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Aroostook County’s harvest break is indispensable for the potato industry, farmers say

ADDRESSING OUR 'POTATO HARVEST BREAK.' Aroostook County, Maine is one of the last regions in the country which perpetuates our traditional farm-based culture and still incorporates a Harvest Break into school schedules.
Next week, Caleb's sister Amy begins life as a High School Senior (in a bow to Covid 19, half of her 30-student Senior class will attend masked, socially distanced half-days in the morning and the other half in the afternoon).
After WWII, Maine enacted a State law which required all Maine schools to conduct classes for a minimum of 175 days. Back then, the Aroostook County delegation fought and worked hard to modify the law and create an accommodation so that Aroostook would be permitted to start classes early in August, then break for harvest in September, and in that way still meet the 175-day requirement.
While, yes, farmers do acutely need the harvest help, what is too often minimized in the on-going debate over keeping Harvest Break is the increasingly rare educational and personal benefit for young people in participating in the community farming activity. (https://www.mofga.org/…/Potato-Culture-of-Aroostook-County-…).
We're fans of structuring learning to incorporate outside the classroom opportunities. Potato Harvest Break is King of outside learning opportunities.
For generations, to get a Summer job on the coast after graduation from High School – in a tourist hotel or restaurant business – all a young person had to mention to a potential employer was that he or she was from Aroostook and had worked Potato Harvest. They would be hired on the spot. That's testimony to the reputation of a highly-developed work ethic which Aroostook potato fields helped to cultivate. Caleb, Megan & Jim

"A formal harvest break from school has been a vital part of Aroostook County’s history and culture since at least 1945.

Aroostook County students have been excused from classes for two to three weeks each fall to work for farmers during the annual potato harvest. This year, even with debate about sending students back to in-person instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic, not a single district that participated last year has decided to ax the break…

"'[Students] learn things working in the fields that they are not going to learn in school,' Stanley said. 'That has a huge educational benefit even if it’s not something that we can put down in a grade book.'"

Aroostook County’s harvest break is indispensable for the potato industry, farmers say

While acknowledging there are potential drawbacks, superintendents say the break is necessary in a highly agricultural region.


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