By Andrew and Adam Kehoe
My uncle Nicky Kehoe farms a large potato farm in a small village in County Wexford called Our Lady’s Island. It has been in his family for many generations. When he was a small boy, they farmed it very differently from nowadays.
In the early 1970s, they used what was called a Chain Digger to harvest the potatoes. Nowadays, they have a harvester which takes away most of all the hard work.
The Chain Digger would dig out all of the potatoes from the drills. All the workers would walk behind the Chain Digger and pick the potatoes off the ground and put them into buckets that they had to carry. The buckets were then poured into 25kg bags. A tractor and trailer would then take these bags to the storage shed where the bags are all weighed. The bags were then all tied with wire and wire pullers were used to tighten the bags.
Back then, the buyers would travel to the storage shed to collect the bags for selling. All the bags were individually hand transferred in and out of our delivery trailers.
Nowadays Nicky’s Harvester removes almost all of the manual labour. The Harvester will dig the drills and the potatoes will move up along the conveyor belt into the Harvester and onto a picking table. The potatoes that need to be removed are sorted by people on the table and only the good potatoes that are fit for sale get into the bag. There is a weigher at the end of the table that holds the bag. Once the bag reaches 10kg, it will automatically fall off the weigher and another bag is put on.
The top of the bag is stitched and left on a pallet at side of the harvester. When the pallet is full, a loader will lift the pallet onto a delivery van and will be delivered by Uncle Nicky directly to the buyer. All the hard lifting, most of the manual labour is now all gone.