Blackstone Named Maine’s Young Farmer of the Year

Published online: Oct 19, 2017 Articles
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Source: WAGM

The Maine Potato Board (MPB) has announced that Dan Blackstone of Caribou, Maine, has been selected as the 2018 Young Farmer of the Year.

Blackstone lives in Caribou, where he farms with his family. He is the son of Murray and Roberta (deceased) Blackstone and the grandson of Orman and Loretta. Blackstone and his wife Sheri live on the family farm with their two children, daughter Sheridan, a high school senior, and 14-year old son Brendan. Blackstone’s younger brother Bill is also involved in the farming operation. In 2003, the Murray and Roberta Blackstone family was the MPB Farm Family of the Year.

Blackstone has a history of involvement in farm-related organizations, from three years as an FFA officer when he was a student at Caribou High School, to activities with the Central Aroostook Young Farmers, to current membership on the board of directors of the Maine Potato Board.

The Blackstones raise 420 acres of potatoes and a similar acreage in rotation crops such as rye grass. They raise seed for themselves as well as potatoes for the processing market. Among the varieties raised are Russet Burbank, Blazer Russet, Shepody and Caribou Russet.

The Blackstones have raised potatoes in central Aroostook for many generations and on numerous branches of the family tree. Dan Blackstone’s son Brendan is another generation for this multi-generational family.

“I was always with my dad,” says Dan, “and Brendan is the same. He used to ride on my lap in the tractor cab. Now he’s 14; we don’t fit, so he drives the tractor.”

Changes in technology are enhancing the work of today’s growers, Blackstone says. Whether it’s equipment, storages or home office computers, most everything is bigger, more efficient and more beneficial for the grower.

“For example,” he says, “our tractors, planters and sprayers today take much of the fatigue away from the operator. During farming season, you might get on a piece of equipment in the morning at 6 and work until 8 or 9 that night. You’re tired, but have a lighter stress load because that piece of equipment is smart, tight and knows where it needs to be.”

What does Blackstone see in the future for Maine’s potato industry?

“We have definite strengths,” he says. “There’s a great group of men and women who provide resources to the industry. We have the weather and water to produce fine crops; we have local vendors and suppliers. … They are all there to help us meet the challenges which drive our industry forward.”

Growing up on a farm is the best way of life, Blackstone believes, because of the work ethic learned at a very early age, providing kids with a work mentality and understanding of how to work.

“We growers strive to better the future for the next generation,” he says. “I think about the future for Brendan, and I want to show him how to be a good steward of the land. Our next generation needs to know and remember that as a farmer, you are what your land is.”

Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, expresses confidence and enthusiasm for the industry’s newest Young Farmer honoree.

“The selection of the Young Farmer of the Year covers a number of criteria, and Dan rates high in all of them,” Flannery says. “We’re truly pleased to recognize Dan as an industry leader. He’s an excellent representative of the future of the Maine potato industry.”