Veteran potato harvester in Norfolk vintage event

A vintage potato harvester has been given a new lease of life by Norfolk workshop fitter Colin Hensby to show how crops were lifted half a century ago.

And visitors will be able to pick their own potatoes at tomorrow's vintage machinery working event at Skeyton, near North Walsham.

Specialist potato grower Tom Randell, who is hosting the event at Brecks Farm, decided to get the single-row Massey-Ferguson 711 harvester ready for the Michaelmas Trosh.

It will be towed by a grey and gold Massey-Ferguson 35

With a group of fellow machinery enthusiasts, led by Graham Kirk, of nearby Banningham, they decided to arrange the potato harvesting theme alongside the more traditional steam threshing and other working tractors and engines.


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Mr Randell, of Beech Farm, who also grows about 200 acres of potatoes, has prepared another veteran harvester for the big day. It is an early single-row Grimme, which also dates from the early 1960s.

And it is just a bit smaller than his latest top-of-the-range machine, which is capable of lifting about nine acres of potatoes a day.

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'If we were very lucky the MF 711 could lift an acre a day,' said Mr Randell, who is also holding the event partly in memory of his late brother, Paddy, who died in February. 'We thought that it would be nice to have a go with some old bits of machinery – and show what we used to do all these years ago.

'In those days, we were probably getting about 10 or 11 tons an acre. Today, we're looking for 20 tonnes plus, so it is a complete turnaround.'

In preparation for the potato day, a three-strong team and Mr Kirk, planted about an acre of the variety, Marfona, which is also grown for the 'bag trade' and supplied to farm shops and garden centres. They used a Ferguson 35 tractor and a 1954 planter, designed by the legendary Harry Ferguson, to plant the commercial crop.

Then, the three-row planter attachment cost a grand total of about �58 including �25 10s for the 3.5cwt hopper.

A Ransomes harvester will also be working in the field to pick the potatoes, said Mr Randell. 'We're going to have an old 'hoover' out there. If anybody wants to pick a bag of spuds up, then we'll sell them. It is what they used to do a long while ago. You don't see hardly of any of that done nowadays.'

'It will be a nostalgia event, a vintage farming working event.' As Mr Randell has just started lifting potatoes in earnest and in store, his latest �300,000 Grimme, complete with picking table for four staff, will be working at quickly as possible in the increasingly dry conditions. 'It is getting a bit dry at the moment – but I don't quite know what is going to happen from now on but it is getting a bit dry. We don't want to bruise the crop.'

John Mack, of Bodham, is bringing a steam engine for the threshing and there will be ploughing and cultivating, said Mr Kirk.

Entry costs �3 for adults, children free. It starts at 10am and ends at 4pm.

Postcode NR10 5AW.

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