Student Experience - William ‘Nick’ Smith
Every week in September, University of Maine business management major William “Nick” Smith has been on campus taking classes and participating in student organizations. But come Friday afternoon, he was on the road, driving 90 miles south to Bull Run Farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Overlooking a brook lined by lush fields of vegetables, he spent his weekend filling 700-pound totes with the fall harvest he has grown — pumpkins, buttercup squash and sunshine squash — to sell in the area. When Sunday night rolled around, he packed up his truck again and headed north to Orono.
September was always a long month for Smith, but the fourth-generation Maine farmer wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The money Smith has made in the past five years from selling his produce, coupled with a handful of scholarships, has been enough to pay the balance of his tuition — something he has been saving for since he was 12 years old. He’ll graduate from the University of Maine this month with no debt.
Smith, 21, grew up “ingrained” with the black bear mascot, knowing he always wanted to come to UMaine. On campus, Smith has been a student leader as a member of Alpha Lambda Delta and Sophomore Owls honor societies; a UMaine Student Government Inc., senator and vice president of student organizations; vice president of the Class of 2014; and president of the Senior Skull honor society.
Throughout his academic excellence and community engagement at UMaine, Smith has kept true to his goal of applying all he has learned to his family farm, which he will manage once he graduates. Whether it’s his small-business economics class or learning to live in a dorm, Smith utilized every opportunity he had to make his college career the best it could be. And he doesn’t plan to stop using those opportunities.
When Smith graduated high school, his father asked him to start on the farm. But Smith knew he had to get an education first. At UMaine, he majored in business and now not only knows how to keep track of his finances, but also has a few new ideas on how to run his farm.
“I’ll take a few more risks, (because) if you don’t take risks you get left in the dust,” he said. “College taught me to be more open-minded. It was more about learning about life and people. At the end of the day, we’re all human. Just appreciating everyone, not ruling people out because of a social issue.”
One of Smith’s goals at UMaine was to meet as many people as possible. The hundreds of new people he has met as a member of the university community have informed his business perspective on the products his customers will want in the future and, in many cases, have resulted in friendships that will last a lifetime.
Growing up on a farm, Smith says, “taught me to live small, taught me to live within my means. On a farm, if you don’t put labor in, you don’t get your three squares a day. You learn a lot of work ethic on a farm.”
Going above and beyond applies to Smith’s life. His father taught him to always give his customers a little extra per pound.
“It doesn’t hurt. You just want to make sure you’re fair,” he says. “That’s who people want to do business with — someone who is above and beyond fair.”
Taking over Bull Run Farm, which his father started in 1975, will be an education in itself for Smith. He will move from the vegetable division to manage the entire farm — beef, vegetables and hay. But feeling prepared by the Maine Business School, Smith is excited.
“It’s a little odd having friends who already have jobs set up to make $65,000 to $67,000 a year,” he says. “But I have no debt. I can eat all of the food that I grow. It will be a crude lifestyle for a little bit, but it’s going to pan out because I’m motivated to do it.
“If I don’t do it, who will?”