Limestone has long been a proud agricultural community, located amid the rolling hills of central Aroostook County, near the Canadian border.
In the 1800s, settlers from points south arrived and cleared the forests, creating a lumber mill before the town existed. Farmers followed, and Limestone's long history of potato growing began in the 1850s. Limestone was incorporated in 1869, named for the limestone deposits that underlie the topsoil.
Today, the community is a single township, of 25,000 acres, made up primarily of farms and forests. Trafton Lake is a popular recreation area, with a boat launch, ski trials and campsites. Limestone Stream is known for its native brook trout, and the forests are popular with hunters and wildlife watchers seeking white-tailed deer, moose and black bear. Several groomed snowmobile and ATV trails pass through the community.
In the 1930s and 40s, Aroostook boasted one of the nation's biggest potato industries, and Limestone was a significant part of the boom, as one of Maine's major potato-growing communities. In fact, the first mechanical potato harvester was invented in Limestone. Potatoes were processed into starch at several factories, through the 1960s.
The community reached its peak population of about 10,000 people in the 1950s, after the construction of Loring Air Force Base on the outskirts of town. Bomber and tanker units were stationed at Loring throughout the Cold War, from 1948 through its closing in 1994. Today, much of the former Loring Air Force base is a business park known as the Loring Commerce Center, while 4,700 acres make up the new Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge.
Now, potatoes are again one of the community's primary industries. Each fall, schools still release students for "harvest break," and many local teenagers still help to bring in the crop. Potatoes ultimately become chips, french fries and seed potatoes for future crops, as well as being sold as Maine potatoes in supermarkets up and down the East Coast. Limestone farmers also grow broccoli, hay and various grains.
Today, fewer farmers are managing vast acreages, using GPS technology to ensure efficiency in the field, accurate pesticide applications and to maximize profits. Farm operations are also using computer controlled-storage facilities to maintain quality and to allow for year around deliveries of product.