A fall rite of passage in The County. I did this as a kid. Crazy hard work for just a few pennies a barrel. Family legend says that my grandfather on my dad’s side could stack three full barrels of potatoes one on top of the other single-handedly. – Keith
In the gentle hills of northern Maine, far from the rocky coastline and lighthouses, teenagers trade warm classrooms for cold potato fields every fall, just as they have for generations.
Schools shut down — sometimes for weeks at a time — while their students haul in the harvest or monitor conveyor belts for potatoes that don’t measure up as farmers rush to fill their stores before the ground freezes.
But as farm operations consolidate and heavy machinery make them more efficient, farmers wonder how much longer there will be a place for the harvest breaks that as little as 20 years ago saw kids hand-picking potatoes for 50 cents a barrel.
“Eventually it’ll probably fade away,” said Wayne Garrison, the 72-year-old co-owner of Garrison Farms, which hired eight high school students to help harvest its 700 acres of potatoes. “I’d hate to see it go, I really would.”
Up until the 1940s, Maine was the nation’s potato capital and Aroostook County — a place so vast that it’s about the same size as the combined states of Connecticut and Rhode Island — is still home to roughly 50,000 acres of potato farms. Nearly a dozen high schools here emptied for this year’s harvest — fewer than the old days, when virtually all schools shut down.
Read the rest of this story by David Sharp of The Associated Press.
A tractor and hay roll sit in a field in Aroostook County, Maine. Photo by Kelly McInnis
Potatoes are big in Maine, especially in Aroostook County where I grew up.
And when I say big, I mean BIG. After all, they even have a Potato Blossom Festival and there’s a festival queen and everything, so it has to be pretty big.
Potatoes are big for the economy and the cultural experience of Maine. For some farming families and communities, potatoes are king.
A fellow member of the Ashland Community High School Class of 1980 Kelly McInnis takes photos that I’ve shared here before. Here are two of potato blossoms and a nice rural image of a tractor and hay. The photos were taken Wednesday in record temperatures for Aroostook County — 93 degrees.
“The potato fields are in Mapleton just as you hit that turn headed to Ashland, Willard Doyen’s Farm,” Kelly wrote of the photos. “I just wanted to get a shot because the blossoms are beautiful. They are a few weeks early this year due to the mild winter and (farmers’) ability to plant early.”
“The tractor was out … somewhere,” Kelly added. “My boyfriend is a photographer and likes to just ride and see what he may come across, so I tag along and bring my camera, too.
“I’ve always had an interest in photography, but it really takes a commitment to get anything good. I’m getting back into it.”
The photos are shared here with Kelly’s permission. Enjoy!
Potato blossoms were out early this year. Here is a field near Mapleton, Maine, in Aroostook County. Photos by Kelly McInnis
Here's another shot of the potato blossoms.
Posted in Economy, Environment, Food and Drink, Maine, Outdoors
Tagged Aroostook County, Ashland, Ashland Community High School, farming, Kelly McInnis, Mapleton Maine, photography, potato
These to Maine magnets hang on my Caifornia refrigerator.
This is an occasional multipart series of photos of things related to Maine that can be found in my California apartment. Today’s photo is of two refrigerator magnets. (Hey, they can’t all be grand.)
The one on the left is a miniature potato bag. (Fear not, no potatoes were harmed in the making of this blog.)
Potato farming is big in Maine. It was even bigger when I was a kid, I believe. I’m pretty sure farmers have moved to other crops such as sugar beats and soybeans over the years. My Mom sent me the potato bag magnet years and years ago in a Christmas or birthday package.
The other magnet is of Nubble Light in York, Maine. I know I didn’t visit Nubble Light or purchase the magnet and have no idea how I came to have the magnet. I have had it for years; it used to hang from a metal light shade above my desk when I worked at The Reporter in Vacaville, Calif. Not sure why I keep it around; it has no sentimental value, except perhaps because it is something from Maine. Well, something made in China from Maine.
This is an occasional multipart series of photos of things related to Maine that can be found in Keith Michaud’s California apartment. Keith Michaud shot today’s photos
Posted in Maine, Maine stuff
Tagged apartment, belongings, California, Maine, Mainer, multipart series, Nubble Light, photos, potato, potato farming, soybeans, sugar beats, The Reporter, Vacaville, York