Every second Saturday in February we hold Potato Day, where we sell a variety of seed potatoes at great prices. We usually run a cafe and it's a chaotic and friendly place to get your pototoes and grab a bite to eat.
We've been running a potato day for a long time now. Some history of our Potato Day is below. And don't miss the Potato Day song from 2015.
Potato Day started in West Yorkshire in the late 1990s. At the time, in the 1990’s Calder Valley Organic Group ran a potato day event and a few people from WYOG went along to Mytholmroyd to buy some seed potatoes. it was difficult to buy a wide range of seed potato varieties without sending away to specialists which was expensive due to the cost of postage. At the event they chatted to people at CVOG and asked them if it would be ok for WYOG to do one the following year, as they were planning on having a year off. They said yes, we wrote to their contact Alan Romans for his support and seed potato knowledge and we bought through Specialist Seed Potatoes for our first few events. At the first event, held at the Carlisle Road Business Centre, we had ordered 2.1 tonnes of 110 varieties of seed potatoes, it snowed, and after a really successful event, we still had 700kg to get home and sell, which we did over the next month! We were helped at the event by Eric and Elsie Ostle, Mid Yorks Group members, and they and we all brought savoury and sweet snacks to sell!
CVOG returned to running their potato day the next year and WYOG moved their to Shipley College,. so there would be events in Calderdale and Airedale, and we have ben there ever since, through the support and hard work of their staff in particular Martin Bijl and Cath Russell. Many of our 2000's events had Alan Romans and his team, providing valuable potato information and also selling a selection of pea and bean seeds and onion and shallot sets. Later years events have included talks with Alan Romans and Martin Bijl about potato varieties and breeding for blight resistant varieties, (which is still happening in the form of an informal growing forum, run through Alan Romans) and David Shaw from the Sarvari Trust where the research on Sarpo seed potatoes has been carried out in Britain.
Over the years we've been supported by these companies to supply our selection of seed potatoes - Specialist Seed Potatoes, WCF and wcfhorticulture, Skeaorganics, Sarvari Trust for the Sarpo varieties, and Potatohouse.
Our aim was and still is to supply a range of varieties, some familiar some not, to organic growers and others who would be happy to try growing something new or different. We've managed to supply hundreds of varieties over the years including the only three colour tuber - white with blue and red flecks called 'Mr. Little's Yetholm Gypsy' and the oldest variety still available called 'Fortyfold' - developed in the north, near Preston, Lancashire. around 1830-36 and still available to grow!
In the early 2000s, a cafe which became The Wholegrain Cafe, serving meals, drinks, and snacks produced by local members, became a feature of the day, along with stalls by local food growers and producers, organic composts and local charities. Finally, a Seed Swap run by local growing group Veg on the Edge was set up on Potato Day for the first time in 2017.
Over the years, seed potato suppliers, hardware stores and garden centres have caught on to the demand so that it is now possible to buy more varieties in smaller quantities so, in some respects, our Potato Day, along with others run by similar groups around the country, can be seen as blazing a trail which has allowed more varieties to be grown. Although our sales have reduced over the years as a result, Potato Day continues to be a well attended event up to Covid leading to its cancellation in 2021 and 2022. Usually, about 40 potato varieties are on offer, approximately 50% being organic,
What hasn’t been said so far is what fantastic fun Potato Day is. Crowds of enthusiastic people often queue round the block waiting for the event to open. And when it does, we get a tremendous scrum as everyone is so keen to get the best choice of spuds. We get on-air support from Graham Porter, Radio Leeds Sunday Gardening expert, which has brought even more people along. Having recently had to take the difficult decision to cancel Potato Day for a second year, it is difficult to predict what the future holds. However, the group has been selling spuds for over 30 years to brilliant enthusiastic local growers so it would be no surprise if it continued.