September 16, 2002 - "Sweet Potato Harvest"

It's a dirty job. Fortunately there are lots of folks in Acadia Parish willing to do it. Every September the huge yam digging wagons hit the fields at Garber Farms near Iota.

They'll be here through most of October. They've got 550 acres of sweet potatoes to harvest. The farm wasn't always this big, but there weren't big ol' yam diggers like this, either.

As Michael Garber shows Allen around, he says that his granddad used to dig the crop by hand. On a good day he could dig maybe 500 bushels, says Michael. With the modern harvesting equipment, he says, "We can dig about 8,000 bushels a day!"

These days the tractor-pulled wagons do most of the back-breaking work, and the sorting and grading can start right there in the field. "We try to do what we call field grading to start the grading process," explains Michael. "That way when we pack them in the shed for the fresh market, there's not much involved."

But even in the days of diesel and iron, there have to be feet in the field -- and someone to do the bending and stooping, like the two men treading through the dirt behind the giant digging machine. "They're picking up everything that comes off the side of the digger, that falls off the back."

Sixteen million pounds of yams will come from these fields between now and Halloween. That's a lot of sweet potato pie!