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Orrick’s ties with taters

Pictured are those attending the 1932 potato growers’ tour in Orrick. The tour was held annually, attracting growers, buyers and railroad agents. (Photo by David Knopf/Richmond News)

Pictured are those attending the 1932 potato growers’ tour in Orrick. The tour was held annually, attracting growers, buyers and railroad agents. (Photo by David Knopf/Richmond News)

By David Knopf/Richmond News

Orrick kids don’t doubt for a moment they live in a farm community. They grow up surrounded by grain elevators, farm vehicles and acres of acres of fertile cropland. What other conclusion can they draw?

But few are likely to know much about potatoes, and their storied role in hometown history.

Some Orrick Potato District history is recorded in the 1973 Ray County History book, and in local historian Bill Paulson description of the impact the potato growers had, not just on Orrick, but on distribution to and from Chicago.

“In the first half of the Twentieth Century, (potatoes) played a major role in the economy of Orrick,” he wrote in his Orrick As I Remember – Plus. “Not only a good cash crop for the farmers, but during harvest several hundred field workers spent a sizeable part of their earnings with local merchants.

“There was also as many as twenty-five potato buyers in Orrick for the season: railroad freight agents soliciting business and as many as fifteen Federal-State inspectors here.”

Paulson, now deceased, added his own humorous spin – using his first-hand knowledge of the community – when he described what kept the out-of-towners going.

“They all stayed in Orrick as long as they could justify, wanting just one more of Mrs. Galle’s or Mrs. Hord’s meals,” he wrote. “The bootleggers did a good business, too.”

Orrick farmers grew potatoes commercially as early as 1895, began trucking them out of fields in 1919 and then, as production increased, moved on to railroad cars. The local potatoes were shipped in such quantity that someone in the Chicago Produce Terminal told a group of foreign journalists that a man he knew, the Orrick-based father-in-law of a local writer,“use to have a train load of potatoes on the Chicago market every day during the summer months. Not one train a week, but a train every day,” according to Paulson, the local historian.

The complete story is in the Thursday, April 23, 2015 Richmond News.

Click here for our E-edition and read the rest of the story.

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