An unusual royal relationship

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09 September 2022
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As UK mourns the passing of its Queen, we look at how her life impacted members of the potato industry ...

DURING the 70-plus years she’d been on the throne, the Queen took an avid interest in farming and the countryside. Having grown up in a predominantly-country setting, she was the first member of the royal family to attend a Young Farmers event.

The queen's attitudes towards potatoes and growing have also been widely reported, raising a few smiles.

In January this year, Reader's Digest reported that the Queen was very particular when it came to potatoes, to such an extent that every single one served to her is hand-measured beforehand to ensure it's suitable.

This was supposedly done to make sure the spuds are all uniformly shaped and sized so as not to spoil the appearance of the Queen's dish and therefore her appetite.

She was also reported to have specific habits around when she ate potatoes, along with other high carb foods like rice and pasta. In an interview with Recipes Plus, former chef to the Queen, Darren McGrady, said that potatoes and other starchy foods such as rice and pasta were saved for high profile dinners and special events.

Organic potatoes are amongst the crops produced on rented-out in-hand land at her Sandringham estate. The estate has been run by her successor, King Charles III, since 2017, who has been keen to turn the farm into a fully organic operation and had been implementing more sustainable processes over the past five years. 

In a previous interview with Country Life, he was quoted as saying: "It has always seemed to me somewhat logical to embrace a farming system that works with nature and not against her." The late Duke of Edinburgh also spent much of his retirement at the Norfolk estate.

The Queen's Platinum Jubilee was an occasion members of the potato industry also found their own way to contribute to.

Dundee-based seed supplier Potato House advertised a special red, white and blue potato pack to celebrate the occasion consisting of British Queen, Heidi Red and Blue Annelise varieties. A new tuber, named Elizabeth, was bred for the salad market by Agrico in partnership with Solanum that was grown in east Suffolk, and Jersey Royal created a Jubilee Celebration Sharing Dish.

Walkers also launched a limited edition platinum jubilee range featuring Spit-roast Pork & Apple Sauce and Baked Cheese & Sweet Honey flavours in its Sensations range.

As the UK celebrated the Queen's Platinum Jubilee earlier this year, Canadian potato grower Brian Bailey also shared his own experience of an unexpected visit from the Queen and her family overseas!

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In an interview with CBA, he spoke about an occasion in July 1970, when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were on a Canadian tour by train along with their children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, that stopped in the southwestern Manitoba city of Brandon. 

"They were looking for a place fairly close to Brandon where they could find out what it was like on a Manitoba farm, and most importantly, to have some time for relaxation," Brian said.

About 40 kilometres to the east, off the main line of the tracks south of Carberry, was a siding where the royal coach could pull off. Another kilometre and a half away, down some country roads, was the Bailey potato farm.

That Sunday evening, and for a few hours the following Monday, the Royal Family rode horses around the property, talked farming, sat back in the aluminum chairs and chatted like they were neighbours, Bailey said.

"I just roamed around and took pictures of everybody as they were communicating. They made you feel so comfortable," he said.

The only other person with a camera was the Queen, whose Nikon can be seen slung over her shoulder in some of Bailey's photos.

"She was taking pictures just as much as I was of us, of the countryside and the house," he said. "She was like a tourist."

Bailey's father reunited with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip 40 years later, during a royal visit to Winnipeg in 2010.

Soil Association CEO Helen Browning said she was "deeply saddened" at the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, adding that thoughts and condolences were with King Charles III, the association's patron, and his family.
 
“It is with immense admiration that we reflect on Her Majesty’s extraordinary service to the UK and the Commonwealth and we share the nation’s sorrow at her loss. We will celebrate and miss her equally as a remarkable monarch, inspirational woman and a warm and trusted constant across seven decades,” she said.

Sources: Hello magazine, Produceers Market, The Telegraph, Recipes Plus

Photo: Darelle