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'Forever Chemicals' Upended a Maine Farm — And Point To Larger Problem

The young couple knew exactly what they were seeking when they set out to buy some farmland in 2014. They wanted a flat swath of fertile soil; at least a few acres of tillable land for the organic vegetables and grains they were growing; and a parcel as close as possible to the markets along the Maine coast that were buying their healthy products, free of chemicals and pesticides.

In Unity — a rural community 90 miles northeast of Portland and 20 miles from the coast — Adam Nordell and Johanna Davis found the property of their dreams. It was 44 acres, and mostly forest. Along the road, at the top of a low hill, about five acres of fields were already being used as an organic farm.

The owner at the time — a retired Colby College biology instructor named Tim Christensen — was pleased to think that his land might go to Nordell and Davis. Christensen had farmed the property since 1995, harvesting his own organic crops, but lately he had grown so weak that he struggled to climb atop his tractor. Tests followed, and then a diagnosis: cancer. It was in his bones and his pancreas and spreading. Christensen, 64, would be dead within months. But not before selling his property to Nordell and Davis. The couple closed on the farm in late September 2014 and gave the land a new name.