Past and present of hum­ble spud cel­e­brated

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS -

“I think this just shows that the old coun­try ways are still alive and val­ued in places like this. For­get your so­cial me­dia, chil­dren here still en­joy the sim­ple things,” she said.

“This com­mu­nity re­ally is like an ex­tended fam­ily and fes­ti­vals such as this bring us all to­gether.”

Ms Mi­tos and her part­ner re­cently bought the Gunns Plains gen­eral store she hopes will re­open early next year.

The pop­u­lar fes­ti­val was can­celled last year after dev­as­tat­ing floods swept through the town.

A bridge across the Leven River was washed away, the lo­cal wildlife park took a ham­mer­ing and pad­docks were flooded. Nine fam­i­lies were iso­lated.

At the time, the Tas­ma­nian Farm­ers and Gra­ziers As­so­ci­a­tion said bout 20 per cent of Tas­ma­nia’s potato crops had been lost.

Dur­ing Tas­ma­nia’s potato boom in 1855 a tonne of spuds fetched 22 pounds at port.

How­ever, prices dived the fol­low­ing year and many farm­ers won­dered if it was worth con­tin­u­ing to ded­i­cate land to the crop.

But in 2017 the in­dus­try has a farm gate value of $82.5m and about 360,000 tonnes of pota­toes are grown in Tas­ma­nia’s North-West each year for the com­mer­cial mar­ket.

Har­vest­ing the crop is much faster th­ese days with a three-per­son me­chan­i­cal har­vester crew be­ing able to col­lect 100 tonnes a day.

The state grows 25 per cent of the na­tion’s to­tal potato har­vest.

About 90 per cent of the spuds grown in the state go to fac­to­ries churn­ing out frozen chips and hash browns for KFC, McCain, Bird’s Eye and McDon­alds.

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