September 18, 2011

Ploy to save family potato farm blossoms into ploye festival

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FORT KENT - The Fort Kent Ploye Festival is held each August in conjunction with the local muskie fishing derby to celebrate summer and draw tourists.

click image to enlarge

Volunteers cook what they say is the world’s biggest ploye during the Fort Kent Ploye Festival on Aug. 12. Fifty pounds of locally made dry mix are churned into 20 gallons of water to make the buckwheat pancake.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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But what this eight-year-old tradition really does is retell an important local story.

About 20 years ago, Fort Kent had as many as 40 potato farmers. Today, there are just five, including the Bouchard Family Farm.

In northern Maine, where the logging industry has ruled, finding work beyond forestry is tough. The leading employer in Fort Kent is the hospital, and the next largest is the local school system, said town planner Don Guimond.

But some 30 years ago, the Bouchards used a family ploye (buckwheat pancake) recipe to help save their potato farm. Once the idea to produce and sell a ploye mix was hatched around the kitchen table, the family quickly moved it to their garage. In 1997, the operation upgraded to a 10,000-square-foot factory built from a dismantled Canadian mill.

"It's my grandmother's recipe. We started it in '83, and we're still doing it," said Joe Bouchard, owner of the business.

So each August, when the center of town is dominated by 50 pounds of dry ploye mix churned into 20 gallons of ploye batter, it's more than smart marketing.

The Bouchard family, with help from friends, make what they believe is the world's biggest ploye.

"The town kind of had nothing in the summer. So we said, let's have a ploye festival. The first year, we did a 10-foot ploye. Then the third year it grew to 12 feet. We've kept it a 12-foot ploye," Bouchard said with a grin. 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: Flemingpph

 

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