The Star-Herald

Potato harvest recess is good for students, area

To the editor:

After my husband and I moved to Presque Isle and learning of the harvest recess, we had many questions. We learned the reason, and need as to why it began. But as farmers converted to mechanical harvesting, fewer students were required to work directly in the potato harvest. Questions have risen as to the necessity for continuing this feature.  

During my tenure on the MSAD 1 Board of Directors, results of surveys detailing what students did during harvest,  and their earnings, were shared with board members. Many worked for farmers; others held jobs in fast food places, pumping gas, baby sitting, etc. The monies earned? Sizeable!

I asked farmers in attendance at a meeting if they could hire migrant laborers. Doing so would require a guarantee of six weeks of work, plus housing. Since the harvest was usually only three weeks long, and housing not used for the remainder of the year, that move was out of the question.

Another question was about the scholastic impact upon the interruption of class room studies. Teachers had to settle the students down twice, impeding the learning process, compromising instruction  time. Presque Isle High School has received awards for its academics and scholastic achievements, and graduates have fared well in their chosen careers, but there are no statistics upon which to conclude that the harvest recess has or has not impeded learning.

Much learning takes place during harvest regardless of where students work. They learn to get to work on time, follow instructions, work well and diligently, and to work with dissimilar co-workers — all valuable experiences. When the students later apply for their career jobs, they can provide references attesting as to the quality of their work ethic. An added plus, once they get their paychecks, they learn very quickly what money will not do, how far it will not go. These are valuable lessons young people must learn during their maturing processes.

Resuming the potato harvest recess is a positive in the educational pursuits of MSAD 1 students. Farmers still need hired hands. Student workers carry out the Aroostook characteristic of helping when, and where, help is needed.

Dana Allison

Castle Hill

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