History: Potatoes pop early near Snowmass | AspenTimes.com

History: Potatoes pop early near Snowmass

A group of men harvest potatoes with a horse-drawn digger sometime in the early 1900’s.
Aspen Historical Society

Auzel H. Gerbaz, a resident of the property now known as Aspen Village, wrote an article called, “Potato Digging started in valley; Spuds Bring $1.65” that ran in The Aspen Times circa Sept. 24, 1936. The story details the intricacies of potato harvesting. “The first killing frost on this ranch came September 15, nearly two weeks earlier than the first killing frost in 1935. This was a light killing frost, nipping the top of the potato vines. Several other light killing frosts have followed the first one. Crop reports around the first week in September showed prospects for 30,000,000 to 50,000,000 bushels more of potatoes in the United States. This had the effect of depressing the price of potatoes. Within the past two weeks, several carloads of potatoes have been rolling from the lower valley at around $1.65. The price will be further depressed until October when the peak in potato shipments will have been reached. There has been talk of $3.00 potatoes by spring. … In the upper Roaring Fork Valley potato digging starts earlier than in the lower valley on account of frosts which get heavy by the middle of October; also deer and elk hunting season opens October 12, and many farmers take part in the hunt both in gunning for the big game and transporting hunters. Speed always counts in digging and picking. A digger should be in first class shape before it is run out into the field. A number of farmers have been buying new diggers for this fall. Worn out diggers will cause bigger losses in a season when potatoes are worth more than usual. There are a number of good makes of potato diggers on the market. Before a new digger is bought it pays to see one in operation under conditions which the diggers work better under certain conditions than others as for example: hillside fields. Width of diggers is also important according to the width of potato rows usually planted. A digger blade should always be sharp and when worn, replaced by a new one. The right operation of the digger will save money; if set too deep, potatoes are buried; If too shallow; potatoes will be cut. A good potato digger operator can save potatoes from being sliced or buried.”