Potato crop is so large that rail transport is being used for first time in 40 years

This week, Maine potatoes have left Aroostook County on rail cars, bound for big markets, for the first time in more than 40 years. The 2021 harvest made history for its size. It was roughly 20 percent greater than normal, thanks to near-perfect growing conditions. But that led to a few pressing problems. What to do with all the extra potatoes, and how to get them to market in the middle of a trucking shortage?

Luckily, the Loring Development Authority -which offered the use of some unused buildings on the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone- gratefully accepted by a few local growers who were out of storage options.

In November, Maine Potato Board Executive Director Don Flannery, said most raw and processed potatoes move out of the county by truck, which was even more challenging with slowdowns and driver shortages. Which is precisely why Flannery said rail would be ideal, but refrigeration was needed for perishable products like potatoes. The Maine Department of Transportation reported Thursday that railroad reefers were rolling.


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