Industry dinner celebrates all things potato

   FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — The 2014 Industry Dinner, held Friday night as part of the Maine Potato Blossom Festival, was a beautiful evening for farmers and their families, friends and community members to come together to celebrate potato growing in all of its many facets. Not only was there plenty of good food and company, the 2014 Farm Family of the Year, the Albert Fitzpatrick family of Houlton, was also recognized.

    Maine Potato Queen contestants from Mars Hill to Fort Kent greeted guests at the door and socialized before assisting with supper. Guests mingled with one another, and warmly greeted Maine’s Governor Paul LePage, who shared dinner with the Albert Fitzpatrick family.

    “I just love the people up here,” Gov. LePage, said. “We always find excuses to come to the area.”

    LePage spoke highly of Aroostook County after dinner was served by local volunteers from Fort Fairfield, and the Maine Potato Queen contestants passed out dessert.

    “We are committed to see this county grow,” the governor said.

    LePage spoke of how agriculture will play a large part in helping The County grow. With warm words, he congratulated the Fitzpatrick family for their hard work and dedication to the agricultural aspect of Aroostook County, and also for being a wonderful representation of the region and industry.

    Congressman Mike Michaud also spoke in high regard of the Albert Fitzpatrick family, and all the farm families around Aroostook County.

    “I know the Fitzpatricks are a very close-knit family,” Michaud said. “I want to thank all the family members for keeping the potato industries alive.”

    Without hesitation, Phil Bosse, a local representative of U.S. Senator Susan Collins office, presented an American flag to Albert Fitzpatrick and his daughter Erica Fitzpatrick Peabody. This flag had been flown over the Capitol in honor of the 2014 Farm Family of the Year. Gregg Garrison, president of the Maine Potato Board, also presented the Fitzpatricks with a plaque in honor of their accomplishments.

    Bringing the evening to a close, Erica Fitzpatrick Peabody, representing the second generation to grow potatoes, said a few words about growing up on the farm, how the experiences enlightened her, and how it has helped her become who she is today. She shared her utmost respect for farmers, and just how dedicated they truly are. She also shared a little bit about her family and their farm.

    Albert Fitzpatrick and his family raise 300 acres of potatoes in southern Aroostook. His wife, Mary Beth and daughter Erica have been very involved with the family farm. Harvest time always included help from all four of Albert’s daughters; Tracy, Erica, Aimee and Kendall.

    Erica talked about how everyone in the family played a role on the farm, and how her upbringing played a role in what she decided to study in college, agriculture.

    With that, Albert Fitzpatrick shared a few words and closing remarks.

    “It’s a great time,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s wonderful to have great help.”

    Although short and sweet, Fitzpatrick previously shared a quote that stayed in the hearts of many, who shared it throughout the dinner and will continue to be shared for years to come.

    “You’re only as good as your family around you and your good help on the farm,” Fitzpatrick said.