«Potetferie»

A fall day at Øverland Arboret in Bærum

Week 40 is time for the fall vacation in the Oslo region. Until the 1970’s it was often called “potetferie” or potato holidays. School children would have two or three days off school to help the farmers to pick potatoes. This routine probably started after World War II when food was scarce in Norway and help was needed to harvest it. I can remember that my older brother worked on a neighbouring farm during the potetferie, along with his classmates, it must have been the early 1960’s. The day finished with dinner and a small remuneration. By the time I reached his age, this practise had ended. Some participants tell stories of cold days wearing mittens.

Today many families spend the fall vacation week at their cabin in the mountains, often three generations living together. Most cabins nowadays have all the amenities: indoor water, electric heating and often a touch of luxury in the way of food and drink. The good cabin life in Norway is a contrast to how it was in earlier times, when life was very spartan.

Ångardsvatnet i Storlidalen

In the mountains, high up, snow might have arrived by the end of September. I used to stay in my parents’ cabin at 700 meters above sea level, some years we would have summer temperatures, while another year I had to push the pram with my son through 30 centimetres of snow.

Other countries have also had the same practice regarding picking potatoes. The Scotsman (A Scottish national newspaper), from October 11th 2017, wrote: Remembering the ‘tattie holidays’? Freezing mornings, sore hands and muddy sandwiches were all part of life in the fields during the tattie holidays.

So perhaps this is a universal way of organizing harvesting?

In our Covid-age, with restrictions on the annual influx of seasonal farm workers from abroad, it might solve a problem we have in Norway and which they also seem to have in Great Britain at present, the problem of providing enough manpower to harvest all the farm produce.

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