A season-long project to bring attention to the importance of the agriculture industry and the county’s flagship culture, as well as to address food insecurity in the region, showcase the artistic talent of residents of ‘Aroostook and celebrating the 50th anniversary of Aroostook County’s most comprehensive provider of social services began in a roadside potato field at St. John Plantation.
ST. JOHN PLANTATION — A season-long project to bring attention to the importance of the agriculture industry and the county’s flagship culture, as well as to address food insecurity in the region, showcase the artistic talent of residents of ‘Aroostook and celebrate the 50e Aroostook County’s most comprehensive social service provider’s birthday kicked off in a roadside potato field at St. John Plantation.
Children enrolled in the Aroostook County Action Program’s Fort Kent Head Start planted potatoes at the base of a sign they unveiled for the adjacent ACAP 50e Anniversary potato plot on Route 16. At the end of the growing season, the bounty of the harvest, which children and other community members will help harvest the old-fashioned, by hand way, will be given throughout the region to those in need.
“For five decades, our agency has helped improve the lives of families and individuals across the county. One of the many areas in which we support our customers is connecting them with resources to ensure they have enough to eat,” said Jason Parent, Executive Director/CEO of ACAP. “Through this project, we are bringing attention to our ‘roots’, the importance of the agricultural industry in our region, the essential role of farmers in feeding the people of our county (and beyond) and the work Vital to the many volunteers who make sure people have enough to eat, the potatoes harvested will be supplied to food pantries and community cupboards in the area to reach people who turn to them.
The event also served as the launch of a county-wide art design competition for a special five-pound commemorative potato sack. ACAP 50 Old Fashioned Hand Harvesting Art Contest Details and Planse Anniversary Potato Plot this fall have also been announced.
The initiative is a collaboration between ACAP, GB and D. Pelletier Farms of Fort Kent and Northeast Packaging Company in Près Isle/Caribou. The Pelletier family, who own and operate the land on which the designated potato parcel sits, are donating the field of Dark Red Norland potatoes that were grown there this summer.
“We are thrilled to partner with ACAP and NEPCO to help alleviate food insecurity in the county, and proud to have the Head Start children included in this project,” said Anne Desjardins of GB and D. Pelletier Farm.
For its part, NEPCO is donating the production cycle of the specially designed ACAP 50e 5-pound anniversary bags that will hold the potatoes that will be donated to volunteer-supported county pantries and stored in community cupboards across the region this fall.
“At Northeast Packaging Company, we pride ourselves on our customer service with local farmers here in Aroostook County and helping people in the community. Involving local children in an agricultural project helps instill in them a work ethic. and gain knowledge of what our local farmers are doing throughout the growing process,” said Domenic Bua, Sales Manager of NEPCO. “We are happy to be partners in this project and to support both the local community and ACAP as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.e anniversary.”
Representatives from NEPCO and ACAP shared details of the design contest (artwork) for the special bag, which is open to county residents of all ages, and will run through July 1. Individuals submitting designs for the Potato Sack should creatively capture, in a broad sense, both Aroostook County’s potato culture and ACAP’s 50 years of service to the region.
The design should be in up to four colors, be in portrait orientation with a maximum size of 14 inches by 17 inches. A full list of guidelines, more information about the project and the link to submit online applications are available at https://acap-me.org/potato-bag-contest/.
The winner of the design competition will be selected by members of ACAP’s Community Development Committee and representatives of the two project partners, GBD Pelletier Farms and NEPCO. The winning design will be unveiled and the selected artist announced during the Maine Potato Blossom Festival on Saturday, July 16 at 1 p.m. at the Parade Review Booth on Main Street in Fort Fairfield.
Among those who support ACAP 50e Anniversary Potato Plot is a leading national leader who knows firsthand the critical importance of the agricultural industry in Maine from the beginning. Aroostook County U.S. Senator Susan Collins credits her work ethic with the lessons she learned picking potatoes during harvest break at Caribou High School. The Senator’s State Office Representative, Trisha House, attended the planting ceremony and shared her sentiments.
“It is a pleasure to congratulate the Aroostook County Action Program on 50 years of providing essential services that empower and improve the lives of your neighbors in need,” Collins said. “There is no better way to celebrate ACAP’s historic anniversary than with the planting of the ACAP 50th Anniversary Potato Plot. With the harvest being donated to local pantries and community cupboards, this exciting project will help address the challenge of food insecurity as it honors Aroostook County’s agricultural heritage.
In addition to his remarks, an announcement was made at the event that Collins will honor the collaborative efforts by ensuring the custom bagged potatoes make it to the White House in Washington, D.C. After harvesting, the native of the county will deliver potatoes to the chief. at the executive mansion.
The next opportunity for community members to engage with the project is tentatively (depending on weather and cultures) set to coincide with the annual Fort Kent Scarecrow Festival this fall. On Friday, September 16, as part of the kick-off to the festivities, community members, local schoolchildren, ACAP Early Care and Education preschoolers, and staff and volunteers from the the whole agency will be invited to participate in the manual harvesting of the potatoes and to help bag them.