Picking potatoes, working as a kid on the Maine farm land means starting early, getting up when it is pitch black outside.
Rise and shinning to the smell of frying, sizzling bacon and home fries, eggs just the way you like them. Partnered with a stack of pancakes, french toast drizzled in Houlton Farms Dairy real butter and maple, blueberry or strawberry syrup. Preparing the sleepy workers, the potato warriors for the another day in the Maine field or spud house.
Sometimes the radio or potato farmer hot line pre-recorded message announces a delay in the harvest start time.
To be at the field at 8AM because of frost, or a rain set back. Possibly a scrub of the potato harvest mission altogether. Regardless, like a paratrooper gathered around the open airplane door to jump when the word comes in, the Maine farm workers need to have an equally gut busting lunch packed to get them through the day. The cold mornings, the blistering hot afternoons and any other kind of weather in between coupled with hard outdoor laboring hour after hour burn a lot of calories.
Long hours when the weather is good means make sure extra water, snacks, a sandwich or two is handcrafted for that field lunch. Ice added to the water jug that is crucial for staying hydrated. To wash down the potato dust, to wet the whistle during the manual labor.
Hard work but lessons learned in the Maine potato field classroom that stay with the worker for life. Making the most of the rain, cold, lack of sleep if you stayed up too late and played the night before. Clearing your head with the blast of fall air in Maine sweeping across the open potato field. Zipping up the sweatshirt a little tighter. Wishing you had added another clothing layer this morning as you fumbled in the dark to get ready to head to the section of Maine farm that needs harvesting attention focus today.
Grapevine rumor has it among the migrant field workers that travel the circuit to harvest crops of all kind that Maine blueberry raking is harder than potato picking or harvester work.
Because of the hotter weather weeks earlier in the year Downeast in Maine where most of the succulent blue good for you fruit is plucked, boxed, shipped to the processor freezers.
Both field work arenas can be better all the way around if the Maine weather cooperates. If breakdowns are minimal and if the workers around you are pleasant, hardworking. Not Eeyores, whiners and lazy. Like any workplace setting, the chore at hand is less taxing if you know how to work, enjoy labor and rub shoulders with others wired the same way on the job chain gang.
Strong, dependable work ethic in Maine is not a secret. To be considered lazy by your peers would be the worse shame a person could carry. Discrimination has happened a lot over the years because of what field work picking produces in kids started early. Begun when all family members are knee high to a grasshopper tall and brought along with older brothers, sisters, parents to the fields for the Maine harvest. Joy in being industrious, learning how to do the work more efficiently on the Maine fields meant crew foreman in the cities ask one question to the crowd of job applicants.
“Who grew up on a Maine farm, worked on one in the audience?”
Hands that went up meant a response from the guy with the clipboard, wearing a hard hat as he motions, saying “Come with me. You have a job. You start now”.
Maine Potato Picking By Hand Is Hard Work Video
Working Inside Grading Potato House Spuds Video
Maine, we appreciate everything a little extra. Work a little harder, respect our surroundings and the fewer people in them a whole lot more.