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Potato harvest


The Chong Alai valley is an oval-shaped plain surrounded by mountains on all sides.  The Eastern end of the valley is a little over 10,000 feet and the Western end of the valley is about 7,300 feet.

In addition to their livestock, the main agricultural crop that shepherds grow is potatoes. The crops do not grow as well in the first eastern third of the valley, but after that they increasingly do quite well.

Potatoes are typically planted in early May and harvested in early/mid October. For a long time people did this using plows drawn by horses and by hand digging. In recent years, more and more tractors have appeared on the scene making the work much faster.

Even with tractors, though, there is a lot of hard work left to do as people place the potatoes into flour sacks and then have to carry the full bags of potatoes to trucks that are waiting alongside the edges of the field to either take them straight down to the lowlands to be sold right away, or to be taken to special underground rooms people have made in the villages to store potatoes. 

Due to the natural rhythms of supply and demand, in the fall when the potatoes are all being harvested the price will be lower. After the New Year when there are no more new potatoes being harvested and the general supply is dwindling, the price will increase. For those who are in a position to wait to sell their potatoes, they can realize a much higher profit by selling them later as opposed to at the time of the harvest. The time of physical harvesting many times is a community event as groups of people will move from field to field working together, taking turns helping each other harvest individual fields more quickly. 



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