Walsh family busy harvesting ahead of the Great Trentham Spudfest

HARVEST TIME: 12-year-old Malachy Walsh, 10-year-old Saffron Thek and 8-year-old Roisin Walsh helping out with the potato harvest. Photo: Kate Healy

HARVEST TIME: 12-year-old Malachy Walsh, 10-year-old Saffron Thek and 8-year-old Roisin Walsh helping out with the potato harvest. Photo: Kate Healy

FARMERS FROM across the region are harvesting their potato crops in order to participate in this year's Great Trentham Spudfest.

Now in its 12th year, the festival is a way for the town to highlight and celebrate its potato-growing heritage with visitors.

Denis and Alison Walsh, who run Trentham Potato Co., are harvesting five varieties of potatoes - Russet Burbank, Nicola, Maris Piper, Kennebec and Sapphire - to bring to this year's festival.

They also grow King Edward potatoes but these will not be ready in time for the festival.

The Walshs recently returned from a trip to a potato research centre in Scotland where they learnt about a new potato variety which they will soon begin growing and hope will be able to show off at next year's festival. They will be the first to grow the new variety in Australia.

For the Walshs, crop harvesting is a time of year when everybody in the family pitches in and even the neighbours lend a hand.

Mr Walsh grew up in Trentham and purchased his potato farm with his wife about 13 years ago.

"Growing spuds was a way that we could live here and work on the land - growing up on a farm myself, farming was always in my blood," he said.

The Walshs are boutique farmers who grow between five and six acres of potatoes each year.

They sell their produce directly to consumers at farmer's markets, including in Melbourne twice a week, and also supply a number of restaurants.

"We are boutique farmers who sell our produce at farmer's markets and supply chefs rather than to a big company," he said.

"By being niche we can really maximise what we get off a small area rather than having to farm on a larger scale."

Mr Walsh said Trentham Potato Co. does not spray its crops with chemicals and though this sometimes makes the growing season a little longer for some varieties, though they are all sown at the same time, consumers were increasingly looking for this kind of produce.

"[At farmer's markets] people appreciate the contact with a grower and the fact we don't use chemicals," Mr Walsh said.

"Unlike most commercial growers, we don't spray to kill the tops of the spuds off so they are dying off naturally."

The Great Trentham Spudfest will be hosted on Saturday, May 4 from 10am to 4pm at a number of sites across the township. The 'spud hub' will be located at Quarry Street Reserve.

Festival organisers are still looking for 'spud buddy' volunteers to assist on the Friday prior and on the day of the event.

To lend a hand, call Caroline on 0438 389 331 or email spudbuddies@trenthamspudfest.org.au