Potato Farming

Potato Farming[i]

     The planting of crops by hand was a back breaking and strenuous way of life.   When planting potatoes the seeds were known as sets and were cut by hand.  Women were hired to cut a bulk of potatoes for seed.  The seed was sown by hand, dropped in the rows of the field.  Once the seeds were dropped, a horse hoe was used to fill in the drills.  The horse hoe had two shears that covered the mounds as it was pulled along the rows.  To cultivate the crop a “scuffler” was used.  The scuffler had teeth that loosened the clay in the drills as it went between the rows of the potatoes.  After the drills were cultivated, the horse hoe was used again to build up the drills.

     Mrs. Ching remembers her father spraying the potato field when she was growing up.  The sprayer was a barrel on a cart that was pumped to build up pressure.  Nozzles on either side of the cart sprayed the rows of potatoes.  The horse hoe was used again for harvesting the potatoes.  A blade on the front turned the drill open, as it was pulled down the rows.   Then crawling on hands and knees the potatoes were collected in baskets.  The baskets were later emptied into bags which were then collected on a truck wagon to be taken home to the cellar.  Warehouses didn’t exist at this time; grading and storage took place at the family home.  From the cellar potatoes were graded (by hand) in order to be sold.  The potatoes were scooped into a hand screen; the good ones were sorted into bags to later be transported for sale. 

     Mrs. Ching tells of her father being an inventive thinker in the grading process.  Many people had to carry the large bags of potatoes up their cellar steps, which were small and steep in most cases.  Mrs. Ching’s father developed a solution to this for his own home.  He made a chute into the cellar, with a hook and cord at the top of the stairs, which was attached to a horse outside.  The cord inside would be hooked to a bag and the horse would pull the bag up the chute.  The bag would then be placed on a sleigh and taken to the train in Elmira to be transported to Charlottetown.  The potatoes would also be sold at the local general stores such as Willy Fraser’s and Mossey’s (see also General Stores).

     Mrs. Ching later went on to marry a potato farmer, Russell Ching.  Mrs. Ching describes Russell as a “progressive” farmer.  Having grown up in a time where farming was done by hand, the planting and harvesting.  Mr. Ching always wanted to advance. He strived to use machinery and equipment to make farming easier for himself and his workers.   Mr. Ching’s potato farm grew from only a few acres to much more than 50 later in his career. 

     Another area farmer, Mr. Gordon Robertson recalls paying $3400 to begin his farming career, following a career in the Canadian Navy.  He began his farm career with about 60 acres of land, this later grew to many more.  Mr. Robertson began by farming the land, potatoes, grain and hay.  He later acquired one cow, which then grew into about 12 at the end.  The focus of his farming life was on potatoes, but like many, he had a mixed farm for many years.

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