Adventures Close to Home
Guest Blogger: Brad LaBree
As a Bangor resident and a born and bred Mainer, I am ashamed to admit that I rarely travel north of Old Town. When I received an invitation to attend the Maine Potato Board’s Annual Meeting as part of the 70th Annual Potato Blossom Festival, I was delighted by the idea of exploring my home state. This well-attended awards dinner is held under the eaves of an impressive bandstand in the fields of Fort Fairfield in Aroostook County. New potatoes, here I come!
The 3-hour drive from Bangor is a lovely journey through our state’s gorgeous northern half. As a resident, it’s easy to take Maine’s natural beauty for granted but I couldn’t help but marvel at the countryside. Transforming from the punctuated end of the Appalachian Mountain range filled with dense evergreens, into rolling hills and expansive green and golden fields, all budding to life with this year’s crop.
I arrived, having made good time, along side other dinner attendees - all dressed in their best summer clothes. Making my way across the field into the bandstand, I notice dozens of decorated tables ready and waiting for the hard working farming community to take their places. The air is noticeably sweeter and the sun has begun its descent, illuminating the evening sky with a brilliant ruby glow. The call to take our seats comes and I spy two volunteers hefting an enormous steaming silver pot to the serving table. “That’s a giant cauldron of new potatoes,” I whisper to no one.
Once back to the table toting a plate mounded with food, I notice the place is abuzz with chatter; Folks catching up with old friends or swapping methods of serving potatoes; with cream, peas, string beans, etc. Fort Fairfield is alive with activity as our host begins the ceremony, which, among other things, is meant to honor the Farm Family and the Young Farmer of the Year - awards presented to those who have spent their entire lives working the land, honoring their community and joining a long line of Maine potato farmers.
When the final award was given and people began their slow shuffle to their vehicles, I felt that I had been witness to a historic event. One that I expect will continue for many years to come. There was only one thing left to do: stop at a roadside stand for two sacks of new Maine potatoes.