Life on a Hilltop Dairy Farm in Maine
Glendon and Jodie didn’t ever imagine that they’d end up together, milking organic dairy cows on a 200-acre farm with a hilltop house where, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Camden, Maine, and the coast. (It’s only 15 miles from their farm to the sea, after all.)
The serendipitous part of their story isn’t necessarily the Mehuren farm itself, but the way Glendon and Jodie’s paths crossed in small ways over and over again. Now, as the couple goes on 14 years together, the love and joy they’ve cultivated on their farm—for each other, for their children, for their farmland and the animals that live there—is evident.
Fascinated by Farming
On the Mehuren farm, Glendon’s grandparents were the ones milking cows before Glendon took up the operation. And, as a child, Glendon spent a lot of time working on the farm that would one day become his.
“He had his own set of oxen when he was a little boy,” laughs Jodie, who is intimately familiar with the origin story of Glendon’s passion for farming. Young Glendon loved showing cattle at the fair, and even had a pony of his own. In his teen years he also started picking up odds and ends from his grandparents and other farms in the area—“stuff like dairy equipment and things that I thought I could use,” he said.
Glendon was just fascinated by all aspects of farming, and even if he didn’t quite realize it at the time, those “odds and ends” would one day be the equipment he used to expand his own dairy operation.
This love of livestock, farm equipment, and working in the open air guided Glendon’s decision to buy the farm from his grandmother after his grandfather died. At the time that Glendon took over the Mehuren farm, it had a house (the same one Glendon, Jodie, and their children call home today) and one barn. This was fine for the 25-head herd that Glendon began with, but pretty quickly he thought he’d make changes.
With the old machinery he’d been collecting since he was a teenager, some ingenuity, and the help of friends and family, Glendon started expanding his farm. Not to anything massive; he is adamant that while he’s happy to have some trusted hired help around the farm, he never wants to get to a size where he is essentially just a manager. He wants to be in the barn, interacting with the animals and land that he loves.
Jodie is proud to run through the full list of things Glendon has done since taking over the farm:
“Let’s see. He added milk rooms, a milking barn, a back barn, a big free stall, and a greenhouse,” she said. And the herd? Well, 25 cows has become 45 to 50.
Glendon and Jodie are quick to point out that none of these exciting things they’ve been able to do on their farm happened alone, though—both of their families have had a hand in shaping their farm, and what would become their love story, since the beginning.
An Organic Love Story
When Jodie talks about how she and Glendon ended up together, there is happiness and a little bit of awe in her voice that’s hard to miss.
Glendon and Jodie grew up a town away from each other, but they were far enough apart in age that they didn’t really cross paths. In fact, it took Maine’s famous Common Ground Country Fair, a fair put on specifically by and for organic farmers and gardeners in the Pine Tree State, to bring the pair together.
But if Glendon showing at the fair and Jodie “stopping by to say hi” was what it took for them to start dating officially, the universe seemed to have laid a lot of groundwork for their partnership even before that.
Glendon’s grandparents’ farmhouse was built in 1974. Recently, Jodie learned that one of the people who’d helped build that house—her farmhouse with its stunning hilltop views—was none other than her own father when he was 18. Jodie’s dad is a carpenter, and it turns out this house was the first one he ever worked on. Imagining her dad building this home for Glendon’s grandparents, never thinking that his daughter would also live there someday, is poignant for Jodie.
On top of that, Jodie found out that her dad actually grew up with Glendon’s dad. The men were good friends, and Jodie’s dad adored Glendon’s grandparents. Recently, Jodie shares, her dad said he “never imagined in my whole life” that he would have a daughter who was with a Mehuren. He told her that it makes him so incredibly happy.
With all of these fortuitous connections, it’s no wonder that when Glendon and Jodie finally spent one very long weekend together at the Common Ground Country Fair, they realized that on top of a love for organic agriculture, the pair had quite a lot in common. As Jodie remembers it, after the weekend Glendon called and asked if he could take her out on a “real” date. The rest, of course, is history. “It just goes to show you can’t plan this stuff,” Jodie said.
A Priority of Preserving Family Farms
While you can’t plan for the beautiful serendipity of life sometimes, Glendon and Jodie have other plans that can, and should, be carefully laid. Mainly these plans revolve around caring for their land in environmentally responsible ways, keeping their herd happy and healthy, and maintaining their buildings, fences, and gardens for maximum “dooryard appeal.”
This idea of dooryard appeal, or the way a farm looks and feels as a guest pulls up the drive, is something Glendon feels very strongly about. He wants to set a good example for other farmers and for his community: that farming is a career to be proud of, that it’s worth investing in, and that—although in some ways the decline of farmers in America makes the outlook bleak—there are vibrant small farms across the country.
With major industry consolidation happening, it’s no secret that many family farms are in crisis. Recently, a number of small farms in the Northeast lost their contracts, and the Mehurens were among them.
Thankfully, Organic Valley was able to add 50 of these farms to their milk truck routes, protecting them from the problems facing many farmers today.
For their part, Glendon and Jodie were relieved and excited to join the co-op, not just for themselves but for the future of farming.
“I feel a responsibility to the ground,” said Glendon, adding “you could argue the case that we shouldn’t fool ourselves. Farming is not lucrative, it’s very difficult, etc.” The responsibility to the land, the animals, his children, the consumers willing to buy high-quality organic milk, that’s more than enough for Glendon and Jodie.
Glendon’s hope for the future is simple. “I hope there continue to be enough farms around,” he said, referencing the loss of small family farms to industrial-sized farms. “If the consumers want it, and they want it badly enough, we’ll be here.”