Impressions of an Outsider: Harvest Break

We received such amazing, positive feedback from our post “Impressions of an Outsider”, written by our AmeriCorps VISTA Sarah Altomari, that we thought it’d be great to hear her thoughts on a long-time County tradition.

“How many times in a week do you hear someone say something like “it’s sure not like it used to be”, “back in my day…”, or “it’s different now, but 20 years ago…”? The older I get, the more I notice just how often adults use phrases like these. I’m only 22 years old, and even I say things like, “Trix used to be shaped like fruit and flowers, but not anymore” or “When I was in elementary school we had to use the dictionary instead of Googling things.” Yes, I remember life before Google. Life changes, people grow, technology advances and traditions evolve. Aroostook County has its own fair share of evolving traditions. Harvest Break, a term universally known in The County, is something that I, being from a relatively urban area, had no idea even existed anymore.  Students actually get released from school for weeks at a time to help out with the potato harvest. At first, it felt like traveling back in time to a different era, taking a trip back through history. Then I realized that Aroostook is growing and evolving just like everywhere else. Harvest Break still exists, but it’s sure not like it used to be. This is what I have gathered from the many conversations I have had with people about Harvest Break:

Not so very long ago, before the advancements of modern technology (particularly GPS), kids would get up at four in the morning during harvest break and work in the fields all day, harvesting potatoes by hand. Harvest break was not only a necessity in order for farms to gather in their crop, it was also a way for kids to earn pocket money and learn the responsibility that is only learned from a hard day’s work. Harvest Break created a sense of community and neighborliness. It was something that almost everyone participated in every year.

 And now? Things are different of course. Farms do not require the same number of laborers that they used to. Consequently, schools are giving their students less and less time off for Harvest Break. So, I have to wonder, how many kids are actually spending their break harvesting, and how long will this tradition last? Personally, I hope it lasts for many years to come. Harvest Break is a reminder of the things that tie the people of Aroostook together: community, family, farming, hard work, responsibility and cooperation. These are the things that matter. These are the things that make The County special.”