Some consider Aroostook County’s long tradition of harvest break unnecessary, but farmers say they need it


Some consider Aroostook County’s long tradition of harvest break unnecessary, but farmers say they need it

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.

Support for the recess is far from unanimous. Some parents see it as an unnecessary disruption of the school year that benefits a minority of students — around 20 percent of high school students work the harvest. Some school districts, especially in the southern Aroostook area, have eliminated the break.

Yet advocates led by farmers argue that student labor is an indispensable part of a successful harvest, constituting jobs that would not be filled otherwise. While acknowledging there are potential drawbacks, superintendents say the break is necessary in a highly agricultural region.


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