Aroostook County, the northeast corner of Maine, is larger than the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, but with a population of only 60,000. It’s easy to think of it as one big forest — the lumber industry is huge here — but more potatoes are grown here than in Idaho. Think about that. And the rolling hills and farmland would make you think you are in the Midwest.
It’s gorgeous country. And we’ve been here during gorgeous weather, quite perfect in every way. The people are as friendly as you would meet in a small town. And that makes sense — the population density suggests that Aroostook (or “The County”, as it’s universally known) is really a medium-sized community, spread out over a huge expanse. Maybe community cohesion is why Rotary is so popular here — in fact, the Presque Isle club alone has 100 members, which makes it the largest club north of Portland. Move over, Lewiston-Auburn, Bangor and Brunswick.
Our visit happened to coincide with the Northern Maine Agricultural Fair, which has it all: 4H exhibits, tractor pull, and the inevitable pig scramble as well as a Midway and all the fried food you could possibly imagine — but sizeable crowds and easy parking that make the visit quite pleasant.
All this and the new potatoes are just being harvested!
Frank and I first discovered the County over Labor Day weekend in 1998, and it’s then that we realized that just-picked potatoes have as much in common with the ones you get in bags at the supermarket as, well, just-picked corn has to the stuff that comes in cans.
And now here we are again, discovering “another” Maine, a Maine quite far from tourism or seacoast attractions. A Maine that, since the military bases pulled out 20 years ago, can only look to its agriculture and lumber for economics. A Maine surrounded by Canada, and rich in its Acadian history, with the independence one would expect in an area where metropolitan resources are many hours away.