All for the County

In Aroostook County, neighbors, farmers, and family are one and the same.

Farm grandkids in Chapman jump into a truck bed to take another load of hay back to the barn.

Portland-based photographer and filmmaker Kelsey Kobik had always heard that there are “two Maines,” but she wasn’t entirely sure what that meant. She and two friends set their sights on Aroostook County to search for an answer and document what they found. In the sprawling fields of the north, they discovered farmers with their doors and arms open, and an unparalleled sense of community. “Neighbors help neighbors, no matter what,” says Kobik.  They board each other’s horses, feed each other’s kids, and rush to help harvest a neighbor’s potatoes before an early snowfall can freeze and spoil the crop. “People in the County have a firsthand respect for farmers,” says Kobik, who specializes in farm photography. Those who don’t farm themselves are related to farmers, or are neighbors of one. “And everyone knows a farmer who lost everything in one bad year,” she says. While filming their documentary, The County, which was released in 2013, Kobik and her partners visited Aroostook County during various seasons, spending a total of two months documenting their experience. During that time, the trio was immersed in farm-friendly communities and had opportunities to lend a helping hand. Kobik recalls harvesting hay with her host family at Barking Barn Farm as grandchildren cared for farm animals, and at Staples Farms in Presque Isle, she watched the rhythm of potato harvesters as they worked from dawn to dusk, digging, grading, and moving potatoes from fields, over hills, and into houses. In such a rural part of the state, a lot of residents live off the land, and through supporting one another, they thrive.

A potato field next to I-95 in Houlton—just before it crosses into Canada—is in full bloom.
A field of canola in full bloom beneath a gathering thunderhead in Mapleton.

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