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Presque Isle: Potato growers thankful for season′s bounty

On Thanksgiving Day, many Mainers will gather with family and friends around a table piled with a steaming turkey, fresh vegetables and likely a heaping bowl of Maine mashed potatoes.

This year, potato growers in the state will be able to give thanks, too, for the bountiful harvest they reaped.

According to statistics from the Maine Potato Board, growers planted potatoes on 57,000 acres for a yield of 295 hundredweight per acre.

In total, that translates to roughly 1.6 billion pounds of potatoes harvested this year.

Industry officials knew the potential for a great year was in the cards in the waning days of the harvest.

Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, said last month that 95 percent of Aroostook County growers already had gotten their potatoes out of the ground. He credited the "exceptional weather" during the harvest period.

During the season, growers were not particularly bugged by potato pests or diseases. A small amount of late blight, a disease that attacks potatoes, tomatoes and other nightshade crops and is most virulent in wet and humid weather, was found in the Littleton and Houlton areas in late summer, but the condition was contained quickly.

Pests were not particularly irksome either, with only minor flea beetle and aphid activity reported.

Monticello grower Edward Jewell said Tuesday he had an "above average" crop this year.

"It was a little drier this year than in most years, and lots of times you get better quality potatoes when it is drier," he said.

The potatoes grown in the state are headed in all directions. Approximately 65 percent will be used for processing, headed to companies such as McCain’s, Frito Lay, Penobscot Frozen Foods and Naturally Potatoes. Roughly 20 percent are seed potatoes that are shipped to states along the East Coast and down to Florida, while 15 percent are table stock.

Industry officials also are encouraging consumers throughout the state to buy and prepare Maine potatoes this Thanksgiving.

At Graves’ Shop ’n Save in Presque Isle, store manager Don Samiya said he has noticed that in general consumers are looking for more locally grown produce than they have in past years.

And in the Presque Isle store, Maine potatoes are plentiful.

"We don’t even stock Idaho potatoes here," he said.


Publication date: 11/23/2007


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