Rocky soils and hilly terrain make much of Maine unsuitable for agriculture. Of the 546,326 hectares (1,350,000 acres) that is classed as farmland, about three-fifths remains wooded. Only 3 percent of Maine’s land area is used to grow crops. Many of the 8,000 farms are sidelines for operators who also have jobs off the farm.
Maine’s most valuable farm product in terms of sales is potatoes. In 1997 Maine’s potato production ranked eighth in the nation. The leading potato producing region of Maine is in Aroostook County. Nearly all the potato production is in the eastern part of the county, in an area about 50 km (about 30 mi) wide and a little more than about 160 km (about 100 mi) long.
Aroostook farmers grow oats and clover in rotation with potatoes. Reliance on a single crop made Aroostook County farmers vulnerable to sudden price swings and competition from more efficient producers elsewhere. Consequently, attempts have been made to diversify agriculture with crops that may be canned or frozen, such as peas and broccoli. In an effort to reduce production costs potato growers introduced harvesters that dig the potatoes, discard the tops, and carry the harvest, including rocks, by belt to a crew of workers, who assist in the separation of rocks from potatoes.
The damp cool climate of Maine is ideal for hay and pasture, and because of the proximity of large consuming centers at Boston, Massachusetts, the state has developed a sizable dairy industry. Dairying and hay production are largely restricted to southern and central Maine. Apple growing is also important in this part of the state.
Maine’s poultry industry, which expanded in the middle of the 20th century, was basically comprised of two elements: broilers and table eggs. The broiler industry collapsed in the early 1980s, but eggs in the late 1990s remained one of the three leading agricultural items produced in Maine, along with dairy and potatoes.
In the Seaboard Lowland of Washington and Hancock counties at the north end of the state, blueberries grow abundantly on former forest lands that have been cut or burned. The area is sometimes referred to as the Blueberry Barrens.
Fishing has been an important industry in Maine since the colonial period. Dried and salted cod was Maine’s principal export until it was overtaken by lumber in the 19th century. In the late 1990s, Maine’s annual catch ranked second to that of Massachusetts among the New England states, and fourth among the states overall, in the value of the catch. Lobster is by far the most valuable species caught. Marine worms, sea urchins, shrimp, clams, flounder, and cod are also caught.
The fishing industry has become increasingly mechanized. Large trawlers comb the ocean with nets, fishing the numerous banks that line the North American eastern coast. New techniques have enabled Maine to freeze, rather than salt or dry, most of its catch. Some of the fish is frozen on the trawlers as soon as it is caught. Portland is the state’s largest fishing port, while other coastal towns remain important sources of lobster and other shellfish such as clams. "Maine" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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