North America

Down history lane: Old time pictures of potato farming on Long Island

Escaping the political upheaval in their homeland, Martin and Anna Wesnofske travelled from Poland to the United States in the 1870s. The German-speaking Wesnofskes settled in what is now the Queens/Nassau border on the Hempstead Plains and bought their first farm in 1892 where they raised seven children. Their kids migrated eastward, bringing their farming traditions with them.

On Long Island if you were a farmer, chances are you were growing potatoes. (By the 1940s up to 80% of all farming on Long Island was dedicated to potatoes.)

The Wesnofskes were no exception. Saying Long Island was just a bunch of potato fields was not too far off the mark before sprawl changed the landscape from rural farms and open spaces to suburbia.

Ed Wesnofske chronicled his family’s history in words and pictures and shared some of these great old time pictures of what it was like to farm on Long Island over the last 150 years.

We share a couple of these great pictures of Mr. Wesnofske below. All pictures and captions are courtesy of Ed Wesnofske. More pictures can be seen on the website here.

Picture above: (Circa 1948). Grandson Remi Wesnofske’s farm in Melville, N.Y. A Boggs constructed wooden loader, an early mechanical assist in removing the need for human effort to elevate bagged material of both raw planting components and finished potato produce bags onto trucks as you see in this photo.

Picking Potatoes (1919). By 1919 mechanized digging drawn by tractors had arrived but picking potatoes and placing them in burlap sacks in the fields was still hand labor.  Notice steel wheels with large cleats for traction in fields. The youngest five of the ten John Wesnofske children are picking.
Summer (1919). Making the Family Farm Work. Five Wesnofske brothers picking potatoes. Left to right: Leonard, Remi, Joseph, Vincent (back to camera). Louis.
(Circa 1965). Bridgehampton, N.Y. Remi Wesnofske with his “cab over engine.” White tractor and a flatbed trailer loaded with 100 lb. sacks of potatoes.

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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