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Tarr Family Farm
Standing on the hill overlooking Limestone, ME, in northern Aroostook County, Mark Tarr of Tarr Family Farm orients me, pointing out the old landmarks, the water tower, the river valley beyond. He knows them well. All four of his great-grandfathers farmed in this area in the late 1800s, and Mark’s farm is the combination of two of their holdings. He operates out of the same warehouse his grandfather built. If you’ve grown some of our specialty potato varieties like Red Gold or Pinto, then you’ve grown the progeny of his stock.
He digs a few sample plants from each of the varieties he’s got in the ground. It’s been a very dry year, and Mark doesn’t irrigate. A few of his fields are showing signs of drought stress by the time we visit in August. His Red Gold plants died back a couple weeks early. Nevertheless, from a nicely formed hill we unearth a gorgeous nest of bright red tubers, unfazed. These early potatoes are just the right size for seed. I marvel at the generosity of this little plant that asks for so little yet gives so much, even when times are tough.
As a seed and agricultural-supply cooperative, we the worker and consumer members own the means of our food production. Fedco relies on sturdy and lasting relationships with our growers, our customers and their communities, and our fellow workers who all come together each season to distribute the seed. At the root of it all we rely on the land and environment where our seeds and our foods grow. These are all meaningful relationships.
I’m grateful for Mark’s tour and for all his stories, varietal information and potato agronomy facts. I’m glad for our longstanding relationship and for this food source he farms, with dense nutrition and rich comforting flavor grown just two counties over from Fedco’s warehouses in Clinton, ME. When the world was anxiously watching supply chains dry up in the midst of a global pandemic, we still had potatoes within easy distance of our warehouse, and our customers could still grow potatoes in their gardens.
– Noah Dillard, Potato coordinator