A season-long project to call attention to the significance of The County’s agricultural industry and signature crop, as well as to combat food insecurity in the region, highlight the artistic talent of Aroostook residents, and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Aroostook County’s most comprehensive provider of social services, will culminate this Friday with the old-fashioned hand harvesting of a potato field in St. John Plantation.
Community members are invited to bring their baskets, buckets and other items to help hand harvest the ACAP 50th Anniversary Potato Plot on land owned by the G. B. and D. Pelletier Farms on Route 161 in St. John Plantation. Children enrolled in Aroostook County Action Program’s (ACAP) Fort Kent Head Start Program, their families, students from SAD 27, and ACAP staff will be on hand to join in the work and fun.
“For five decades, our agency has helped make life better for families and individuals across The County. One of the many areas in which we support our customers is by connecting them with resources to ensure they have enough to eat,” said Jason Parent, ACAP Executive Director/CEO. “Through this project, we are calling attention to our ‘roots,’ the significance of the agricultural industry in our region, the critical role of farmers in keeping people across our county (and beyond) fed, and the essential work of the many volunteers who help ensure people have enough to eat. The harvested potatoes will be provided to the food pantries and community cupboards across the region to reach people who turn to them.”
Once picked, the potatoes will be placed in specially designed ACAP 50th Anniversary five-pound potato bags. The unique artistic design on the bag was created by Fort Kent Artist Gert Thibodeau who was the winner of a County-wide art design contest held earlier this summer as part of the overall project. The bags will be distributed County-wide to area food pantries and community cupboards by members of the Versant Power team.
The initiative is a collaborative of ACAP, G. B. and D. Pelletier Farms of Fort Kent and Northeast Packaging Company (NEPCO) in Presque Isle/Caribou. The Pelletier Family, who owns and farms the land the designated potato plot sits on, is donating the field of the Dark Red Norland potatoes grown in it this summer.
“We are excited to be collaborating with ACAP and NEPCO to help relieve food insecurity in The County, and proud to have the Head Start children included in this project,” said Anne Desjardins of G. B. and D. Pelletier Farm.
For their part, NEPCO donated the production run of the specially designed ACAP 50th Anniversary five pound bags that will hold the potatoes that will be given to volunteer-supported County food pantries, and stocked in community cupboards region-wide this fall.
“At Northeast Packaging Company we pride ourselves in our customer service with the local farmers here in Aroostook County and helping the people of the community. Getting local children involved in an agricultural project helps instill them with work ethic and gain knowledge of what our local farmers do throughout the growing process,” said Domenic Bua, NEPCO Sales Manager. “We are pleased to be partners on this project and to support both the local community and ACAP as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary.”
Among those supporting the ACAP 50th Anniversary Potato Plot is a top national leader who knows firsthand the critical importance of the agriculture industry in Maine from the ground up. Aroostook County’s own Senator Susan Collins credits her work ethic with the lessons she learned picking potatoes while on harvest break attending Caribou High School. The Senator’s State Office Representative Trisha House will be at the hand picking celebration to accept a couple of bags of spuds for the Senator.
“It is a pleasure to congratulate Aroostook County Action Program for 50 years of providing critical services that empower and improve the lives of your neighbors in need,” said Senator Collins. “There is no better way to celebrate ACAP’s landmark birthday than with the ACAP 50th Anniversary Potato Plot. With the crop to be donated to local food pantries and community cupboards, this exciting project will help to address the challenge of food insecurity as it honors Aroostook County’s agricultural heritage.”
Senator Collins will honor the collaborative efforts by ensuring the custom bagged potatoes make it to the White House in Washington D.C. The County native will deliver spuds to the chef at the Executive Mansion. Senator Angus King was personally handed two of the filled potato bags at a recent event in Caribou.
The potato hand picking event is part of the kickoff for the Fort Kent Coming Home and UMFK Homecoming celebrations this weekend.