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More About Aroostook Farm

Aroostook FarmAroostook Farm encompasses 425 acres of land on the Houlton Road in Presque Isle. The main buildings on the farm are the barn, laboratory/office building with four labs, the main office and the farm superintendent’s home. There are two machine storages, a shop, potato storage research facility, and various other offices; and a 2,800 sq-ft greenhouse, which provides year-round potato research capabilities.

Aroostook Farm, the largest of The University of Maine’s five experimental farms, has been involved in considering a wide range of problems related to the Maine potato industry. Scientists in the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture are

  • Developing new potato varieties.
  • Creating new methods for detecting potato viruses.
  • Investigating techniques to reduce dependence on chemical insecticides.
  • Developing modern molecular tools to speed variety development and pest resistance.
  • Designing sustainable management systems.
  • Improving potato quality using the state-of-the-art potato-storage facility.

Recent research at Aroostook Farm includes development and testing of new potato varieties and investigations on the effects of cultural practices on potato growth, development, yield, and quality. To help with the problem of diseases of potatoes, scientists are investigating the molecular genetics of potato pathogens, developing new, faster methods to detect potato viruses in seed stock, and working to develop more disease-resistant potato varieties. Scientists also have investigated effects of soil amendments and crop rotation on soil properties and potato productivity and looking at how the use of manure and yard waste affects the soil.

In addition to the research projects, the farm maintains a collection of diseased potato tubers for teaching and identification. Personnel at the farm help growers identify potato diseases and test potatoes for diseases and sugar content, and to identify varieties. A UMaine Cooperative Extension office is also located on the farm. Extension activities based here include the potato-pest-scouting program. Extension activities such as the Spudlines newsletter and the annual potato conference help transfer the research results directly to the potato growers.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension uses the farm for applied research and outreach programs and as the base for a potato pest-scouting program. U.S. Department of Agriculture and private industry also conduct research at the farm. Aroostook Farm, at 425 acres, is the largest of five research farms of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture. It has been serving Maine’s potato industry since 1915.

Aroostook Farm staff also work closely with the USDA-ARS New England Plant, Soil, and Water Laboratory on potato research.

Aroostook Farm

Planting potatoes at Aroostook Farm in 1926

History of Aroostook Farm

The state purchased Highmoor Farm in Monmouth in the early 1900s for agricultural research and farmers in other parts of the state began to talk about the need for other farms, arguing that differences in soil, climate, and cropping practices could best be studied locally. In 1912 a committee of farmers from Aroostook County appealed to the legislature to appropriate funds to purchase a local farm. After looking at various pieces of land, a committee decided to purchase 275 acres about a mile and a half south of Presque Isle village, a property known as the Greenwood Farm. The asking price was $20,000 even though the farmhouse had recently burned. Farmers and businessmen located in Presque Isle contributed toward the total cost of the land, and in 1915 the legislature appropriated $18,000.

As the work carried on at Aroostook Farm by the University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture increased, there was need for additional land. In 1939, the Annis Farm, adjacent to the old Greenwood holdings, was purchased and incorporated into an expanded Aroostook Farm. This additional acreage provided for much-needed crop rotation and lessened competition for space between the Station staff and that of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.