Prairie Farm Seed Piece Newsletter
FREE CARROT CAKE MIX and Growing Communities
SPECIAL OFFER - This month's recipe in 'Megan's Kitchen' includes a
delicious twist on using the Wood Prairie Farm Organic Carrot Cake Mix.
Try one FREE ($7.95 value) for all purchases over $35. Orders must be
placed by Wednesday, August 23 and must ship by Monday, August 28.
Please refer to Code XXXXX.
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Some of the summer's fresh ripe tomatoes simmer on the stove for this
evenings meal. Our Wood Prairie Farm home garden not only feeds and
nourishes our family but teaches our kids life lessons. They plant the
seeds (we don't worry about even rows!), help with the weeding, harvest
the produce and share with others who work with us. The goodness of a
garden goes well beyond its food capacity.
Don't miss this month's 'Conversations With...' section. We've picked
some favorite highlights of some great interviews we've done over the
past year. Enjoy original thinkers on the subject of agriculture and
All of us can play a part in keeping sustainable agriculture moving
forward. Sit down with a bowl of Apple Crisp from this month's recipe
section and enjoy reading how others play their role. - Jim and Megan
CLICK HERE TO GO TO WOOD PRAIRIE FARM'S HOME PAGE
- Fall Potato Crop
Q: I’m in Virginia and would like to plant a Fall potato crop
August. Can you help? - PA, Richmond VA
A: Yes and no. Our crop of Certified seed potatoes is still growing. We
will harvest them in late September into early October and will begin
shipping immediately. But that won’t help you for this Fall.
continue shipping seed potatoes out of our underground storage
throughout the Fall, Winter and Spring.
A number of our customers in southern tier states from Virginia to
Florida to Texas to southern California will plant a Spring crop in
late winter (February/March) and from the harvest taken in June hold
back some peewees which they will store through the summer in their
refridgerator and then plant in August as a Fall crop. They return to
using our Certified seed for their next Spring crop and in this way are
no more than one generation removed from clean, vigorous Certified seed.
This practice is also harmonious to the fact that a newly harvested
potato must go through a dormancy period of a minimum of 4-6 weeks
before it will sprout and grow. After the potatoes emerge from their
stint in the refridgerator the best varieties will be all set to grow.
By “best” I mean short and medium dormancy
varieties like Rose Gold,
Caribe’, Reddale and Carola. I would avoid long dormancy
Red Cloud and Swedish Peanut for this Fall planting scheme. Their extra
good keeping qualities reflect their resistance to sprouting and are
not suited to off-season growing. - Jim
FOR MORE SEED RELATED QUESTIONS, CLICK HERE
The Potato Bin
*USDA PROPOSED GRASS-BASED STANDARD FALLS WAY SHORT
After waiting four years for the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) to adopt grazing proponents' recommendations into a
marketable standard, producers were dismayed to see that animals could
be fed harvested forage, antibiotics and hormones in a feedlot and
still fit the proposed "grass-fed" description.
At an association meeting in July, Dr. Patricia Whisnant, president of
the American Grassfed Association noted “We are pretty close
customers, and their perception of grass-fed means animals that go from
birth to harvest on pasture, not in a feedlot." To read the USDA's
decision in full, go to
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*UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII RELINQUISHES PATENTS ON TARO
Hawaiians have been growing and modifying taro (a tropical plant grown
primarily as a vegetable food for its edible corm, and secondarily as a
leaf vegetable. Its flowers are also eaten) for 1,000 years and the
plant has a unique kinship with the people of the Hawaiian islands. In
the 1990's, University of Hawaii scientists began working on breeding
different varieties of taro to develop strains resistant to leaf blight
disease. Three of those strains were patented in 2002. Because of the
belief that taro is the "elder brother" of the Hawaiian people and
should not be owned, taro farmers and community members began
protesting the patents in January of this year - culminating in the
university dissolving its proprietary interests on the patents. Source:
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*PROTECTION AGAINST PESTICIDES IN SCHOOLS
The School Environment Protection Act (SEPA) provides basic levels of
protection for children and school staff from the use of pesticides in
public school buildings and on school grounds.
