FORT KENT, Maine — For years the former A.D. Soucy Farm Supply building on Market Street catered to the vast and varied needs of local farmers.
No longer in operation, the building is about to get an agriculturally related face-lift thanks to the efforts of a local businessman.
Reno Lagasse, founder of Reno’s Small Business Machines, is hard at work collecting donations and materials to transform the building’s large concrete exterior wall into a memorial to Fort Kent’s farming roots.
“It’s going to be some sight on that wall,” Lagasse said. “I really felt I owed this to Fort Kent.”
Lagasse spent 35 years working with businesses in Aroostook County before retiring 15 years ago and, while never a farmer, he does recall spending a fair amount of time in area potato fields as a youth.
“I definitely did pick potatoes during harvest when I was in school,” he said. “I once or twice had 100-barrel days.”
Two years ago Lagasse was instrumental in spearheading the project that resulted in a Fort Kent-tribute mural on a downtown building
“In my mind I always wanted to do something for the farmers,” he said. “One day last year I was having lunch with my son Randy and he asked me what my next project was going to be.”
That conversation took place at Rock’s Diner, and Lagasse said that over his son’s shoulder he could see a painting by local artist Paula Rioux of a potato harvest operation.
“I knew right then that’s what I wanted for a mural,” he said.
Lagasse began talking the project up and, with the help of former Fort Kent farmer Bob Lozier and businessman Jim Bourgoin, has raised about $6,000 toward the estimated total project cost of $19,000.
Among those supporting the concept is Don Guimond, Fort Kent town manager, who put Lagasse in touch with artist Darren Connors.
Connors has produced two renditions for what will become a 35-by-15-foot mural, and Lagasse said he hopes to incorporate elements of both in the final mural.
Connors’ paintings show rows of potato barrels and pickers in the fields with farm trucks, tractors and fall foliage.
Lagasse pointed to the mechanized equipment and said he wants to make sure popular area models of John Deere, Farmall, International Harvester, Ford and Chevrolet are depicted.
Once complete, the mural will be dedicated to all Fort Kent farmers, past and present.
Lagasse said his research has identified 61 farmers and each will have his or her name on a special commemorative board adjacent to the mural.
“When I was in business everywhere I went people supported me,” he said. “Now it’s my turn to give back.”
The building is owned now by Dr. Rodney Lahren, and Lagasse said he is 100 percent behind the project.
“I think this mural is definitely going to bring back some memories for people,” Lagasse said, “for people who have farmed and for people who never had the chance but want to see what it looked like.”
Lagasse said people are excited by the project and helping to support with monetary donations.
Major donors — those contributing $500 or more — will have their names listed near the mural, he added.
“I’m really having a good time working on this,” Lagasse said. “I get to go around and see all those people I used to do business with and deal with them again.”
Funding and weather permitting, Lagasse said he hopes work can begin on the project this summer.
“It’s the idea to dress up Market Street,” he said.
Anyone interested in donating to the Fort Kent Farmers’ Mural Project may send contributions to P.O. Box 23, Fort Kent Mills 04744.