Get Those Potatoes in the Ground!

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The month of March is in full swing and with it comes a couple of dates that are significant to farmers:  Daylight Saving Time and St. Patrick’s Day.  Do you know why these dates are significant?  (Maybe you an stop and take a guess before reading further?)

Daylight saving time happened last Sunday on March 8th and that was when we moved our clocks forward an hour.  This means it’s dark now when we farmer’s get up early in the morning but we have an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day.  There have been some stories circulating about the history of Daylight Saving Time that says it began to help the farmers have an extra hour of daylight in spring and summer months so that they could work their crops.  However, when researching the subject, I found out that while it is nice to have the extra daylight in the evenings when we are working,  the time change was not started to help out the farmers.  The time change in the United States began when Woodrow Wilson signed it into law during World War I with the idea that the longer hours of sunlight in the evenings would help to conserve energy.  The law signed by President Wilson didn’t last long.  In fact, it was repealed just seven months later.   Franklin D. Roosevelt led the United States in a year around daylight savings time that was also called “War Time” during World War II.  Daylight Saving Time has gone through changes over the years with different dates being set for it’s start and ending.  Today, Daylight Saving Time starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.  As you see, the time change was not implemented for the sake of farmers, in spite of it often being attributed to this cause.  In fact, the agricultural industry actually opposed the change in the beginning.

“Daylight saving time in the United States was not intended to benefit farmers, as many people think.
Contrary to popular belief, American farmers did not lobby for daylight saving to have more time to work in the fields; in fact, the agriculture industry was deeply opposed to the time switch when it was first implemented on March 31, 1918, as a wartime measure. The sun, not the clock, dictated farmers’ schedules, so daylight saving was very disruptive. Farmers had to wait an extra hour for dew to evaporate to harvest hay, hired hands worked less since they still left at the same time for dinner and cows weren’t ready to be milked an hour earlier to meet shipping schedules. Agrarian interests led the fight for the 1919 repeal of national daylight saving time, which passed after Congress voted to override President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. Rather than rural interests, it has been urban entities such as retail outlets and recreational businesses that have championed daylight saving over the decades.” 

(Source)

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The second date in March that is considered significant for farmers is March 17th, which known as St. Patrick’s Day.  While those who celebrate the day as a holiday will be wearing green clothes, eating green snacks, drinking green drinks and thinking about all things Irish, many farmers believe that potatoes should not be planted any later than St. Patrick’s Day to ensure best results.

” Potatoes have an intriguing history in Ireland that goes back to the 1600s, when Britain introduced the vegetable as an ideal food source for their first colony’s peasant population. By the 1840s, this nutritious vegetable had helped to decrease infant mortality rates in Ireland and helped make the Irish people literally stronger than their British rulers.

 Although the Great Potato Famine destroyed potato crops across Ireland in the early to late 1840s, it spurred new plant breeding programs and the introduction of disease-resistant potato varieties. The famine is credited by many historians with stimulating modern agricultural science.

 ‘The potato’s history underpins it as a unique symbol of strength,’ says Ball. ‘Combined with the usual proximity to the first day of spring, St. Patrick’s Day potato planting is a deeply ingrained Irish tradition.’ “

(Source Burpee Seed Company)

Here at the Cupp Farm, we do like to get our potatoes in by St. Patrick’s Day, but it always depends on the weather.  We have been known to have snow on the ground and frequently it is too muddy to get them in by St Patrick’s Day.  Whether we get the potatoes in the ground “on time” or not, we always work hard to grow our potatoes, which happens to be our largest (garden) crop.  We grow red potatoes, Kennebec potatoes, and Russet Potatoes.  Often, we grow Yukon Gold and Sweet Potatoes as well.  We love our potatoes and many people in our community love them too!

Resources:

Eight Things You May Not Know About Daylight Saving Time

Ten Children’s Books about Gardening

Growing Potatoes with Kids

A Preschool Potatoe Curriculum

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