Monday, June 13, 2011

Maine Is More Than Lighthouses by Nina Pierce


Celebrate New England Giveaway, Post #5. Leave a comment and enter to win!



Maine is More than Lighthouses
Guest Post – Nina Pierce
With only brief stints for college and new jobs, I’ve lived in Maine my whole life, the last twenty-two of them in northern Maine. I love Maine. It’s a beautiful part of New England.

When people think of Maine they think of pristine beaches, lobster and rugged coastlands. And with miles and miles of rocky shores, it’s no wonder that the lighthouse image has become synonymous with Maine’s Vacationland state motto.

But the northern 1/3 of Maine seeks to change that stereotype. Why? Because they live in potato country. That’s right, the spuds you get at the grocery store could have been grown and harvested in Maine.

Not having grown up in a farming community it was a definite culture shock when I first moved five hours from my home near the beaches (Maine is a bi-i-ig state) to the Canadian border. First, the school year began in mid-August and closed for three weeks from mid-September to early October. This allowed everyone in town to work harvesting the crop of potatoes by hand. And I do mean everyone. Anything not related to the potato industry, floral shops, hairdressers, anything like that, closed for the better part of three weeks. 

While we lived there, mechanical harvesters took over as the primary harvesting technique and fewer adults worked and only students 16 and older could work on the equipment. Schools eventually changed to closing the high schools since only those students could work and all businesses remained open.

I had the good fortune of working the three week harvest for a friend who was a farmer. Though I primarily worked in the potato house separating rocks from the potatoes on a conveyor belt before they went into bins for storage, I also worked several days in the field on the harvester. It’s loud and dirty and backbreaking. Rocks and plant stalks are separated by hand as a conveyor of potatoes bumps by on their way to the loading truck.

It’s a loooong day as well. Up at 5 am to be in the field by 6 where you work until 7 pm, 7 days a week drizzle or sun until the potatoes were out of the ground and stored for shipment in early winter and spring. 

So the next time you think of Maine, remember the northern part of the state, where there are no ocean breezes and lighthouses, but plenty of green fields of potatoes and hardworking kids helping to get them out of the ground and on to your table!






From Penny: Nina, Thanks so much for this fascinating piece! Maine has such a special place in my heart. 




Nina Pierce
Blind Love

23 comments:

Penelope said...

Nina, I am impressed that you did this job. This is hard work! Thanks for this interesting post!

Natascha said...

Huh, didn't know about the potatoes. Very interesting.

Jennifer Mathis said...

I really didnt knw that maine was the potato state :) and I love my potatoes

meandi09@yahoo.com

Nina Pierce said...

Penelope - It went a long way later when my kids went to work in the fields. It's hard to complain to a mom who's done it. LOL!

Natascha - It's a whole different lifestyle that many people don't realize is up in northern Maine. I'm happy to share it with everyone.

Nina Pierce said...

Jennifer - Not so much potato state, but definitely a lot of potato products you eat are from northern Maine. Frito-Lay has a lot of contracts with farmers up north.

KatieO said...

I've helped with a potato harvest in northern Vermont - one day was more than enough! Wonderful pics and great post!

Blodeuedd said...

That is a lot of work! I may be a countrygirl but still, not so good with the early and long hours ;)

Nina Pierce said...

Katie - LOL! Isn't that the truth. My friend loves farming and never tires of planting, harvesting and working the land. Of course he does it from a climate controlled tractor, not the open-air harvester. ;)

Blodeuedd - The long hours are only for a few weeks. I counldn't have done it longer than that!

Marie Rose Dufour said...

Lived in New England my whole life and never knew that potatoes were grown in Maine! Learn something new every day.

Nina Pierce said...

Marie - A lot of people don't realize what a huge industry it used to be. Unfortunately, like so many farmers, many small family farms have gone under.

Susan said...

Thank goodness for the hard working farm families in our country. And Maine is quickly moving up on my list of places to visit.

Nina Pierce said...

Susan - Maine is beautiful to visit. But unless you're into snowmobiling, I strongly recommend doing it during summer or fall.

Shirley Ann Howard said...

Lots of memories of Aroostook County... My uncle was a Baptist minister there, and my husband's family called their potato farm "Gold From the Ground." It dated back to his great-grandfather seeking out the California gold rush. Maine lured him back.

Nina Pierce said...

Shirley - A lot of proud farmers in Aroostook County. "Gold from the Ground" I've heard that more than once. ;D

barbara said...

I guess like many when I think of Maine it's only the coast. I am in awe of those who work the land; and, very impressed with your potato time. :)

Maine is definitely a part of New England I'd love to visit.

bimmergrlmd at gmail dot com

Kym said...

Nina I didnt know there was potatoes grown in Maine ! I will be making my first trip there this fall, really looking forward to it. Not sure how far North we will get, but Im excited to finally get there !

Kym

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I've always wanted to see Maine.

Nina Pierce said...

Barbara - Maine is such a big state, people don't realize there's so much beauty on the Canadian border.

Nina Pierce said...

Kym - Wherever you go in Maine, it'll be beautiful especially in the fall.

Nina Pierce said...

Juju - I hope you're able to visit some time. Maine is so peaceful and friendly.

Di said...

My paternal/Irish half would love those tatties, and my maternal side need to visit Maine to find out more about my ancestors that arrived in the 1600's.
Fingers crossed for print books - I'm not e-enabled yet.

sallans d at yahoo dot com

donnas said...

Wow. I have to admit I really didnt know Maine grew potatoes. I think of Maine and I think of really cold really bad winters and well Stephen King stories. Going to have to reevaluate that now.

bacchus76 at myself dot com

Penelope said...

The contest is now closed. Winners announced soon!