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.
Whole seed with green sprouts one half inch long are placed in the furrow by women and children. They use light, one-horse cultivators, and practise what we would call shallow cultivation. They depend largely on hand hoeing and hand weeding. It seems to be the only system in the close rows, and these close rows and close planting are very important factors in the large yields in Europe as compared to our small yields in America, where we plant in rows three to four feet wide with hills fifteen to twenty-four inches apart, producing a few large, rough potatoes in a hill and a small number of bushels to the acre.
They spray two to five times per season for blight at an expense of $2.50 an acre per spray. Sutton's Epicure is producing nine tons of salable po-tatoes per acre this 19th day of July (1910) at $15 a ton net. They would get thirteen tons matured thirty days later at $10 a ton. Their method of harvesting would be very primitive and crude to our potato growers with improved machinery in the United States. Boys and girls first pull the tops in two rows and throw the tops on harvested land. Then the potatoes that were pulled out with the tops are picked up from the surface and the balance are plowed out with old-fashioned shovel plows with rod attachments. Then the potatoes that lay on the surface are picked up by women, boys and girls and carried to a point where they are being sacked. The land is then harrowed twice and picked over again, so they will get any potatoes that have been covered up by the inefficiency of the crude digger they have been using. They are thrown into a round sieve thirty inches in diameter that sets on another sieve, and this on top of an empty barrel. The top sieve has a three fourths inch mesh. A man shakes this sieve and the potatoes that do not go through this sieve are pitched into a sack held by a sack-holder. The lower sieve holds the very small potatoes for stock feed. It takes a big, strong man to do this all day. All potatoes over a three fourths inch mesh are marketed as early potatoes. Sacks weigh 112 pounds net. English laws do not allow the weighing of a package or a sack in marketing, as is the custom in America. They do have weigh bridges (scales) for potatoes if they do not for cattle. Every sack of potatoes is sold at the net weight at which it is filled at harvesting time.
The laborers pull the top, dig up and sort, sack, weigh and sew and winrow the tops, going over the field twice, for $10 per acre, contract price. The boys and girls make 30 cents a day, the women 48 cents, and men $1. All board themselves.
The main or late crop is harvested and handled the same way, and goes direct to market. Those that are stored for late market are put in pits or piled upon the ground six or seven feet wide at the base and coned up at an angle of forty-five degrees. As the weather gets colder they are thatched with straw and dirt is added.
On this farm an economical plan is just being worked out. It is a narrow gauge railway that goes around the outside of a 1,000-acre farm and once through the centre, running to the storage house and railway shipping station. When the potatoes are harvested they are pitted or stored alongside this railway. They call these pits "clamps." There are 600 acres of potatoes on this farm that will be harvested and stored in this way, making a pit three miles long. They expect ten tons to the acre, making 6,000 tons of potatoes.
The carting of potatoes in this level peat soil is often quite impossible when they have excessive rain.
Land values in Lincolnshire have changed very greatly in forty years. They are about the same values now as in 1870. Then Mr. Dennis paid $500 per acre for his first purchase. He pointed out to me a 100-acre farm for which $500 an acre was refused in 1870. It was sold in 1908 for $275 an acre. Since 1870 the lands that sold as low as $175 to $300 an acre are bringing from $400 to $500 an acre.
These lands are now producing up to fifty-six bushels of wheat to the acre, with a general average of a series of years of forty-five bushels. It weighs sixty-three pounds to the bushel. Oats produce up to eighty bushels, weighing forty-two pounds to the bushel. The general average is sixty bushels to the acre. A great deal of the grain of 1909 is still in the stacks unthreshed. They do not thresh their grain until they need the straw. It is kept in thatched stacks instead of in warehouses.
Growing white mustard is a very profitable industry and it serves as a good change of crops for soils. It often returns $60 an acre with very little expense.
A very interesting visit was made to Titus Kime, Marham-le-Fen, Boston, Lincolnshire. In a letter to E. H. Grubb in July, 1911, he gives many facts about his potato and hog business. Extracts from the letter follow:
Northern Star potatoes grown by Titus Kime.
Half-acre challenge plot of Northern Star potatoes, grown by Titus Kime, Marham-le-Fen, Boston, Lincolnshire, England.
This has been the earliest season for potatoes ever known in our neighborhood (Lincolnshire) since we began to send early potatoes in quantity to market. June 11th was the earliest day previously we have ever sent tons to market. This year I sent away on June 6th and 7th three tons twelve hundredweight of Early Puritans (this is an American variety) and they realized exactly £50 English money ($250) gross.
On June 12th I got away a few Eclipse and realized a very good price, and on June 15th I began to dig Eclipse with a good gang of diggers and pickers. And about these I must tell you a little history which I hope will interest you. On July 26, 1910, I bought two fields of land here near the woods and very poor indeed - well known as being the poorest land in the parish. Perhaps you do not know the old English saying,' If you want to take land go near the church and far from the wood.' These two fields have an area of exactly fourteen acres. They cost £18 ($90) per acre; this is, £252 ($1,260).