New life for historic machine

Jeff Wendland and Sam Higgins with the vintage potato harvester which Mr Higgins will give new life, restoring it to be used at Mala Homegrown. PHOTO: MITCHELL PATERSON 363548_01

A vintage piece of potato farming equipment is being given new life, decades on from when it was first put to use on Eyre Peninsula.

The machine has been acquired by Port Lincoln’s Sam Higgins, who is working to restore the historic equipment to harvest potatoes at his small business, Mala Homegrown.

“We grow chemical free veggies and have gone big on planting potatoes this year,” he said.

“We have about 30 different veggies we are growing at the moment – it’s all seasonal stuff.

“We discovered this potato harvesting machine sitting in Jeff’s yard as a piece of garden art, so now we are working on getting it up and running to use.”

Jeff Wendland, who formerly farmed potatoes commercially, and ran The Potato Place in Edinburgh Street, owned the machine and used it to harvest his potatoes.

He said it was difficult to work out exactly how old the piece of equipment was.

“It would have to be from before the 60s. It is probably from the 1940s or perhaps late 30s,” Mr Wendland said.

The machine was sent over in 1970 and used by local grower Matt Walker and assistant Paddy Wilks to harvest the 10-acre potato patch on the Wendlands property at Coomunga.

According to a Port Lincoln Times article from January 1970, potatoes had not been harvested commercially on Eyre Peninsula prior to the machine arriving at Coomunga.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, the machine was used to harvest swedes and turnips as well as potatoes.

The harvester machine was towed by a tractor, and worked with the shear going in under the mound, digging the potatoes out and onto the spinning conveyor, where the big potatoes stayed on the conveyor and small chat potatoes and dirt fell through.

The small, tasty chat potatoes were then later collected from the surface.