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spud pickers

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Student spud pickers pitch in Bud the Spud would be proud By Chris Woodall Pemberton’s potato farmers got a small but gratefully accepted helping hand from area high school students, Oct. 10, who helped harvest this year's extra-muddy crop. Wet weather turned some fields to such muck that farmers weren't able to bring in machinery to get their crops off. When Pemberton Secondary School principal Ron Albertin heard about it, he enlisted 45 Grade 8-12 students to roll up their sleeves to help out. Senior students can use the day they worked at one of five farms for credit to fulfil a quota of volunteer hours required to complete a leadership or phys. ed. 12 course. For younger students, it was a chance to get a day off school to do something to help the community. Volunteer hours usually include working at the recreation centre, assisting with track meets or helping around the school or community, but this call for assistance was something different. "The farmers here are in pretty brutal shape," Albertin says of coping with sodden fields. Some students finished their day convinced that potato growing wouldn't be for them, but they were happy to have helped out. "It's a great experience for the kids," Albertin says. "We made a very small dent, but it was a dent," he says of the hefty over-all task to harvest the potatoes before water rots the crop. Albertin estimates that his students picked 15 tons of potatoes. In one field, the farmer could till the crop to bring the potatoes to the surface, but the heavy mud meant he couldn't bring in trucks and machinery to scoop the root vegetables off the ground. In another field, the muck was too soft even for the initial tilling. Students there had to dig the taters out by hand. "In some spots you could sink your boots in up to eight inches with no problem," Albertin says. The ball started rolling when one of the secretaries at the Howe Sound school board office — whose brother is a potato grower — mentioned the tough time the farmers were having. Albertin then got a call from board superintendent Mike Fitzpatrick asking if the school could help out. The Pemberton principal next phoned the potato growers association, "and they took it from there," to find farmers who'd appreciate the help, Albertin says. A school bus dropped the students where they were needed, picking them up at 2 p.m. to get back to school for their trips home. "The kids would love to go again," Albertin says, although another rescue effort isn't planned.

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