PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A unique project is under way in Aroostook County to illustrate how a 100-year-old hospital took root in the area.
Officials from The Aroostook Medical Center, Cavendish Produce and Northeast Packaging Company gathered in a Presque Isle potato field early Monday to officially dedicate the TAMC Centennial Potato Plot.
The two-acre section of a field on U.S. Route 1 between Presque Isle and Caribou celebrates the hospital and its ties to agriculture.
According to hospital officials, the idea for what is now TAMC was envisioned by Frank White, an attorney, in 1908. During that time, he made frequent trips to outlying farms and neighboring smaller communities by horse and wagon, soliciting donations.
Through the efforts of White and other community leaders, Presque Isle General Hospital was incorporated on April 8, 1912. The hospital was sustained through the years by public donations, not only of money, but of food, furnishings and linens.
Cavendish Produce donated the two acres of russet potatoes that have already been planted.
Plans are for TAMC employees and their family members to harvest the field by hand in early October. The future of the harvested potatoes involves Northeast Packaging Company.
Bob Umphrey, president of the company, said Monday that a special commemorative five-pound potato bag will be designed to recognize TAMC’s centennial. That process will include an art contest to engage members of the public.
“We are launching an open contest to help us design one side of this special bag,” he explained. Northeast Packaging Company will produce the packaging later this summer in time for the harvesting of the potatoes.
A panel of judges from Northeast Packaging Company, Cavendish and TAMC will review the entries and pick a winner. The selected design will be unveiled at the Maine Potato Blossom Festival on the judges reviewing stand on Saturday, July 21, just before the parade during a new event called the Spuddy Recovery Triathlon organized and co-sponsored by TAMC.
Once the potatoes are harvested and placed in the special commemorative bags, TAMC will send the spuds to statewide elected officials and other dignitaries. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has agreed to see to it that a bag is delivered to the White House. In addition, TAMC intends to provide commemorative bags of potatoes to attendees at their annual Fall Health Fair, which this year will be themed Harvest, History and Health.
“We are so grateful to these two generous companies for working collaboratively with TAMC and making this unique project possible,” said Lynn Lombard, chairperson of the TAMC Board of Trustees. “As we continue to mark 100 years of The Aroostook Medical Center, our hope is to engage as many residents as possible in the celebration. Certainly, the TAMC Centennial Potato Plot will be a visible reminder all summer long and into the fall of the significant contributions of both the agricultural community and TAMC to our wonderful quality of life here in The County.”
The design contest is open to all ages and will run through July 12. A special entry form, complete with contest rules and a designated area to match the printable space on the potato bag are available and will be mailed to prospective entrants.
For information on the contest or to have an official entry form mailed, call 768-4044 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.