We have always grown potato’s as part of our annual planting regime, but for the last few years we have collaborated with our neighbours too. Now early and late plantings of potato’s are grown on our site and main crop potato’s are grown on our neighbours site. Our neighbours site changes every couple of years as they farm 100 hectares of land, a mixture of arable crops and beef cattle are the produce. So once they have had their main crop garden in one place for two to three years they move it to another field, which has been grazed for the previous few years, exploiting the natural fertility of the cattle to grow annual garden crops.
Our main crop potato’s are planted along side theirs, the only thing we do at planting time is provide the seed potato’s. Didier and Marie-Noel plant them with an accessory on the back of their small tractor. Harvest time is then a communal activity with Didier, Marie-Noel, other neighbours and Fiona and I gathering on one afternoon as a community to harvest everyone’s potato’s.
Most years this means around a quarter acre of potato’s harvested to feed four or five families and our students too. Community very productive and fun at the same time.
Harvesting begins with Didier aboard his little tractor with potato harvester attached at the rear.
Then we all follow on behind picking up all the potato’s. Marie-Noel plants the rows and separates the different types and families with a one plant of a different colour potato. This year she used a black variety to mark the separation. We were donated the black potato’s this year as we took extra pickers with us in the shape of apprentices who have learned with us all summer. The black potato’s are amazing too, rich full flavour, smooth and waxy. We have planted some of the black potato’s in our poly tunnel for a late crop which we should be eating for Christmas this year.