Planting potatoes for farmer’s market sales has now become a one-person operation for Joe Faust at the family’s Berry Dairy produce farm.
Photo By Ray Mueller
Vintage two-row potato planter serves farmer's market family's needs
For the Faust family's Berry Dairy fresh produce enterprise, finding a used two-row potato planter via a classified ad in a recent issue of the Wisconsin State Farmer came just in time to save on labor and time for planting several varieties of potatoes late last month.
The Oliver Iron Age planter, which is ideal for planting relatively small acreages, was obtained from a seller at Union Grove who had used it to plant about three-fourths of an acre of potatoes per year. He was at least the second owner of the planter.
On their farm in northeast Fond du Lac County, Joe and Rosie Faust and their sons Joey and Jeff, along with occasional help from other family members and part-time employees, are growing an increasing variety of berries, vegetables, vine crops and root plants which they sell at multiple farmer's markets during the growing season and beyond.
They also make some sales directly from their farmstead along County HHH about three miles east of Calumetville.
By obtaining the special planter, the Fausts could turn potato planting into a one-person operation compared to the three-person task that it was in the past. In addition to the tractor driver, they needed two persons to place the cut potato seed pieces directly into the chute of the vegetable transplanter which they had been using for planting potatoes.
Operating on the same principle as grain drills and corn planters, the potato planter picks seed pieces from a bin and places them on a rotating finger wheel or carousel before dropping them through a chute into the seed bed. That seed bed is prepared by front shoes which create a small trench that is covered by soil which is moved by a pair of rear disks.
For the process to work properly, the soil needs to be tilled well or be quite sandy.
The cycling rate of the finger wheel means that a potato seed is placed at about every 12 inches.
One potential drawback with the planter is that the eye sprouts on the cut seed pieces could be facing downward or sideways in the soil. The Fausts indicate, however, that this was not a problem when feeding the seed pieces through the vegetable planter.
In the same transaction involving the planter, the Fausts also obtained a power take-off operated two-row John Deere digger to harvest the approximately three-fourths of an acre of potatoes they're growing this year.
The Iron Age name for a line of farm equipment dates to at least 1907, when it belonged to the Bateman Manufacturing Co. of Grenloch, NJ. The company specialized in vegetable seeders, sprayers and harvesting equipment.
In 1930, the Bateman firm was acquired by the A.B. Farquhar Co. of York, PA. This company, which originated as Pennsylvania Agricultural Works before the Civil War and made a wide variety of farm equipment, was sold to the Oliver farm equipment company in 1952. Oliver was then sold to White Motors in 1960.
The vintage of the unit the Fausts now have isn't as clear, but it's likely that it was made after 1952 because it carries the Oliver name. Another indication is that it has rubber tires rather than steel wheels.
The earlier versions of the Iron Age potato planter were smaller, but they operated on the same principle as the Oliver Iron Age unit.
Because of how easily it could be pulled with horses, the Iron Age potato planter has been popular within the Amish community in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
On a Google website search, the top two entries are brief videos (no narration) which depict planting with a unit similar to the one the Fausts now have, although the unit in the videos is identified as a Farmall Oliver Iron Age two-row planter.