Spuds at Spud’s

I’ve come to the conclusion I’ll have to start wearing platform shoes if I spend any more time on farms.

I understand the need for giant cars when you’re driving across bumpy and muddy terrain, but does the clutch on four-wheel drive cars really have to be so toe-stretchingly far from the seat?

I’d borrowed Ed’s Jeep to drive a few kilometres down the road to visit sheep farmer, potato grower and fishing coach, Vaughan.
And despite being rammed up against the windscreen, my titchy hobbit legs could barely reach the pedals.

I’d had to slide of my seat and propel myself into the foot-well to be able to change from first to second gear, and not trusting myself to manage the same feat to get into third, I ended up driving the whole way to Vaughan’s farm at 30km.

Potato planting
Vaughan grows potatoes on 1000 acres for Western Potatoes. WP is the last of Australia’s agricultural markets which is still regulated, which means Vaughan has a secure price of about $360/t and a guaranteed market for his produce.

The retailers are still as picky in what they will accept and the kind of spuds they want Vaughan to grow, but he doesn’t have to have any direct dealings with them when it comes to securing contracts.

It’s a system that suits Vaughan as it takes the headache out of marketing crops and gives him spare time to go and play cricket or watch people catch giant fish. It does make potato production a rather elitist industry though as it’s very difficult for new entrants who can’t afford the expensive growers’ licences to grow spuds commercially.

Vaughan's fields
Anyway, Vaughan was seeding yesterday so he invited me along to help, or rather, talk at him in the tractor for a couple of hours while he made very straight, non-GPS-aided lines in his paddocks.

He plants on a three-year rotation of clover pasture which he ploughs into the soil in the spring, but the dirt still needs the help of a tonne of fertiliser per acre once the spuds are in the ground.

His soils were some of the better, red-type I’ve seen, with plenty of clay, but despite being irrigated earlier in the day it still looked as dry as anything to me. Now the seeds are in he’ll irrigate with an inch of water every three days, the water taken from his ground-source allowance.

Probably keen to restore silence to his John Deere, after a few laps of the paddock Vaughan dropped me back at the Jeep to make the drive back home.

I had the good sense to wait until he’d pulled out of the yard before I attempted my graceful ‘footwell bounce’ to put the thing in gear, and eventually I managed to amble along back to Ed’s place.

Admittedly it was slightly embarrassing when I got overtaken by the golf carts which are used by local winery workers to trundle through the vines, but seeing as the Jeep windows are tinted I figured it’d be Ed who’ll get the reputation for being a terrible driver…

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2 Responses to “Spuds at Spud’s”

  1. Simon

    So that fish wasn’t very big after all, you’re a midget.

    Will you be moving on to a mushy-pea farm next?

  2. Organic duck

    Hi Caroline, I had a college friend about your height that struggled to reach the tractor pedals on her Pre college farm so gave up the idea of farming and became a crop walker. If the average height of women is around 5’4” then why are these machines built for tall people Surely there must be some sort of EU regultion about it.