According to the National Academy of Sciences report, Pesticides in the
Diets of Infants and Children, children are among the least protected
population group when it comes to pesticide exposure. The report finds
that EPA generally lacks data on children necessary to protect them.
Due to their small size, greater intake of air and food relative to
body weight, developing organ systems and other unique characteristics,
children are at higher risk than adults to pesticide exposure.
Thirty-one states have taken some action to step in and provide
protective action to address pesticide use in, around or near their
schools. These include a mixture of pesticide restrictions and parental
notification and posting of signs before certain pesticides are used.
To sign the petition or learn more about this issue, visit the Organic
Consumer Association’s SEPA website at:
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*GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CORN PRODUCING HERBICIDES...IN OUR BODIES?
Dupont's Pioneer Liberty Link corn was bioengineered to withstand high
levels of the toxic herbicide glufosinate, allowing farmers to apply
higher levels of herbicides to the plant and surrounding weeds. Recent
studies on rats and goats found that in some cases the chemicals were
reconverted back to the toxic herbicide within the digestive tract of
the animal. Glufosinate is known to cause nerve damage and is a likely
endocrine disruptor. Scientists are also concerned with the herbicide
killing off beneficial bacteria necessary for healthy digestion. To
learn more go to http://www.organicconsumer.org/2006/article_637.cfm
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*MONSANTO'S BOVINE GROWTH HORMONE ON THE WAY OUT WITH LARGE RETAILERS
According to the trade journal Dairy Food and Market Analyst, giant
retailer and distributor Wal-Mart and Dean Foods are considering
eliminating rBGH from their products. rBGH is a genetically engineered
drug that is designed to make cows produce more milk. Banned in Canada
and Europe because of its increased risks for cancer, consumers in the
U.S. are becoming increasingly concerned over the use of the synthetic
hormone. To learn more go to
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*BAN ON GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS EXTENDS IN CALIFORNIA
On June 20, 2006, Santa Cruz County joined three other counties in
California in prohibiting the planting and production of genetically
engineered (GE) crops. The ban was based on findings from a nine month
study of the laws and risks associated with genetically engineered
crops. The ban passed with no opposition. To read the article go to
CLICK HERE FOR THE WOOD PRAIRIE FARM WEBSITE
Recipe: Apple Crisp...Wood Prairie Farm Style
Quick, simple and a wholesome, delicious dessert. What could be better?
6-8 fresh apples
1/2 c water
1/2 c butter
Wood Prairie Farm Carrot Cake Mix
Peel and slice apples into an 8 x 12 glass baking dish
Pour water on the apples.
In a separate bowl mix until crumbly
1/2 cup butter
Wood Praire Farm Organic Carrot Cake Mix.
Press topping over the apples.
Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
FOR MORE RECIPES, CLICK HERE
Highlights of Conversations With...
Stephen Jones has a PhD in genetics from the University of California,
Davis and leads the winter wheat breeding program at Washington State
Wood Prairie Farm: Biotechnology has broadcast many promises: use of
fewer pesticides, greater yields, inconsequential contamination, saving
the starving masses. Research and experience has shown these to be
In Michael Pollan's book, The Botany of Desire (Random House 2002, pg
235), he quotes an Idaho potato farmer growing Monsanto's GMO Newleaf
Potatoes, questioned about any downside to biotechnology, "It gives
corporate America one more noose around my neck." Stepping back a
minute, is the whole of society being benefited by biotech or is
society being bled by biotech?
Stephen Jones: Bled at an alarming rate. We are losing our public
universities to corporate interest and our long range science has been
replaced by short term get rich quick ideas that rarely if ever help
society. The same society by the way that pays the salaries of these
folks. I just hope that people will finally begin to ask scientists
that have promising great things for 20 years now "where are the
results that you have promised?" It is similar to the human genome
project when they finished it several years ago. Time, Newsweek and
everyone else ran cover stories that the end of human disease is just
around the corner. Oh yeah? Same with golden rice on the cover of Time
before that with the claims that it will save 1 million kids a year.
Did it? No. Did anyone notice? Very few. All of this biotech hype
results in false hopes and simultaneously takes money and resources
from projects that really do work.
