Kim Nolan is an experienced New England farmer who has worked on a variety of farms operating CSAs, wholesale operations, and livestock since 2007. Like many others, Kim enjoyed this work, but dreamed of one day finding a small piece of land for her own operation. Though she’s worked with both produce and livestock, Kim realized that her true passion was for small-scale livestock and began drafting business plans for a future operation. When a close friend called in summer 2015 about a potential farmland match through New Entry near her hometown she excitedly joined for a site visit.
Ed Marsh is the owner of Heliotrope Hill Tree Farm, a former Christmas tree farm in Ipswich, MA. In 2014, he decided it was becoming too difficult to manage the Christmas tree farm in his retirement, so he shut down the operation and cleared the land for farming. The property is under a Ch. 61A conservation easement, so he wanted to keep the property in agricultural use. At the suggestion of his son, Ed contacted New Entry to list the property with the Farmland Matching Service for farmers seeking short-term lease arrangements. Ed is a savvy businessman and was open to assisting new farmers on his property, but was also seeking an industrious and hardworking individual with serious plans to make a successful farm business. After meeting Kim and witnessing her commitment to starting True Grit Farm, they negotiated as 2-year short-term lease for 2 acres on his property beginning in January 2016.
The property did not originally have electricity or water access so Kim decided to start her livestock operation with chickens. Kim quickly began making plans and in early April 2016 began raising chickens on the property for eggs, meat, and exhibition birds. Kim’s determination and creativity emerged quickly as she adapted to the limitations of the property by building a storage house for feed and a mobile broiler unit. Even so, Kim’s loyal customers allowed her to quickly sell all of her product, propelling her into her second year of operation in 2017. She’s now raised 11 batches of chickens, totaling over 1,000 birds in her first year. Although at the inception there was no access to electricity, Kim’s success has caused Ed recently to work with the local utility to bring service onto the property, thus offering to Kim opportunities for expansion.
Both Kim and Ed agree that beyond the initial introduction, New Entry has remained a valuable resource in their blossoming partnership. For example, they are thinking about applying for a grant together to build a surface well to offset the costs of water access on the property. And another New Entry connection will be starting a sheep operation on the property in 2017. As Kim looks to the future, she’s considering expanding her business to include more diversified livestock and credits the opportunity to lease a portion of Ed’s lands as the catalyst needed to start her own farm venture.