Spuds harvested for food banks

It wasn’t quite an old-time gathering of “bringing in the sheaves,” but Jim and Lynne Van Wert recently hosted a Food Bank Potato Harvest that featured several aspects of those old-fashioned work efforts: hard labour, hearty appetites and common goals.

Their farm, six kilometres northwest of Carstairs, Alta., became a hub of activity Oct. 3.

About 30 volunteers, primarily from the Airdrie and Olds food banks, descended upon the 1.5-acre Van Wert potato patch. The workers, aged 8 to 82, began to gather the spuds in five-gallon pails.

Owner Jim had started earlier with his tractor and antique 1940 rusted and faded pull-behind potato digger.

“It’s so old, nobody knows what brand it is,” Jim mused.

The digger had a mild McCormick-Deering red colour. The still effective machine dug the potatoes up, shook the soil from them, and laid them down on the bed of their leafy tops. The rest of the harvest was up to the volunteers.

Soon white pails dotted the field while the workers filled and emptied them into large cardboard high tubs on pallets.

The full tubs were then put onto trailers for delivery to the Olds and Airdrie food banks.

At noon, the group congregated in Van Wert’s new canvas quonset where a harvest lunch was served, with donations from sponsors like the Airdrie Food Bank, the Carstairs Tim Hortons, and to the diligent efforts like Lynne’s, whose homemade chilli was a hit. Lynne’s friend Anna Jacobs had made potato soup. The tired and hungry workers helped themselves for second helpings.

A Taber friend, who grows russet potatoes for Lay’s Potato Chips, had given the Van Werts seed potatoes in spring. They had an empty plot of land and chose to grow them for the local community. It was a re-launch of a community potato patch, lapsed three years ago.

“It was the thing to do during these time,” Lynne commented.

Volunteer Deanna Kellsey travelled from Olds. She had bumped into Jacobs earlier in the week in town and he had mentioned the initiative.

“I just wanted to help,” she said.

At 1:30 p.m., the group began to disperse and the trailer loading began.

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