This section is from the book "The Potato: A Compilation of Information from Every Available Source", by Eugene H. Grubb, W. S. Guilford. Also available from Amazon: The Potato: A Compilation Of Information From Every Available Source.
The general opinion of dealers is that toward the end of the winter, when the visible European supply is more nearly exhausted, prices of potatoes will be considerably higher than now, and large quantities are at present held in storage at the 'Halles' for this expected advance. New potatoes from Algiers and Tunis reach Paris in February, but they are a luxury, so high in price and so limited in quantity that they exercise little influence on the general potato market.
Owing probably to the fact that potatoes have not hitherto figured among American exports to France, they are not included among the articles covered by the special arrangement of March, 1910, between the United States and French governments, and are therefore subject, when imported into this country, to the maximum duty of 6 francs per 100 kilos (32 cents per bushel) during the months of March, April, and May, and 3 francs per 100 kilos (about 16 cents per bushel) if imported during the remaining nine months of the year. Potatoes from Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and other nations which enjoy the minimum duty rates with France pay 3 francs duty per 100 kilos (16 cents per bushel) from March 1st to June 1st, and only 40 centimes per 100 kilos (or 2 cents per bushel) during the remainder of the year.
As nearly all potatoes are imported here between June 1st and March 1st, the American product will have to meet this discrimination - an excess of nearly 14 cents duty per bushel above that paid on potatoes from European countries except Portugal.
Among the offers which have been received here recently is one from an American shipper in Maine who quotes potatoes of high quality grown in that state at $1.75 per sack containing 165 pounds, delivered at an American seaport on the Atlantic coast. This, converted into French equivalents, would be about 11 francs per 100 kilos. Adding the estimated freight charges and import duty, cartage and handling, would bring the cost of the potatoes, delivered in Paris, up to about 14.50 francs (or $2.80) per 100 kilos. As already stated, potatoes at wholesale in the Paris market range from 12 to 20 francs per 100 kilos, according to quality.
The only apparent chance, therefore, is for American exporters to offer potatoes of the highest grades, clean and free from leaves and stems, such as sell here now for from 17 to 20 francs per 100 kilos, and will undoubtedly be still dearer in late January and February. On account of the change of duty from March 1st, potatoes for France should be shipped, if possible, so as to arrive before that date.
For the Paris market it would be preferable to have potatoes in sacks containing 100 kilos or 50 kilos each, to facilitate valuations and accounts under the French system. This, of course, is not strictly essential, but is an example of one of the wise things which exporters of an unknown article into a new market may judiciously do to 'make things easy for the purchaser.'
It should be borne in mind that this is the first opportunity which exporters have had for thirty-five years to offer American potatoes to French consumers. It is therefore worth while this winter, even at the cost of some trouble, to make a serious effort to enter the market here, to make known the high quality of American potatoes, and thus pave the way for an even more prosperous trade in future years.
There will be a large demand in March for seed potatoes, and for this the best varieties of American origin, free from all taint of disease, should, if properly presented, be especially attractive to French dealers and farmers."
The senior author gives an account of his visit to Baron Kriesheim as describing a typical large estate where potatoes are an important crop. There are many such estates, and the bulk of the crop is probably grown by peasant farmers.
I am very proud of this most distinguished honor of an American agriculturist coming to me for knowledge in farming," said the big-bodied, massive-brained Baron when he read the letters of introduction of the senior author at the time of his visit.
The fine condition in which the grounds and parks around the castles in these great estates are kept is a marvel to an American farmer who is used to seeing more or less untidiness about the homes of some of our largest farmers.
The vocation of the wealthy German farmer is certainly alluring not only from the comforts it brings but the pleasure that must come with the accomplishment of results in soil building and crop production.
The farming end of these estates is laid out like a manufacturing establishment - the crops, fertiliz-ers, etc., all planned in ten-year cycles. A four-crop rotation is being used, but a map is made showing just what each field is to do for a ten-year period.
A large amount of vegetable matter in the form of cover crop is returned to the soil; and practically all forage crops are fed on the farm, the manures carefully kept and returned to the land.
Five hundred acres on the Kriesheim estate are kept for permanent pasture for horses, dry cows and young stock. The 100 milking dairy cows are kept in barns constantly and fed green cut grass, beet tops, clover hay, etc.
The land is light, sandy loam, but is valued at $125 an acre and rents for $3 an acre annually.
The farm hands get 35 cents a day - with cabin, garden and 900 pounds of grain.
The potatoes have been developed for years for high percentage of starch, this quality being especially desired in the manufacture of starch and alcohol. They are coarse and low in quality as compared with British or French varieties.
On the place potatoes have been grown for fifty years without spraying, but this year (1910) the blight was a serious menace to the crop.
After the land is prepared for planting potatoes, the furrows and holes for the potatoes are opened up with a wheeled implement that opens four furrows. A spade-like affair on the wheel makes a hole four to five inches deep, and the potatoes are dropped in this.