AROOSTOOK COUNTY (NEWS CENTER Maine) - During the three-week potato harvest in Aroostook County, it's all hands on deck. Some of the biggest farms look to nearly double their workforce, adding close to 50 extra hands each.
In many cases, those extra hands come in the form of student workers or the farmers' own children.
Children of farmers can start working on the farm before they're even 16 years old.
Seventh grader Kassidy Blackstone downplays the 5:30 a.m. start to the workday, saying, "It's not that hard, we just have to wake up early and go to bed early when we're done."
Although picking potatoes is a thing of the past, workers like Kassidy are still an essential part of the harvest process. With the new technology and equipment in the field, the majority of the young workers are now in the potato house, sorting through loads of potatoes to weed out rocks and bad potatoes.
The salary for the harvest workers is about $10 an hour for most. High school senior Brooke Blackstone says working the harvest is a great way to make money. "At harvest time you can make a good amount of money working here. It's good, hard-earned money."
Eighth grader, Blane McCrum says he's saving up money for college and a dirt bike.
When asked why they chose to work the harvest rather than take another job, Brooke said, "This is a good way to get out and experience new things. It's a good work ethic, getting up first thing in the morning and coming out and doing this, and it really makes you appreciate the value of a dollar."
Blane says he chose to be there, in part, based on how much he learns while working the harvest. "You just don't learn as much as you do here with other jobs." He says his favorite thing that he gets to learn is how to drive tractors.
Many of the young workers told NEWS CENTER Maine they view farming as playing a big part in their future. Brooke Blackstone says, "Mars Hill is a farming area, so everyone works on the farm and everyone loves it. It's just something our town does."
Noah Boyington says, "I like the farm. I like the people. They're like family."