By Anika Johnson
Madison School District is nearing the beginning of its annual Spud Harvest. This year, Spud Harvest break begins on the first of October and school resumes again on October 11th. This break from school was created so that local farmers can hire junior high and high school students to harvest the spuds of that year. However, many other local schools, such as Rigby and Idaho Falls, do not have a harvest break because they don’t have enough students working in spuds to justify it. This makes us wonder, how many students actually end up working in spuds at Madison Junior High?
Madison Junior High attendance secretary, Tiffany Clark, stated that only about 25 students were absent this week because of working in spuds. The total number of students at Madison Junior High is about 1200, so this only represents 2% of the total student body. Yes, there are some students that may also work next week when we are off of school, but those students haven’t been counted yet. We have to ask ourselves, “Is it really worth giving everyone a week off of school for such a small percentage of farm workers?”
Some students who want to work next week have tried to apply for jobs in spuds and have been turned down. It seems like the students who don’t have any farm connections usually get rejected. When we asked a local farmer, Cameron Erikson, if his family hires a lot of outside help, he responded, “Most families have a lot of their own kids and their nieces and nephews and extended family that help, so there’s really not enough jobs to hire a lot of students that aren’t already somehow connected with farm families.”
Many students that we asked here at the junior high agreed that they had tried to get a job in spuds and were told that no more help was needed. Many farmers told students that most of their spuds were already harvested by the time the break from school starts on October 1st. This brings up another question. If the school does keep the harvest break, should the dates be moved up a little?
Cameron Erikson went on to say, “If any change would be made, I would say to push the break from school up a little. It seems like it’s been the trend over the last few years to start getting the potatoes out by the third week in September. A lot of farmers are actually done getting their potatoes out by October 1st when the students start their days off from school.” Therefore the break isn’t being used as intended. It is not very helpful to the farmers to have students off from October 1-10th when most of the spuds are being harvested before the end of September.
Some students and teachers may argue that even if they aren’t working in the potato fields, the week off from school is still a nice time to take a vacation. But, if most students are using the break just to relax or take a vacation, couldn’t we move that break to a different time of year that is more preferable? Perhaps the spring would be a better time because most families like to go to St. George or warmer climates to escape the Rexburg weather in spring!
Spud Harvest should be shortened or moved to a different time of year. The small percentage of students who are working in the spuds can still be excused from any school that they have to miss and maybe their makeup assignments could possibly be shortened by the teachers. Another option would be to have a long weekend in late September, but also to lengthen the break in spring by a few more days. This way, there would still be a few days off for spuds, but also some extra time for a spring break.
It’s time for Madison School district to question their outdated school calendar and ask if spud harvest is truly a needed week off or if those precious vacation days could be placed elsewhere.