What town in Maine to buy property for sustainable homestead?
October 19, 2007 9:41 AM   Subscribe

What's a good town in Maine to buy land for a sustainable homestead?

I'm interested in building a small energy efficient cabin/home. Probably a straw bale house with a massive concrete floor and passive solar windows, maybe around a masonary stove. Something for 1-2 people, maybe some outbuildings (a studio). It's important for me to have enough land to grow food, perhaps at some point to grow all my food. With the possibility of some small animals (goats/sheep/chickens). Maybe even a cow for meat.

I have a good bit of farming experience from the past. I'm somewhat well informed for doing this kind of thing.

Anyway, I'm looking to stay in Maine, where I am now, but probably move inland (because I'm thinking it's cheaper?). I'm on the coast at the moment.

Ideally I'd be less than 1.5 hours from Portland. But also I could deal with being close to Belfast. Other than that, I'm not picky. I'd rather be in Maine than New Hampshire and I'm interested in less touristy locations.

I'm interested in a place where the land is cheap or at least relatively cheap, somewhere that I might find a bargain. Somewhere that has good ground water and generally tillable land. I don't mind being somewhat remote from a town but it would be nice if I could walk there in 3 hours or something like that, if necessary. I don't need grid power, although I wouldn't mind having it. Some local culture would be nice, and some like minded people (not necessarily hippies but people who are into the homestead thing but aren't super religious types) would be cool too.

I have very limited funds but will be making this a priority in the next year.

Any thoughts or suggestions for areas? I'm really interested in staying in Maine but if you have a solution for me otherwise let me know.

Towns I've liked that I've seen so far (but that seem a little pricey for me ): Union, Washington, Appleton

posted by sully75 to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Define cheaper. A search on Craigslist Maine shows that property any reasonable distance from Portland in Maine isn't particularly cheap. Keep in mind too that most established towns close in have building codes, so you'll have to contend with that when planning your home.

Maine also has quite a vibrant organic farming community called MOFGA. According to their website, they have a farmer-in-residence program that might be of interest to you.

Then there's a guy named Eliot Coleman who wrote a few books about gardening in Maine, but he lives on the coast. The temperatures nearer the coast are more amenable to growing vegetables, and you end up with longer seasons. You can buy his ooks or find them in the library. Unfortunately, he has removed his contact info from his website.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:21 AM on October 19, 2007

Direct link to MOFGA's farmer-in-residence program. Come to think of it, MOFGA should probably be your first stop.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2007

I haven't been there lately, but I believe Athens, ME has a history of Back to the Land folks. Plus, they have one heck of an alternative 4th of july parade.
posted by R. Mutt at 10:43 AM on October 19, 2007

Wow, the MOGFA concept looks great. I wish they had that here in the Bay Area.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:49 AM on October 19, 2007

As SteveInMaine said, define cheap. Personally, I think anywhere that is some distance from 95/295 and an hour or more outside of Portland is going to be "relatively cheap" - relative to Portland. Maine still has some pretty cheap land if you keep your eyes open. I think it would be reasonable to think you could find 30~50 acres for ~$50,000 if you look hard enough.. or maybe $100k if you don't look so hard.

You can use google maps to roughly define an area that is within a 1.5hr drive from Portland, and do the same for Belfast.

I suspect that the "european" towns in the west are on the outer edge of 1.5hrs - Sweden, Norway, Paris.. and going East from there you have the likes of Livermore Falls, Mt Vernon, Rome, Skowhegan, Pittsfield. After that you're getting near the coast as you head towards the China lakes region, Palermo, Union, Waldoboro.. etc.

My impression of the inland Belfast area you mentioned (Alna, Washington, Union, etc) is that there are probably like-minded individuals around.
posted by mbatch at 12:33 PM on October 19, 2007

Ok so I should have been more specific. I'm interested in doing a self sufficient farm (maybe a little surplus), not a large acreage. Something like 6-10 acres, some wooded, some fields. In an area not likely to be McManshioned anytime soon.

And cheap, well, I have nothing at the moment. I've heard of people getting pieces of land for as little as $10,000. A friend of mine found a piece down a long right of way, I think he might have even gotten it cheaper than that. I'm not sure I could find something that cheap, but quite cheap is what I'm looking for.
posted by sully75 at 12:51 PM on October 19, 2007

Well I don't know that much about the richness of the land there, but there are fields and trees aplenty in Aroostook County and the economy there is slooooow so the prices may be amazingly low...

I'm from just across the border in New Brunswick and though it's isolated, there seems to be some good land for the taking. But that's a couple hours from Bangor, maybe too far away from Portland for you.
posted by andree at 3:09 PM on October 19, 2007

Once you identify an area that you like, you might consider going to the local town office and taking a look at the property maps/records. See who owns some large parcels of land, and try contacting them to see if they have any interest in selling one of their lots or a portion of their acreage. I have friends who did this and got a beautiful 18 acre plot. Also, check out Albany township in western Maine - not very developed, and there are some like minded folks in that area.
posted by man on the run at 4:09 PM on October 19, 2007

Some areas of Oxford county should meet your cheap and relatively close to Portland requirements (though I confess that I have a very Boston idea of what cheap real estate is right now). Some friends of mine live in Bridgton, which is about 45 minutes from Portland; it's a bit too small-towny for your needs, but it quickly turns into open land and woods in the surrounding areas. I also have family living in Monmouth and Litchfield, both seem to have abundant land, and I've driven by plenty of farms in both. I've made it from Monmouth to Portland in roughly 1.5 hours (and Lewiston/Auburn is super close, not that L/A is a hotbed of excitement).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 7:11 PM on October 22, 2007

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