A demographic crisis looms over Maine, the oldest and whitest state in the U.S. with one of the country’s lowest birth rates.
Employers are already feeling the effects on Maine’s workforce as they struggle to fill positions with “old Mainers” — long-time residents in a state where many take pride in their deep family roots, especially along the shores of Washington County.
Here in the rugged, eastern edges of the U.S., dotted with evergreens and wood-shingled houses, many make a living from the waters of Down East Maine, including Annie Sokoloski, an office manager in Steuben, Maine, for Lobster Trap, a wholesale lobster dealer. Working in seafood goes back generations in her family.
“My grandmother forced me to go into the fish factory and pack sardines,” says Sokoloski, who recalls working as a sardine packer while on break from school. “She told me anytime that I thought about not having an education I needed to remember that day.”
These days, Sokoloski says she still remembers other lessons: “You need to get away from here to make anything for yourself” she remembers her grandparents telling her when she was growing up.
Photos: Hansi Lo Wang/NPR