If you want to see the potato harvest in full swing on the valley seed potato farms, take a bike ride up the meadows in this fabulous sunshine.
Make it quick — they are almost done and make it in the morning, as it gets too hot for harvest in the afternoon. Once the potatoes reach a certain heat coming out of the field, they no longer store very well in non-cooler conditions: most farmers store commercial seed potato crops in non-refrigerated root houses.
In the field you will see large harvesters driving in tandem with potato trucks. Massive fans blow the dirt from the potatoes increasing the dust volume enormously. You can usually hear the trucks coming from miles away as they do not tend to feature purring engines.
You may find it a little dusty up there in the meadows. You may find yourself inclined to complain about that until you catch a glimpse of the people working on the harvesters and driving potato trucks in the field. That’s dusty. You are not dusty. Stop complaining.
On the farm, we still have one more row of carrots to harvest. We never did get our own big potato harvester modified enough to handle carrots, so we are going about it in the old-fashioned way. Dad’s grandfather’s potato harvester with the chain removed is pulled behind the ancient tractor. The blade is lowered about a foot underground and this lifts the carrots and puts them back down again, freed up from the soil. The crew (anyone willing, including mom and dad), follows behind pulling handfuls of greens, snicking the carrots off into buckets and dumping that into a big tote bin. After this point, the carrots are treated like potatoes: washed, binned and stacked in the cooler.
Each row is over 900 feet long and it would take one person around nine hours to harvest, from the first handful in the field to stacking the last bin in the cooler. With four or five people, we have been doing three or four rows a day. These are not long, strenuous days.
Carrot harvest has always been my very favourite job on the farm and it remains so even after growing an entire acre this year. Once the tractor has been down the row, it’s not very hard work. It’s quiet so we can talk amongst ourselves, listen to rocks falling on the mountain, and plan apprenticeships for the baby: so far cooking with a Vancouver celebrity chef who uses our potatoes, and carpentry with a top Whistler builder, my cousin. Of course, right now I am impressed beyond measure that he has gained 80 grams of weight so really my expectations are not all that high.
I must say, the end of the season is now in view. There are only three more full weekends of markets after this weekend. The carrots are almost done, and soon we’ll have the garlic planted. We have 20 or so ducklings that are now big ducks that will require processing. All the equipment needs greasing and storing for the winter. And I suppose there are still a few bins of potatoes to wash and sort and the celeriac to dig of course. The irrigation system will have to be flushed, and we could use just a touch more firewood.
That seems like a lot of work.
Anna Helmer appears to be remarkably easy going, doesn’t she?