Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the origins and growth of the agriculture industry in Southeast Georgia and Bulloch County.
The Bulloch Times issue of April 1, 1916 included an article entitled “Grow Sweet Potatoes is the Advice to Farmers. U.S. Department of Agriculture Issues Special Bulletin on the Subject.”
It revealed that “there is a large supply of Irish storage potatoes in Northern storehouses, and consequently truck growers will receive small returns for their potato crops this year.”
The paper declared that “the sweet potato crop is one of the most important in the south and that the acreage could be greatly increased without reducing the unit value of the crop.”
And, “Irish potatoes can be found in the market all the year round, but sweet potatoes are scarce even in southern market at some seasons of the year.”
The Thursday, June 3, 1920 edition of the Bulloch Times and Statesboro News reported that local citizens were organizing a potato curing house and cannery.
The newspaper declared, “Plans are about to be set afoot for the establishment of a potato cannery and curing plant...the community have expressed hearty approval of the proposition.”
The intention is to create a local market for sweet p0tatoes and to encourage their production.” Furthermore, “Many towns in this section of the state have already erected curing plants.”
Then, the Dublin Courier-Herald’s editor declared, ‘Sweet potatoes are the coming crop (and) potato houses are...a prominent factor in making the sweet potato crop profitable.
The editorial stated “the sweet potato has never been anything more than a home product...the merits of the Southern sweet potato (require) some of our people with...the facts...with the sweet potato industry in the South. “
And, “Up (until) two years ago, the Southern sweet potato had a very slim chance of being consumed in the East (instead of) the Jersey yams, simply because no one had (eaten) the Southern sweet potato.”
Continuing, “The superiority of the Southern grown sweet potato over the Eastern potato is recognized by all who have tried the two.” New Jersey yams could not compete with Southern grown sweet potatoes.
The paper explained how the Southern sweet potato required a different handling method because “all that were made rotted for lack of being properly cured...curing them in the banks is not satisfactory.”
However, “the kiln dried potatoes have been shipped more than 3,000 miles and arrived in good condition and sold at handsome prices... (and) from January to June....the best prices are to be had.”
The Bulloch Herald of April 7, 1960 announced “Sweet Potato Curing Plant to be Built Near Statesboro.” An $80,000 sweet potato curing plant will be constructed here by the State Department of Agriculture.
Roy Kelly, president of the Bulloch County Growers Association said the plant will be built on a site two miles northwest of Statesboro on U.S. 80 and 25.
The building will contain approximately 13,000 square feet and will be completely equipped, Boyce Dyer, market director of the state department said. It will be completed in time to cure the 1960 crop, Dyer added.
Potatoes are cured for approximately five days under controlled heat and humidity conditions, waxed, grated, then shipped to markets in bushel containers.
Bulloch growers processed and sold approximately 10,000 bushels during the 1959 season, and 25,000 bushels are expected in the 1960 crop. The Bulloch Growers Association was formed in 1959.
The Association since then has marketed its potatoes in Atlanta, Chattanooga, Jacksonville, Orlando, the Piggly-Wiggly and Winn-Dixie chains.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.