+

Acres in Pasture:

10+

Acres in Pasture:

10+

Acres in Orchard/Fruit/Perennials:

2+

Organic:
  • Yes
Farm structures needed:
  • Barn(s)
  • Storage
  • Shop
  • Greenhouses
  • Other Housing
Equipment needed:

-A basic utility tractor (45HP+) with a loader bucket would be very helpful. Preferably something older with a mechanical injector pump. We plan on renting/sharing implements. If we do need to purchase any implements, we'd prefer buying used and repairing them.
-3/4 ton used pickup truck and two-axle flatbed. I sold my Dodge 24V Cummins and flatbed a few years ago and wished like crazy I hadn't. But, at the time, I needed the money, it needed synchronizers in 3rd and 4th, and I wasn't crazy about putting more money into a New Venture transmission. It also needed a heater coil, new rear spring hangers, and the doors were rusting out. The only thing wrong with a Cummins turbodiesel is the Dodge surrounding it.
-A snowmobile might be handy depending on where we end up.

Arrangement(s) considered
  • Standard Sale
  • Owner-Financed Sale
  • Lease with Option to Buy
  • Work to Own (Gradual Transfer of Responsibility & Farm Assests)
  • Partnership
I am interested in farms with Conservation Easements:
  • Yes
Here is a summary of the vision for my farming future and/or business plan:

Phase 1: Our 1-2 year plan includes getting jobs within a local school system to supplement our income as we familiarize ourselves with the land, infrastructure needs, and we get to know the local community. During the spring, summer, and early fall, we will grow as much food for ourselves as possible, slowly increasing production to market garden scale, and perhaps build into a CSA. During the late fall and winter (and depending on COVID), I may also try to get back into speaking on environmental communication issues at colleges and universities. Phase 1 will also give us time to learn the ins and outs of Maine's foster care system for phase 2.

Phase 2: The 3-5 year plan will include starting an L3C (low-profit limited liability corporation) /educational facility aimed at inspiring foster children to become future farmers while providing them with essential life skills including cooking/food preservation, sewing, carpentry, mechanics etc. We plan to diversify our income streams to include fundraising, grant writing, hosting workshops on permaculture/composting, and building small ecologically designed structures that will be utilized for Air BnB and sleep-away summer camps for kids from underserved communities. We may even look to start a small festival venue.
Phase 3: 5 years+ Depending on how things go, we will slowly transition away from off-farm employment and may even consider a small charter school specifically for foster kids.
In terms of our farming philosophy, we dislike the idea of a farming "enterprise" and the commodification of nature to satisfy material wants. Over the years, I've seen a lot of folks get in over their heads and burn themselves out. We don't desire much, just a healthy living situation for ourselves with a good work-life balance and the ability to help kids in need and the local community through food security. Start small, stay out of as much debt as possible, and grow over time.
For those curious why we are looking specifically at Maine as opposed to Virginia:

The part of Virginia I'm from (where we’ve been for 10 generations) isn't livable anymore. Coal mining and natural gas drilling have irreparably damaged/polluted both our surface and underground water sources. The family farm was subdivided among family, and our portion now has acidic mine drainage thanks to the mountain top removal surface mine that occurred behind us. It's also all hillside, and the soil hasn't been that great since it was washed off back in the 50s (thanks to a cloud burst right after my great grandfather plowed and planted corn one spring).

The rest of Virginia is nice, but a lot of wealthier people know that as well. Like most places, urban and suburban sprawl is overtaking the farmland in most areas of Virginia while other areas are becoming second vacation homes. The summers in Virginia's lowlands are also sweltering with oppressive humidity. In fact, much of Virginia ranks as subtropical on the Koppen Climate Classification—and it is only getting worse. I've spent the last ten years exploring comparable areas/climates to our mountain home that will be less impacted as global climate change continues. So far, those searches have consistently led us to the northeast.

Though we've looked at several other states in the northeast, we keep settling on Maine. We've been there several times, have worked there, and are impressed with its progressive agricultural laws. Yes, we know Maine has long, frigid winters with a LOT of snow, but we are the kinds of folks who prefer cold winters over extremely humid summers. You can bundle up plenty in the winter and shed clothes as you work up a sweat, but you can only get so naked during a hot summer before people start complaining. And if it is going to be winter, we also want snow. We enjoy ice skating and snowshoeing, and would like to try our hand at ice fishing. We also enjoy heating our home with wood having done so as our primary heat source for several years. And believe me, it is much easier to heat a home during a cold winter than to air-condition and keep mold at bay during extended summers of high humidity.

And to cover all the bases. We don't like the gentrification occurring along the coastal areas that is now spreading inland. We found ourselves right in the middle of the contention between "flatlanders" and local Mainers, and it caused us a whole lot of heartache. It’s a long story, but we put everything into moving up there this past year and lost most of it. The fact that we are even reconsidering it is beyond us, but we did meet some truly wonderful souls up there and thanks to their friendship, we have managed to retain our faith in the goodness of people.