The potato is northern Maine’s primary agricultural product and in the 1940s Maine’s potato production was tops in the nation. By 1994 however, Maine had fallen to the eighth ranked potato producer and the seventh in the number of acres devoted to potato cultivation in the United States.
Potatoes played a vital role in the economic prosperity of the region because of its large farms and fertile land. The number of acres of farm land devoted to potatoes has decreased in recent years because of rotational crops, conservation and fewer farmers. However, in the year 2000, Maine grew 63,000 acres of potatoes and nearly 90 percent of that was in Aroostook County.
Over time the potatoes grown have also shifted away from table stock and into specialty markets. Nearly 25 percent of Maine’s potato production is for seed to supply the east coast. Another 45 percent is used for french fry processing, 20 percent for potato chips and 10 percent for the fresh market for home, restaurant and institutional raw potato use. Recent economic impact studies of the potato industry on Maine’s economy finds total sales in excess of $540,000,000 with total employment of 6,150 jobs and a total income greater than $233,500,000 annually.
With the significant contributions that the potato has made on our history and economic prosperity, is it any wonder that we still celebrate the potato each year with some of our best festivals? The Maine Potato Blossom Festival is one of Maine’s best known agricultural festivals. It coincides with and celebrates the arrival of blossoms on the season’s potato crop. Enjoy the wonderful events and allow yourself to be consumed by the amazing views of hundred acre fields covered with millions of beautiful flowers. It is truly breathtaking. Events include the popular Potato Queen pageants, a float parade, agricultural equipment, fireworks, bands and more. Later in the season Houlton serves host to Potato Feast Days, an annual fair held each autumn. Events and activities include an arts & crafts fair, Potato Feast Supper, potato pancake breakfast, and potato games. For more information about this event, click here.