Looking to the Future of Farming on the Blue Hill Peninsula

Conservation is not a one size fits all system, it can happen in many remarkable ways where one plan looks very different from another. Over the years, Blue Hill Heritage Trust has worked with a number of landowners to conserve properties in ways that met the particular needs and values of each.
This year we will present perspectives from four people who chose to work with BHHT in four very different ways to conserve the lands they love on the Blue Hill Peninsula. Each sought out unique conservation plans that ultimately reach a similar goal on the peninsula properties they love. We hope these stories will paint a picture of conservation with broader brush strokes and perhaps inspire you to consider how conservation might look to you and the properties you hold dear.

If you have driven down route 15 through Orland in the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly caught a quick glimpse of Rainbow Farm as you’ve gone around the bend. It’s hard not to notice the green field speckled with livestock consisting of chickens, sheep and Scottish Highland cattle, along with several Great Pyrenees that work as livestock guardian dogs. Blue Hill Heritage Trust has had an easement on this property since 1999, ensuring that this land remains farmland for generations to come.

The following is Jo Barrett’s personal account of how decisions, years in the making, allowed everything to seemingly fall into place to protect this land forever as farm and woodlands.

Jo Barret- Spring 2024

This 135 acres of open fields and woods is a beautiful place that always instills a deep sense of attachment in me. It is part of what the local farming community refers to as the Rt. 15 farmland corridor, where the glacier left deep, high quality soil. In addition to having highly valuable agricultural soils, this farm provides a much-loved view for people driving on Route 15and was under pressure for residential development.

My late husband, Dennis King and I owned and operated King Hill Farm (KHF) in North Penobscot (along with my brother-in-law, Ron King) We used many remote fields to augment our hay and grain supply. One of the best ones was a 16 mile round trip from KHF. When the land that now is Rainbow Farm came up for sale it was owned by Peter Nowick and had been under conventional corn for many years. The woodlands had been aggressively harvested. It needed restorative care. I had just sold a property and decided to buy this land because it had great potential and it was only a 6 mile round trip from KHF. That 10 mile difference doesn’t sound like much until you’ve had to transport a mower/conditioner, tedder, rake, baler, and trucks with trailers to make hay. Or a 1960s combine to harvest grain.

We couldn’t afford both the asking price and the costs of restoring the land. We felt that this land should be in the hands of farmers and be protected from existing development pressure.With help from Lornzo Mitchell, Dennis and I worked with Blue Hill Heritage Trust and Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust to create an easement that both made the land affordable for us and protected the land while not interfering with the ability to run a farm and manage the woods. From the moment we closed the deal,Dennis referred to this land as Barrett Hill Farm(BHF).

After Dennis was incapacitated by a stroke we moved to a small house in Blue Hill, leaving KHF in the very capable hands of Amanda Provencher and Paul Schultz. I retained the BHF land and loved going there for Christmas trees or just to wander and commune with the land. Over the years it became clear that people who lived nearby were abusing the land by knocking down stone walls and cutting trees to open up trails for ATVs and snowmobiles, creating mud pits for “muddin’” and by driving on the hayfields, damaging the crop. I didn’t have the capacity to monitor it from Blue Hill. It became a source of worry.

When the COVID real estate boom occurred, I thought that I might easily sell the farm but I didn’t relish the possibility of selling it to just anyone. I created a two price mindset: a very high price for non-farmers and a price that was just what I’d paid plus a modest amount for inflation for the right farmers. I heard that Noah and Lorelei Cimeno had outgrown their land in Stockton Springs and were interested in finding a new site for Rainbow Farm on the peninsula. I emailed them, they called me right away, we met at the land the very same day and arrived at an agreement. We talked about everything except price and it all felt so right. When I told them my price they looked at each other and smiled because it was the exact amount of money that they had discussed as affordable for them. Now, when I drive by or visit, I am rewarded over and over again by the vibrancy of the whole place. To have such savvy and good, community-minded farmers on that land is priceless to me.