Maine’s Potato Harvest Was So Big, They’re Being Shipped the Old Fashioned Way
Maine's potato industry is thriving in a big way.
According to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine potatoes are worth $174 million a year. That's a lot of potatoes!
Of course, like any crop, the potato harvest is dependant on many factors, rain being one of the most important. You may have noticed that during the summer of 2021 Maine got a pretty decent amount of rain. Not so great for outdoor activities, but it sure does help potatoes grow.
The crop was so good this year, that Maine potato farmers couldn't get enough trucks to transport them across the country, according to the Maine Department of Transportation.
So to help ship all those potatoes, they turned to a transportation method they hadn't used in over 40 years: the railroad.
As a kid, I remember seeing red, white and blue boxcars full of potatoes emblazoned with the words "State of Maine Potatoes" roll past the railroad crossing on my street. The Bangor and Aroostook Railroad shipped potatoes in these cars all across the country, using them as traveling billboards letting people know where they came from. The Bangor and Aroostook later changed the word "potatoes" to "products" on their cars.
The Conway Scenic Railway has one of these vintage cars and still takes it out on excursions every so often.
The Maine DOT posted on their Facebook page that 33 refrigerated rail cars were brought in from other railroads to transport potatoes to Washington State. That's the first time that Maine potatoes have traveled by rail since I was a kid, 40 years ago.
These cars unfortunately won't get the attention that the old "Maine State Potatoes" cars did back in the day. They are all covered in graffiti. What's old is new again, even though the times have changed.