Picking potatoes at Legacy of the Plains’ Harvest Fest has become an annual rite for the community.
On Thursday, May 11, volunteers broke out some of the museum’s equipment to begin planting this year’s crop. Usually, it is a one-day job. High winds and rain blew in while the volunteers were taking a lunch break, forcing them to pack it up early. The volunteer farmers picked up where they left off Friday morning.
Not only do the volunteers plant the potatoes, but also they take care of them up until the Harvest Festival, Legacy of the Plains director Dave Wolf said.
Wolf said potatoes have been a staple since the beginning of the annual festival.
“They’ve been planting potatoes as long as (the museum has) been doing the Harvest Festival,” he said.
The festival, in its 26th year, will highlight potatoes as its specialty crop.
“We’ll have demonstrations of the potato equipment and talk about them like we do with corn and sugar beets,” Wolf said.
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Wolf said the Harvest Fest is one of the museum’s biggest fundraisers of the year.
“It’s extremely important for fundraising because we sell the potatoes up until, really, Christmas time.” he said.
In addition to being a fundraiser, it is also an opportunity to teach history, Wolf said.
“There’s an education component (to it). Kids and adults come in and see what it’s like to be able to go down and pick potatoes, and, really, experience that kind of historical harvesting,” he said. “And, it’s fun. You can bring little kids out, so they can do it. The Harvest Festival is just a great way for us to really demonstrate how farming was done, really, from the 1880s until about the 1960s or 1970s.”
Even though technology has improved and potatoes are now harvested by machines, Wolf said it is important to know the history of agriculture.
“It’s important to showcase what work that went into it, and how everybody was involved,” he said. “There’s an old adage that we hear around here — if you’re old enough to walk, you’re old enough to help. There were lots of different jobs for kids of all ages.”
Farmers’ children would help harvest crops, thin sugar beets and getting the ones they don’t want to put to market to the cattle, Wolf said.
This year’s Harvest Festival is Sept. 17-18. Wolf said he hopes to expand the offerings at the festival.
“We’re going to try to get a lot more demonstrations out here. We’ve started that the last couple of years. It’s been a really good event for us,” he said. “We really just want to get people really immersed into the different activities that families have done for the last 100 years.”