Frank McElwain at his family farm in Caribou. Photo: Thalassa Raasch/MaineCF

Meet Frank McElwain, a farmer and educator who brings a special history
and skill set to his work on the Aroostook County Committee. 

“I have a love for growing things and I enjoy all aspects of farm life,” says Frank McElwain. “Agriculture and farming are my roots.” 

Born in Caribou, McElwain grew up on the family farm where potatoes were the main crop. After graduating from Caribou High School, he attended the University of Maine and earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture mechanization. He taught agriculture at Central Aroostook High School and Limestone High School for 16 years before becoming a school administrator. The skills McElwain learned on the farm, from bookkeeping to plumbing, gave him “practical insights” that proved useful as superintendent of Eastern Aroostook RSU.

McElwain retired in 2016 and now he’s back on the tractor with renewed appreciation for people who make their living through long hours and manual labor. He and his father, Ralph, started the “u-pick” strawberry operation in 1985. The family has expanded the strawberry acreage over the years and also grows apples, raspberries, pumpkins, sweet corn, and a variety of vegetables.

“As my three children grew up,” McElwain says, “they learned valuable lessons by helping with the business.” Each growing season, he and his wife, Joan, look forward to returning customers and seeing young families experience the farm.

To give back in the community, McElwain serves on the board of Aroostook Mental Health Center (AMHC) and MaineCF’s Aroostook County Committee. “Organizations like AMHC and the foundation need the input and involvement from a variety of stakeholders,” he says. His experiences as a lifelong Aroostook County resident, along with his career in education and agriculture, enable him to make a difference in his community.

While The County features many large farming enterprises, McElwain believes there’s a place for small farms with diverse crops. “Interest in locally grown produce, organic farming, and eating more fruits and vegetables will result in small farming operations being profitable,” he says.

“We do not have a very diverse ethnic population in Aroostook County,” McElwain points out, “but there still is a great deal of diversity.” As a teacher and school administrator he worked with a wide range of community members: “It was important that I think about, and be respectful of, each person’s background, whether it be education, culture, socio-economic status, work, religion, or family situation, in order to meet their needs.”

Reflecting on his life and career, McElwain is thankful for the family and community that helped shape him. At the same time he welcomes the opportunity to give back. “Whether picking strawberries or helping a nonprofit, I’m all in.”