The third field crop, potatoes, is the only one that has not retained its importance commercially in the Valley. The soil in some parts of the Valley, especially in the Preston area,is fairly well suited to this crop and the great demand in the mining districts in the early days encouraged cultivation. So in the beginning every farmer had a few acres planted to potatoes fora fall cash crop.
Charles Funk tells that an early method of planting was to plow three furrows, drop the seedpotatoes by hand along two of the furrows and cover them with a plow leaving the middle furrowfor irrigation. Later potato planters that opened up the ground, dropped the seed potatoes at setintervals and covered them, all in one operation, simplified this work considerably. Charles Funkalso said that often instead of cutting up whole potatoes for seed they would plant thick peelings from the potatoes they used for cooking. Besides weeding it is important to the quality of the potato to keep the soil loose and piled high around the potato plant so it was a boon to thefarmers when they were able to use horse-drawn and later tractor cultivators to do this.
Potato harvest usually came sometime in October after the vines had frozen but before thedeep frosts and it was another busy time on the farm. At first the potatoes were uncovered with aplow but the potato digger that came later was much more efficient. A pronged device would liftthe potatoes, shake off excess soil and drop them without cutting them as the plow often did. After the potatoes were uncovered the crew of potato pickers went into the field picking up andoften sorting the potatoes into different grades as they worked. Part of the crop was put in burlapbags to market, part hauled to the root cellar and dumped into bins for winter use and often thesmaller ones were saved for seed the next year or fed to the pigs.
Everyone available was used to pick up potatoes, men, women and children. Before theIndians left the area they were very much a part of the potato gathering scene. The Indian womenoften brought their children, the older ones to help and the younger ones to play nearby. It wasn't an uncommon sight to see a pretty little Indian papoose in its cradle swinging from the branch ofa tree under the watchful eye of the mother working nearby. The Indians took part of their pay infood and they were always given their noon meal and carried food back to their camp with themat the end of the day.
Children were often dismissed from school for potato digging especially after the Indians left. An excerpt from the minutes of a joint meeting of the Lund and Preston school trustees quoted inthe section on schools says that the board voted to dismiss the high school and the seventh andeighth grades of the Lund school for three days to help with the potato harvest. And in another a penciled note to a teacher dated Oct. 28, 1913, signed by H. C. Smith, reads, "Paul was kept out of school yesterday on account of being short of hands to gather my potato crop."
The men found raising livestock more profitable and the land more suited to the raising of livestock feed crops so raising potatoes commercially declined. In 1928 some of those whowerestill raising potatoes formed Cooperatives. Large pits were dug to store the potatoes until they could be marketed profitably, one on the George Oxborrow property and one at Preston, but these projects were short lived. The Preston project lasted longer than the one at Lund but within twoor three years both had been abandoned. Some individuals continued to raise potatoes for a fewyears. Rand Bradley at Preston was the last and he raised them as his principal cash crop until here tired in the 60's or early 70's. Now the extent of the crop is a potato patch in every family garden for home use, although some plant a few extra for sale. Milton Judd at Preston is one of these.