Potatoes have been grown in the Crookwell district for over 150 years however scientific potato cultivation was introduced at Gundowringa by Charles E Prell around the turn of the 20th century. Mr Prell devoted over 100 acres to potato cultivation and applied his scientific approach to farming including advanced machinery that maximised productivity. Crookwell potatoes were eagerly sought , gaining top prices on the Sydney market by 1910. Before another 5 years had passed, potatoes and hay were listed as the principle crops of the district.
Farmers paid careful attention to seed selection, correct cultivation, proper grading and marketing. Three tonnes to the acre were being dug up in good seasons and tubers weighing over three pound were exhibited at Crookwell shows. During the early part of the century attention was directed to Factor, the dominant potato of the region, Sebago and to a lessor extent Kathadin, Mainguy and Aussie. The new varieties of Sequoia, Monak, Adina and Saranac were also produced.
Crookwell became renowned as a potato growing district and advances in potato growing were being encouraged by the Crookwell Potato Growers’ Association which affiliated with the Certified Seed Potato Co-op Ltd. In the 1950s Crookwell district led the state in the production of certified seed potatoes. The Crookwell district including the areas of Redground, Bannister, Cotta Walla, Gullen and Glenerin had 159 of the state’s 235 growers and in 1951 produced 82% of the state’s certified seed.
Throughout the 20th century up until today, Crookwell has played an important role in the development of new varieties, farming practices and technologies. Today there are twenty varieties of seed potato grown in the Crookwell district and the Crookwell Potato Festival will celebrate the area’s long standing relationship with the humble ‘spud’.