Anyone in Vacationland that has picked Maine potatoes knows the value of a fall harvest dollar.
Everything they buy with the hard earned money is equated with how many barrels it took to purchase it. And if the scales of effort “in” to product or service “out” is not even steven, the purchase is not made. No exchange of dead Presidents is made.
I watched six kids all pick Maine potatoes and no, it was not child abuse, signs of a “snap the whip” cruel parenting style.
It was a valuable experience to make a crystal clear illustration of what entry level, manual labor feels like. In full, memorable living color. Providing work ethic, “in the field” so to speak lessons that last a lifetime.
Aroostook County potato harvesting jobs happen in the fall in Maine.
But what about bragging rights between a Mainer from another part of the state, say Downeast in Washington or Hancock Counties if they claim blueberry raking is harder?
Here’s what I found out.
Have oldest son Alexander who can speak from both migrant worker field camps on the subject of Maine potatoes picking and blueberry raking. Last month he took three weeks, same length as the Maine potato harvest to head to Centerville camps near Cherryfield Maine, Downeast. To stay in a cabin, rake blueberries for Northeast Blueberry, owned by the Passamaquoddy Tribe who sells to Wyman, one big Maine distributor of the purple blue fruit.
In Maine, Aroostook County potato picking, the compensation of sixty cents is four baskets that equal a 165 pound barrel.
In Maine blueberry raking, you are paid $2.50 a box.
A good blueberry raker who is on his feet all day, not able to drop to his knees and drag the potato basket along, can fill 100 boxes. An amazing, all conditions perfect black belt Maine blueberry raker can fill 200 boxes between sunrise, sundown.
The Maine blueberry barrens are an every other year option. Burned, start fresh process. Maine potatoes are an every other year operation too as crop rotation with a grain, cover crop needs to happen. To give the ground a break, rest.
It is hotter harvesting Maine blueberries as the season happens before potatoes, before apple picking in another venue. Alex said you make lines with strings to create blueberry lanes. Like potato picking, there is a temptation to reach over, comb the rake when the blueberries are extra heavy, saturated and dense the other side of that string.
Anyone that has made a Maine potato field section, marked off picking from here, to here whenever the digger squeaks by knows the markers have legs.
Lazy pickers next door, on the next potato section tend to move the marker, usually a potato barrel or a water jug, dinner bucket, shed sweatshirt layer toward the center of their section.
On both ends.
Or the section marker can mysteriously move toward you if they are ambitious, took too small a section or suddenly are picking hard for something they saw showcased in the Sears Christmas catalog that comes out right about potato harvest time. When Northern Maine schools are out for the harvest break to help area spud growers.
The verdict is in. Alex says from experience he would say Maine bluberry raking is harder than Maine potato harvest work, but more lucrative.
It helps if you get between say two Hondurans blueberry rakers that are skilled and NASCAR fast, not missing a beat, wasting a step.
He said you can “draft” and move right along, getting caught in the blueberry raking draft for more boxes per hour.
Seeing another part of Maine that is a pretty big state, while working to make a living after graduation from college. And before heading out to Colorado for a job waiting at a ski area is his plan for this winter. Watch a Maine potato picking harvest video.