“Our Potato-Crop Prayer,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 40–41
Those potatoes changed everything. Early in the spring of 1947, my dad took a week off from his job in the coal mines so he could plant the crops on our small farm in southwestern Colorado. Generally we planted only enough potatoes to get us through the year and used the rest of the ground to raise vegetables for our family—consisting of Dad, Mom, two brothers, and a sister at home—and feed for the cows, pigs, and chickens. Our land was plowed and ready to plant when the missionaries stopped at our house for their weekly meal and visit. Seeing our family, even though we were only partially active in the Church, boosted their spirits as well as ours.
When Dad mentioned his plan to plant the potatoes, the missionaries were eager to help. Dad was nervous about nonfarm men helping, but they were persistent, and he finally agreed. The next morning, the elders arrived just as we kids were getting ready for school. We listened as Dad explained to them how to prepare the seed potatoes for planting. “It’s easy. This is the eye of the potato,” he said, pointing to a small, round bump. “Cut each potato into small pieces and make sure there is at least one eye in each piece. Understand?”
“Oh, yes,” the missionaries replied, and they enthusiastically started working.
Dad left to borrow a team of horses and a potato planter, and we went off to school.
At noon, we arrived home for lunch just in time to view the disaster—the expensive seed potatoes had been ruined! The elders, unaware that each eye needed some of the fleshy part of the potato to nourish its growth, had decided that they would help us by leaving less potato around the eye and more potato for our family to eat. So instead of cutting each potato into seedling cubes with an eye in each cube, they had peeled each potato into very thin circles with an eye in each circle. The rest of the potato was put into a tub so it could be cooked and fed to the family.
Dad was furious when he returned home and saw what had happened. But he did not want to offend the elders, so he dipped the peelings into a solution that protected them from disease and loaded them into the planter. The missionaries, feeling guilty for the serious mistake they had made, waited to help with the planting.
Just before we kids returned to school, we watched our dad drive the potato planter into the field with the elders perched on the back. I knew it would be their job to make sure that only one seedling dropped into the ground at a time. This would be a difficult and time-consuming job, since the planter was designed for a potato cube and not a thin peeling.
The planting was nearly done when we came home from school. Unfortunately, because each peeling had only one eye, not the usual four or five, the potatoes had taken up nearly all of the plowed ground. Where would we plant the corn and wheat we needed for stock feed? Seeing our consternation, one of the missionaries said, “Brother John, may we offer a blessing on your potato crop?”
Dad shrugged his shoulders and said yes. I can still remember the promises of an abundant harvest and great blessings that the missionary pronounced upon our fields. Dad thanked the elders for helping him and invited them inside to share our supper of fried potatoes. After dinner, Mom bottled the remaining seed potato cores for us to eat later, and Dad left to take the horses back.
Dad was discouraged as he returned to his job at the coal mine. He was sure we would have no crops that year. But to our surprise, all the potato plants came up! Our family was flabbergasted, and the elders were elated.
A short time later, the elders were transferred and never knew the outcome of our potato crop. On the Fourth of July, Mom needed something to cook for supper, so I dug the first hill. We were shocked—the potatoes were nearly full-size! Mom said that if the rest of the hills were like this one, we would be able to sell some of them. As we continued to dig up the potatoes, we found about ten pounds per hill! When our neighbors and the general stores found out about our early crop, they bought our potatoes all through July, August, and September. It hardly made a dent in our supply. Not only that, but the potatoes’ taste and quality were superior.
At harvesttime, we dug the rest. What potatoes! Some weighed five pounds each, and none of them were hollow or pithy. I remember one that was eleven inches long and four inches in diameter. We harvested five times the normal amount per acre, and since we had planted five acres instead of the planned one acre, our harvest was twenty-five times what we had originally planned. Word got out, and we sold all of our harvest. Dad had lost his job, but the proceeds from our potato patch paid for school clothes and supplies, feed for the cows and chickens, and our food and fuel the following winter.
But the greatest blessing was to our spirits. To us, those potatoes were a miracle, a testimony that God hears and answers the prayers of his servants. Our family’s faith grew, and we became much more active in the Church.