The potato industry has contributed to the economy of Aroostook County and the state of Maine for more than 200 years. The industry includes a myriad of businesses that are involved in growing, processing, marketing and/ or transporting potatoes to consumers. According to the report titled "A Study of the Maine Potato Industry: Its Economic Impact 2003" by The Maine Potato Board and Planning Decisions, Inc., growing and processing potatoes remains one of the state's most important sources of employment and income. In 2001, sales of Maine potatoes exceeded $125 million, making potatoes Maine's number one agriculture crop and rivaling Maine's lobster industry landings of $153 million.
The history of the Maine potato industry reveals an industry of great change as illustrated by the number of farmers in business in the early 1900's compared to the early 2000's. The report titled, "Aroostook: Potato Capital of America" states there were over 6,000 farmers devoted to raising potatoes in Aroostook County, Maine around 1930-1940, while another report titled "A Study of the Maine Potato Industry: Its Economic impact 2003" reports only 586 potato farms in Maine in 1997.
This dramatic change over nearly a century is attributed to a variety of factors that include increased production in the western U.S. and maritime Canada and a market change from fresh seed and tablestock toward processing and value-added potato products. The Maine potato industry's move from dependence upon a single, basic commodity to a wider variety of specialized products presents opportunities for the future of the industry and its impact on the Maine economy.
Currently, the total impact of the potato industry on Maine's economy is $540 million in sales, 6,100 jobs, over $230 million in personal income, and over $32 million in state and local taxes. Maine's acreage and number of farms has stabilized in recent years and tremendous investment has been made in irrigation, storage, and processing. Maine continues to play an important role in the nation's potato industry.
Related Links of Interest...
U.S. Department of Agriculture and Maine Department of Agriculture
A Study of the Maine Potato Industry: Its Economic Impact 2003 by Planning Decisions, Inc.
Aroostook Potato Capital of America, published by The Ameerican Agricultural Chemical Co. (1945)
Maine Potato Board