Mooy's potato planting benefits local food banks
BY DENNY SCOTT
For the past several years, Blyth’s Herman Mooy has shown how potatoes used to be harvested as part of the annual reunion of the Huron Pioneer Thresher and Hobby Association.
In 2016, Mooy took a plot of land at the northeastern corner of the Blyth Campground and turned it into a demonstration space for his 1928 McCormick Deering vintage potato picker.
The story of how the demonstration came to be, however, starts a little earlier.
Mooy originally started farming potatoes with the Michigan-built vintage potato picker several years earlier on the home of Gary and Chris Courtney, just outside of Blyth.
He and Chris spent two seasons planting, maintaining and harvesting crops before the picker first appeared at the plowing match.
“Coming from Alliston originally, getting into potatoes made sense,” he said. “It’s a big-time thing up there.”
It wasn’t long before Mooy realized that what he had been doing with the Courtneys fit nicely with the demonstrations and models that were on display throughout the annual reunion of the Huron Pioneer Threshing and Hobby Association.
“I approached the executive and asked if a demonstration would work out,” he said. “I made it clear, from the beginning, that this was a non-profit venture and asked who would be interested in seeing it.”
The potato picker was actually designed to be pulled by horses and has been modified to hook on to a tractor, however Mooy’s Ford 1953 Golden Jubilee Tractor couldn’t be used for the project.
“It went too fast,” Mooy explained. “Even in first gear, it was just going too fast and would be done shortly after it started.”
He used a tractor provided by fellow association member Barry Young in the demonstration’s first year, and, by the time the 2017 reunion rolled around, he had purchased his own 1948 Model M John Deere which pulled a little slower than the Ford, allowing people to see the inner workings of the picking machine.
Mooy said, when the reunion is able to happen again after the pandemic, he welcomes young people to come out and grab a few potatoes and put them in a basket to help with the project. As a reward, the children will get to take some home.
Mooy takes what he needs for the season from the potato harvest and then donates the rest to a local food bank. In his first year, for example, he gave much of the harvest to the Salvation Army in Wingham.
This year he will be repeating that. Mooy had planted 600 potato plants this year and, as of last week, 550 had sprouted and will soon be ready to harvest. He said he intends to donate the crop again to the WIngham branch of the Salvation Army to help support the food bank.