A group of hardy England Prairie Pioneer Club members from across the region assembled on a freshly-tilled section of the property Friday, May 8, hopeful for the promise of harvest.

The only concern about distancing among the group was that the potatoes going in the ground would be spread out evenly so when the soil warmed and the plants grew, the new potatoes would have enough room to flourish.

Key players that morning were Matt and Major, two Percheron horses geared up to pull a New Aspinwall potato planter owned by Don Copa of Little Falls. While the age of the planter was unknown, these planters were made around the turn of the century. Mel Klein brought his horses and Copa's planter in the back of his horse trailer. A half dozen England Prairie Pioneer Club members helped empty the trailer, pour in the seed potatoes and watch the team at work.

Rudy Loxtercamp (right) checks out the potatoes dropping from the hoppers with Don Copa, while Mel Klein keeps the team in place.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Rudy Loxtercamp (right) checks out the potatoes dropping from the hoppers with Don Copa, while Mel Klein keeps the team in place. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

While the wind was howling out of the north, the group smiled and took pictures as the only sound of the work was that of the discs striking occasional rocks and the metallic sounds of the horse hardware clanging against the potato planter attachments. What would have taken the group considerable time and bending over, took the planting team about 15 minutes with plenty of breaks to make sure the equipment was working as it should.

As Klein told his team to stop after the 10th and final row. Copa looked in the hopper to see if they were nearly done.

"One potato left," Copa announced.

"Well you can plant that one by hand," Klein replied.

Mel Klein of Clearwater rides the potato planter behind the team of Major and Matt, Friday, May 8, at England Prairie.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Mel Klein of Clearwater rides the potato planter behind the team of Major and Matt, Friday, May 8, at England Prairie. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

The England Prairie Club started planting potatoes last year. Club president Shelly Dukowitz said at last year's main event, Pioneer Days, in August, the group harvested the potatoes and let families follow the rows and take all the potatoes they could handle. The club and event showcases the farming practices and ways of life from the early days of this region's history.

Whether there will be an event this year or not is currently in question. It would be the 41st annual event for the club.

"It's all being played by ear," Dukowitz said as the group continues to follow the directives of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

Dukowitz said they've already heard of numerous other summer events cancelling that the group would normally bring their parade entry to in order to get the word out. It's likely they will not be attending any parades and still unclear what may be allowed in August.

The show days were scheduled for Aug. 21-23. In the meantime, they'll keep the place maintained and hope a heavy harvest of potatoes is ready to greet visitors near the close of summer.