FOR Bill Kingham the 1960s-era potato grader he demonstrated to crowds of onlookers on Saturday isn’t just a piece of antique machinery, it’s an item that made his life a lot easier for the 46 years he grew potatoes near Millthorpe.
He said Millthorpe was well known for potatoes up until the 1980s before the popularity of red soil potatoes grown at Dorrigo and Robertson took over.
“It used to be one of the main potato growing districts in the state back in the 1950s and 1960s along with places like Guyra, which is a high-tablelands area like Millthorpe,” Mr Kingham said.
“The soil here is light brown and it just doesn’t look quite as nice but they all have the same sort of flavour.
“One of the biggest problems with this area was the potato moth which used to burrow into them.”
The electric machine, made in South Australia, was gentler on the vegetables’ skins and quicker than Mr Kingham’s 1940s-era model it replaced.
“You could grade a couple of hundred bags in a day,” he said.
Using pronged rollers the machine rolls the potatoes down into 65 kilogram bags while someone stands nearby picking out the second grade potatoes, with the smaller vegetables used as seed potatoes.
In the height of his potato-growing years, Mr Kingham would set aside a couple of days for digging and other days for grading.
He donated the machine to the museum in 2005.
“I went out of growing potatoes and thought it was a good idea to put it in the museum,” he said.
Mr Kingham said many of the curious onlookers were surprised to hear smaller potatoes were stored and later resewn in November.
“When spring comes and the weather warms up you put them in the cool store to stop them from shooting,” he said.
“Otherwise you’d have shoots six inches high.”