French Frydays: A Maine Fry is Born

From the Maine Potato to the French Fry

EASTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Just ten miles from the Canadian border lies Flewelling Farms, deep in Aroostook County. The workday starts at 6 a.m.

"Everyone comes to the shop and disperses," said Bruce Flewelling. "So my job is to make sure everybody goes in the right direction.”

For seven generations, his family has been farming the famous Maine potato. Every season starts with two million pounds of vegetative seed, kept in a cool storage unit to prevent sprouting. About 90% of his product goes to McCain Foods, the largest potato buyer in the county. They also have a potato processing plant in Easton, where they make plenty of French fries.

“The thing with potatoes is you have to have a clean field to start with for the mechanics to work,” Flewelling said.

Tractors plow across the fields and comb through the dirt, loosening it up to prep for planting. They dig down as far as six inches.

Potatoes, however, are not that great for the soil.

"When you lift it up, you’re taking all the ground and disturbing the whole soil all the time," explained Flewelling. “We plant barley as a rotation crop to help the soils a little bit."

Then comes the planting. This year, rains prevented the crew from starting the season on time and caused almost a week delay.

One by one, the seeds are plopped into the earth.

“We have a lot of technology. We have GPS positioning. All the newer tractors have codes for their performance. Just a lot of technology. It’s almost easier to launch a shuttle I think.”

So what characteristics does a potato need to create the perfect French fry?

“What the French fryers are looking for is the length of the potatoes, because they want long fries. Another thing we do is keep these potatoes fairly warm at 50 degrees," Flewelling said. "At 50 degrees, you get a white-colored fry ... keep the sugar levels down and keep the starches up so you can get a white, crisp fry.”

What are your favorite fries in Maine? Email Kattey Ortiz at kattey.ortiz@wcsh6.com, or let the NOW team know using #askNOW.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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