ALBERRY PLAINS – The rain may be finally arriving, but potato growers know they’ve been basking in some of the finest weather in years as they complete the fall harvest.
“You couldn’t ask for better these past few weeks,’’ says Glen Jay aboard the largest harvester in the province. “Soil is dry and there’s no mud to foul up the conveyors.”
Jay is operating a harvester than can scoop up to 18 rows at a time as he skirts across an open sandy field near Vernon River in southeastern P.E.I. That’s up to four times the capacity of a regular machine and it’s pulled by a tractor equipped with caterpillar track instead of wheels.
The smells of the warm red earth competes with the diesel from the bright green tractor as patchy white gulls hover around the behemoth turning the soil. Instead of mud splotched, clean white potatoes sit in the sunshine and in the drills waiting to be scooped up.
“It’s so dry this fall we actually harvested that back field, for the first time in 20 years, without having to tow a truck out of the mud,” he says after inviting The Guardian up into the cab. “I’d say we have an average crop this year.”
Fit and friendly, Jay offers snatches of conversation in the noisy cab of the tractor while maintaining the balancing act of keeping the conveyor chute dropping potatoes into the belly of the truck alongside.
The weather has been so co-operative since early October that most of the province’s largest crop — roughly 85,000 acres — should be in the warehouses before Halloween.
“I do all the work,’’ says Jay with a smile. “And my brother (Irwin Jay) gets all the headaches.”
One of the largest operations in the east, the Jay farm is based in Pisquid near Mount Stewart.