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A humble potato means so much more than it appears, writes Pamela Loxley Drake.

COURTESY PHOTO - Pamela Loxley DrakeThe grocers' shelf. Farmers' markets. The garden behind the house.

We shop for it, we have it delivered, we pick it up, and, once in a while, someone puts it in the trunk of the car.

The time of COVID. A time of appreciation for the caregivers of the earth. A time to think of the soil that covers this planet and the bounty it gives us.

From planting to harvest, it took only about 90 days. The rich soil hid its treasures, but the farmer knew the time was right.

It was fall and time to dig potatoes. My legs were short and my knees knobby when my mom took me to the potato fields. My sisters have memories of working in the fields, while I remember sitting at my mother's feet while she counted tags. The women talked and laughed as they did their work. Older kids were in the fields picking up potatoes to gain a little pocket change.COURTESY PHOTO - The aunt and uncle of Pamela Loxley Drake work in a field, picking potatoes, in an old photograph from her family collection.

The pictures are from a time when my parents were young. In the trunk of old pictures, I found this one of my uncle and aunt at work. The other picture is of the men who carried and loaded the heavy burlap bags onto the truck.

A digger was pulled behind the tractor, uncovering the potatoes. According to my sister, each worker was given a few tickets with their identification on them. They were put onto the basket once it was filled.

The wagon them came around to collect the tagged baskets. They were emptied and the ticket returned to the digger. The tickets were taken into the house when the workers were done, where my mom helped count them. Then the potatoes were bagged and loaded onto the truck heading to market.

"I think I made about $1.50 from working after school until dusk," said my sister June.COURTESY PHOTO - Men load up the farm truck with sacks of potatoes in a historical photograph from a family collection.

I only vaguely remember the potato fields, but I do remember the fellowship that happened when neighbors helped neighbors.

Living on a farm means that there is always work to do, and the entire family is expected to pitch in. Even the smallest people. In fact, most of my sweetest memories are of the times our family worked in the fields with neighbors and other relatives. Community.

So when you pick up a potato, know that it is more than just a potato. It is money for the farmer who will invest a good bit into the crop for the next year. That potato holds the sweat and worry of a family working to keep the fields green and alive.

I haven't lived on the farm since I was 18, but I know that farmers are concerned with what the future will bring as this earth warms up. And, if the farmer is worried, so too should we. For in essence, we all belong to the field.

Now is the time to think of the soil that covers this planet and the bounty it gives to us.

Pamela Loxley Drake is a Beaverton resident and self-described lifelong "farm girl."


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