Matthew Dillon is Executive Director of Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) in
Port Townsend, Washington and a member of the Seeds & Breeds
Planning Committee. OSA's educational programs train farmers in organic
seed production and crop improvement. The Alliance also works with the
seed trade and farmers to develop Participatory Plant Breeding designed
for organic systems.
Wood Prairie Farm: With Monsanto's buyout of Seminis, the trend in seed
companies consolidating and patenting has reached a pinnacle of sorts.
If, as speculated by many in the seed industry in your recent article,
[Ed. Note, read entire article at
http://www.seedalliance.org/newsletter] traditional seed varieties will
be dropped in favor of developing gene-spliced versions, what happens
to the conventional and organic farmers who have relied on those
Seminis varieties as part of their farm's crops and what effect will
this have on genetic diversity for the longterm?
Matthew Dillon: Farmers are going to have difficult decisions ahead of
them – agricultural, economic and political decisions.
with consolidation you have the accountants coming in and telling the
production team to drop the least profitable varieties from the seed
list. I believe we can expect that to happen here, even if Monsanto
doesn’t go transgenic on these vegetable varieties. Also,
are frustrated by Monsanto’s policies towards farmers
– suing seed
savers, nasty contracts and threatening letters – and
don’t want to do
business with them. But who wants to drop varieties that work? Where
are the replacements? These are not easy questions.
Let me give you an example. In February, at the Upper Midwest Organic
Farm Conference, I was approached by a couple that grows a considerable
number of peppers for a Community Supported Agriculture project (CSA).
Seminis/Monsanto varieties such as Red Knight are the most important
varieties for them. They don’t want to give their money to
but they also don’t want to lose money by dropping the
a replacement. They wanted advice. I suggested they save seeds from the
hybrid, plant them out the following year and evaluate the F2 swarm (a
segregating population, showing variance from the hybrid) with their
eye on plants that perform like the F1 hybrid. They might get lucky and
pull a decent OP out of the mix. More importantly, I highly recommended
that they start trialing other peppers – even if it means
in production this year. I believe that farmers should always have a
backup variety for any seed they're not producing themselves, or to
keep two years worth of seed on hand. You don’t want to rely
on a seed
company to provide you with seed for a major cash crop –crop
insufficient availability, or varieties being cut from the catalog can
be as problematic as consolidations.
In regards to genetic diversity there is the little issue and the big
issue. The little issue is if Monsanto decides that the money is in the
major markets in central America, Mexico and California and drops
varieties that serve regional markets. This is a serious loss to the
farmers and gardeners who depend on those varieties. But it is nothing
in comparison to the big issue – if Monsanto decides to push
Ready Resistance genes, or other transgenic traits in the vegetable
sector. They already have a genetically engineered squash on the
market, and have made a serious investment in Round Up lettuce. [Ed.
Note, Lettuce with gene-spliced resistance to Monsanto's herbicide
"Roundup"] If this accelerates we will have farmer and home gardeners
planting these crops, and when they go to seed contaminating other
non-biotech vegetables as we have seen in corn and canola. This level
of contamination in such a broad range of crops would be truly
catastrophic. We’re at an extremely serious threshold.
Frank Morton is a self-described old time salad grower gone to seed. He
and wife Karen sold their Wild Garden Salad Greens to great restaurants
on both coasts from 1983 to 2001. They now operate Wild Garden Seed in
partnership with their friends at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath,
Oregon, selling only the organic seed they grow themselves. They supply
the organic lettuce seed we sell online and in our catalog.
Wood Prairie Farm: Explain the philosophy. Why is good organic seed
great for organic growers?
Frank Morton: Plant genetics function by subtle means. Conventional
seed is produced by conventional means. This usually implies that seed
strains maintained and selected within conventional systems are living
a chemically sheltered life, which is not the world they will find on
an organic farm. If the seed variety is maintained in an organically
managed environment, then losses due to stress and antagonists, and the
roguing eye of the organic seed grower, are actually genetic
improvements in the varietal population. Crop strains that have been
selected in organic systems and that do well on the organic seed farm
are in a better selective position to do well on an organic vegetable
farm. They do well on a compost/covercrop soil-food diet, in the
natural environment without fungicidal protection. They have a
selective history that creates subtle changes in population genetics:
better root systems, more responsive immune systems, better weed
competition due to seedling vigor or plant architecture... things that
are difficult to see with the eye, but result in a better adapted crop
in the organically managed environment. Seed quality, of course, is a
huge component. It is my experience that seed from our fields is larger
than the same variety from commercial sources. There might be a hundred
reasons why, but this is what I see time and again. Fat seeds have more
stored food for the emerging seedling--I consider that an observable
benefit if you can get it.
