Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 1 : Summer 2009 - Page 33

and assemble the orders for distribution. All three children are good students and have participated in school sports. Kelsy won many titles and awards as a cross-country skier in high school, and was chosen as one of the first in a group of young people in northern Maine to ski for the U.S. Junior Biathlon team and race on the international circuit. The Ployes business had its beginnings in the 1980’s, when Alban, who was a potato farmer, faced some tough times as potato farming in northern Maine began its steep decline. According to the Maine Potato Board in Presque Isle, potato farming covered approximately 200,000 acres at its peak and dominated the economy of Aroostook County. Hundreds of small family farms became consolidated into larger farms with more efficient operations as the smaller farms began to go out of business. The Bouchards credit the Ployes mix with saving the family farm. At the time, Alban and Rita’s daughter, Claire, had returned from a trip to Louisiana with a mix for beignets, a French doughnut. While the family sat around enjoying the beignets, Rita asked, “Why couldn’t we do the same for ployes?” The idea for Ployes mix was born, and the search for the perfect recipe was on. Alban converted many of his potato fields to buckwheat, and before long, a two-car garage was converted into a mixing and packaging facility. In 1997, an 8,000 square foot building was erected on the property to house the entire operation, including the mill. Above: Buckwheat Left: Practically Perfect Ployes Each year in early September, the Bouchards wait for the first frost to ripen the buckwheat, then harvest and dry it to remove excess moisture before storing it in grain silos. They try to wait for the buckwheat to become dry enough in the fields before harvesting to avoid overuse of the expensive mechanical drying process. Then they mill as needed, to ensure the freshness of the flour. Botanically speaking, since buckwheat is not a grain at all, it does not contain gluten, and it’s also a rich source of complex carbohydrates, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and high quality protein. The Acadian Buckwheat Flour is gluten-free, and the Bouchards are in the process of acquiring official certification for the product through the Celiac Sprue Association. The Bouchards are mirroring a current trend among specialty food producers to supply their customers with wholesome foods that are minimally processed and produced by artisans, rich in both flavor and heritage. SUMMER & FALL 09 Bouchard Family 31