Local Aroostook County farmers I have talked to estimate half and more of their fall potato harvest crews are from the local schools.
And without them, it would be very hard to find workers for the fields, potato houses for that three week period. But down country, other school systems don’t have fall harvest break. The area of Downeast Maine has blueberries to rake but the season is over the summer.
Maine potatoes need some time to mature, to be ready for harvest.
And for decades, the tried and tested Maine potato harvest ritual has been a rite of fall. To go in to school three weeks early the tail end of summer to get three weeks off for the area fall Maine potato harvest.
When a person from Aroostook County applies for a job down country, out of state, the potato field work is well received when your new boss eyes your job application. He or she knows you know how to work.
The Maine potato harvest is a special time of year.
Most in Aroostook County worked the harvest growing up. Their kids have been part of it too because of the benefits to the youth, to the local farmers.
Buying clothes, items with their own money makes kids a lot more chosey, slow to spend. They develop control to get a deal or keep looking for one. They take better care of what they buy. There is a great pride, satifaction from helping the area Maine potato farmers. The partnership is a two way win win. Kids learn entry level manual labor work skills.
Some may decide to be farmers for it.
The Maine potato field experience is the only FFA (Future Farmers of America) program we now have in Maine schools. Where our local food comes from is only going to increase in importance. And the Maine farmer is a key to that local food supply. Also contributing greatly with hundreds and hundreds of field acres.
All that land, those farm warehouses, machine sheds, buildings property taxes year after year. The licensing fees of farm related vehicles, gas and sales taxes. Pouring in to the local tax base coffers to support that school budget.
More and more, the education cost burden is being shifted to the local sector from the state, federal tax sources.
The helping hand local Maine farmers extend to fund local schools so directly means the least we can do is return the favor. Show appreciation for what they provide the area, the youth. They request to preserve the harvest break, their labor source. Don’t forget to mention how much is contributed to other local businesses by having a farming sector in your area communities either.
Maine farmers create new wealth from markets down country, out of state. An industry without the smoke stacks. Not just turning over the same dollar like a local service or retail outlet. Sometimes markets are even out of the country.
Maine farmers spend much locally for labor, gasoline, utilities, fertilizer, seed, pesticides and expensive equipment. And the parts to keep that machinery going in the fields from tractors, bulk bodies to warehouse bin loaders, specially designed air ventilation systems. Everthing designed to extend storage for table stock, seed and processor spud varieties. And do everything possible to increase yields.Working around the Maine weather that is anything but predictable or dependable. Maine farmers are survivors, not guaranteed weekly pay checks. They don’t ask for much, but need the harvest break preserved, in place.
The state says kids have to attend school around 180 days a year for their education. The Maine potato harvest is a vital part of a young adult’s life skill set. The education needed to survive out in the real world. The work is hard but rewarding. Anything worthwhile in life is. With consolidation of school systems and vocational centers, some argue that the harvest break causes scheduling problems.
It boils down to do the administrators, teachers, local tax payers feel the farmer’s plea for continued harvest break is worth it or not.
If they do, if they worked the harvest and give much of the the credit to their own personal hard work ethic training coming from the local farm labor, they will find a way to perserve the heritage.
Around the regulations, working solutions because they believe in the education value outside the class room. The tradition and strong personal pride in their local fall potato harvest that makes Aroostook County special, unique. Well known outside it’s borders and worth maintaining when you consider what happens if it is not. To farmers needing the helping hand from youth. To kids that are lucky to have the local work option that not many other areas of the country do, where youth miss out big time.