Five years ago my local horticultural society was on the brink of extinction. Membership numbers had dwindled and the society was losing hundreds of pounds every year. The main expense was the putting on of the shows. Something had to change or the society would have been forced to close its doors for good.
In recent years we have tried many different things to try and encourage more people to attend out shows. One of the ways we have tried to do this has been through the launch of a seed potato growing competition. Each member is able to purchase for a nominal fee one seed potato and one bag. They have to take them away with them, pot them up and grow them on. They then have to bring their potato bag to the Autumn Show for the big weigh in.
In its inaugural year twelve bags were brought to the Autumn Show. The winner, Andy Gaskin, managed to grow 2.4kg of potatoes from his bag. Although twelve does not seem like a great number it was the most popular class in the whole show. The competition had added an extra dimension to the show as many people were excited to watch the big weigh in. It was without doubt a great success.
For 2017 I have taken on the role of Show Secretary for the society. My goals were to make the shows more popular with people in terms of showing and visiting. At the same time I wanted to try and make the shows profitable for the society. It also meant for this year that I would be responsible for the seed growing potato competition. I started by looking for sponsors for the competition itself. I was thrilled when I got the news from Thompson & Morgan that they would agree to sponsor this year’s competition. We were sent 60 nine litre bags and some “Jazzy” seed potatoes. At our February monthly meeting the seed potatoes were distributed to the membership.
Before I knew it, September had rolled around and it was time for our Autumn Show. I was hoping that this year we would beat the number of bags returned from last year. To my amazement we managed to get thirty bags to the weigh in and it took over an hour to weigh all them! The winner managed to get 1.4kg from the 9 litre bag. It had been a hugely successful competition.
I believe this simple competition has had a huge impact on our society. It is so easy to get involved with and generates friendly competition between the members of the society. It gives people more of a reason to come to the show and it has generated income for the society. Most importantly, it helps to break down the stigma attached to Horticultural Shows that you need to be an expert to enter them. It encourages anyone to get a seed potato and a bag and have a go.
I hope to build on the success of this year’s competition and make it bigger and better for next year. I would like to thank Thompson & Morgan for their support and hope this competition continues to help this small village horticultural society thrive.
My name is Thomas Carpenter and I live in Essex. At my home I have a vegetable patch and greenhouse where I grow a range of flowers and vegetables for both the show bench and for eating. I am the Show Secretary for my local horticultural society and have been a member there for the last eight years. Currently I am in training with the Essex Guild of Horticultural Judges and the National Vegetable Society. I have a real passion for growing and showing vegetables as well as encouraging children and young people to get involved with horticulture.
I am the Show Secretary for Capel St Mary Allotments Association. When we organise our draft Show Schedule in January I will suggest your idea. We have had several other ideas for participation in the past years, from counting how many sweet pea seeds in a packet to growing the largest sunflower seed head, the latter was very popular and ran for many years. We like to ensure that all our members and the general public can be involved . The potatoe idea may not be so exiting for those who do not have a veggie plot.
Thanks for your comment and I like your ideas on how to encourage members to get more involved. We also run daffodil and tulip bulb competitions. Anyone who got a seed potato also got a bag to plant it in. This makes it a fairer competition and also means those without Vegetable patches or even gardens could give it a go!
I really enjoyed growing my seed potato. I do not currently have a vegetable patch, but 1 potato bag didn’t take up any room. I grew just over 1kg of potatoes – I was amazed, I wasn’t expecting anything. And……… the ‘Jazzy’ salad potatoes were delicious. It has encouraged me to grow some more next year!