The other aspect of this question is agrosocietal. If we buy good
organic seed from other farmers like ourselves, we are strengthening
the organic web (infrastructure), and ultimately improving our
self-sufficiency and independence from corporate interests that are at
odds with our own. This is good in itself. Remember when organic
produce looked bad next to conventional? Not anymore. That's because
someone bought a little sad produce in the beginning, and gave us
enough practice to get good. And now we are very good. Organic seed is
following the same trajectory. I think we are past the sad sack
period--quality, availability, and price are all moving in the
sustainable direction. We couldn't say that in 1999.
Sharon Tisher, former President of the Maine Organic Farmers and
Gardeners Association (MOFGA), former Chair, MOFGA Public Policy
Committee and Instructor, Ecology and Environmental Sciences program,
University of Maine
Wood Prairie Farm: Imagine a situation where Detroit automakers
customarily sold cars with recognized flaws, say steering wheels that
routinely fell off. Detroit further maintains it is they that retain
ownership of the cars, not the consumer, but that consumers are the
ones liable for damages when a car crash occurs. Is this fantasy really
very much removed from the actual situation of Biotech and farmers? How
has Biotech gotten away with it?
Sharon Tisher: I love the analogy, Jim, and it brilliantly exemplifies
the inconsistency in Monsanto's position that it holds the patent
rights to its genetically-engineered (GE) seeds, but should bear none
of the responsibility for genetic contamination of crops or wild
plants. I believe that ultimately the courts will find Monsanto liable
for genetic contamination. State legislatures may sooner enact
liability provisions, but I believe there is enough precedent in the
common law notion of "chemical trespass" for a court to impose
liability in a specific case. Of course, the reason we'd rather address
this through prospective legislation is that the courts only get
involved after the damage is done. The critical question is how long we
will have to wait before Monsanto is held accountable. And whether it
will be too late to reverse harm already done such as the development
of insect resistance to Bacillus Thuringiensis, or the development of
herbicide resistant superweeds.
Getting back to your analogy, remember that while cars were first
marketed in the teens, Congress didn't pass a law effectively
addressing consequent air pollution until 1970. It's not unusual for
law to have to play catch-up with emerging technology, but when the
technology creates new life forms that can replicate with themselves
and cross-breed with other related life forms, the need for an
effective system of regulation becomes urgent. We still don't have
anything remotely adequate for GE technology. A lesson of Mary
Shelley's Frankenstein is that humans lack the capacity to anticipate
the consequences of their scientific exploits as well as the discipline
to control those consequences. GE technology is a frightening
illustration of this dilemma.
Brian Halweil is the Senior Researcher for the Worldwatch Institute, an
independent research organization that works for an environmentally
sustainable and socially just society.
Wood Prairie Farm: What does food sovereignty mean? How does food
sovereignty tie in with Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and labeling
of local products?
Brian Halweil: As our food travels farther than ever before, we have
become removed from it geographically and psychologically. We have less
control over how our food is raised. The local community sacrifices
some of its food sovereignty, as decisions about food are made by
distant trade bodies or governments or food companies. When Europe
refuses to import hormone-treated beef from the United States, since
European farmers are prohibited from using such hormones, Europe is
declaring its food sovereignty. COOL laws or other labels that tell us
where food is grown are an important step in restoring food sovereignty.
For the Wood Prairie Farm website, click here
WORDS: MAINE SPEAK - Ails
Often used when questioning the mood of someone
What ails him/her?: When the question uses the verb "ails" it means
Example 1. "You know better than that! What ails you anyway?"
Translation: "You have more sense than that. What's wrong with you
today that makes you act so?"
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(c) Jim and Megan Gerritsen, Wood Prairie Farm, 49 Kinney Road,
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
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