Record crop of potatoes available for the pickin’ at Harvest Festival

September 11, 2018

GERING — Rick Henderson guides horses Tom and Jerry through a field of millet as he demonstrates how hard harvesting was for man and horse in the past. Henderson and other volunteers at the Legacy of the Plains Museum have been working hard all summer to prepare for the upcoming 22nd annual Harvest Festival.

Volunteer Dick Kuxhausen works a Jayhawk harvester to make sure it is in good working order for demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday. He moves the machinery back and forth with a bit of a struggle. The hay does not like to be moved when it is wet and the early morning moisture is still evident on the ground.

There will be several pieces of equipment on display this year, including a horse-drawn mower, horse-drawn sweep and overshot stacker. Max Cawiezel, co-chair of the festival, said the work in the past with horse-drawn equipment was labor intensive.

“In today’s world, we can mow an acre in 15 minutes,” Cawiezel said. “With horses, 15 acres in a day would be good.”

As a result, farmers often had teams mowing most of the time and neighbors often teamed up to get all the mowing done in a timely manner.

Along with the museum’s famous potatoes that the public can pick, volunteers rotate crops each year to show to the public how harvesting was done in the past with equipment that was used to complete the task. This year’s main crop is hay and will be used to help feed the resident longhorns as well as be sold to feedlots. Crops are rotated each year between hay, corn, beans, sugar beets and potatoes, although potatoes are grown each year for the community to pick.

Kuxhausen said the red and white potatoes look wonderful so far as they have had ideal growing conditions. Most years, they harvest around 200 bushels an acre, but are expecting 300-500 per acre this year. In addition to fertilizer donated by Simplot, seed potatoes were used this year, which are easier to plant and almost guaranteed to sprout.

“Right now, I’m thinking this is as good a crop as I’ve seen since I’ve been out here,” Kuxhausen said.

Anyone interested in picking potatoes can do so during the Harvest Festival. Volunteers will use a picker to pull up the potatoes and visitors can pick the ones they want.

For visitors who are used to seeing modern equipment, much of the old machinery at Legacy is still in good working order. Kuxhausen said he is always impressed with what farmers figured out in the past to make their jobs a little easier. Though it is not economically feasible to use them regularly anymore, you can still use it and farm the ground the way it was 100 years ago because the ground doesn’t know any different, Kuxhausen said.

“If all our electronic stuff quit on us, you could go back to this stuff,” Kuxhausen said. “Some of it is almost 100 years old and we can still do something with it.”

Harvest Festival runs on Saturday, Sept. 15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Concessions will be available. The cost is $5 per car and includes the historic machinery demonstrations, horse and tractor parade, hay harvest and museum. For a nominal fee, visitors can take potatoes home by the bag, bucket or gunny sack.

Contact the museum at 308-436-1989 for prices on potatoes.

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