Prairie Farm Seed
Issue of The Seed Piece:
Maine Tales: National Geographic
Friday, February 11, 2011
Recipe: Roasted Garlic
& Potato Soup.
earth. Baby Caleb rides with
mom, Megan Gerritsen, digging Rose Gold
potatoes on Wood Prairie Farm near Bridgewater, Maine. Leland
Daugherty, an intern sponsored by an organic growers association, helps
out. Megan and husband Jim sell 17 potato varieties, harvesting by hand
to avoid bruising. Certified organic by two trade groups, the farm
grows potatoes, grains, and clover in rotation. Soil fertility is
sustained with barnyard manure, fish scales, sawdust, and plant
residue, known as green manure. -
and photo from National Geographic
National Geographic &
harvests are more memorable than others. Take
1994 for instance.
didn’t know it
at the time but that Fall
marked the end of the Late Blight epidemic that rattled Maine and the
for three wet years beginning with the crop of 1992 when the miserable
strain first made it’s way north from Mexico. Well,
next year beginning in late Winter, 1995
turned out to be hot and
dry (one of the three driest years last century) and inhospitable to
blight died out that year and Maine was free of blight pressure for
five or six years and times were good.
had our second boy, Caleb, born after potato planting and during haying
end of June. Sometime during that wet summer we got a call from the National Geographic.
were doing a big story on sustainable
agriculture and they wanted to send up a photographer up during
'digging', as harvest is known here in northern Maine. We
said send away.
Back then we dug
with a tractor-pulled John Deere 30 two-row potato digger. With
a small crew we gathered up into
buckets the potatoes gently laid on top of the soil by the digger. Then
of potatoes were poured into 12 peck cedar potato barrels. Then
barrels were hoisted
(‘histed’) with a
hydraulic grapple onto a potato trailer. Then barrels were hauled into
barrels were rolled
inside and barrel-fulls of potatoes were dumped through strategic holes
floor through canvas chutes down into ten foot deep wood-walled bins in
Jim Richardson from the Front Range in Colorado, was a very affable
One of the
by hand’ is the quiet and steady work allows for good and
Jim regaled us with a year’s worth of tales of traipsing back
rural America photographing farmers as they worked. In the three days
with us he took 800 photographs. After
Wood Prairie Farm his final stop was at Joel Salatin’s place
was to get marching
orders from his
boss at NG
headquarters in Washington
DC before heading home to sort a year’s worth of photographs.
One comment that
Jim mentioned to me provided confidence that Megan would get in the
He said that in shooting a story, if you didn’t go out of
way and make sure
to include women that an article about American agriculture would end
all shots of men. As active as Megan is, doing everything from driving
and trucks to running barrel hoist to picking taters, from then on I
make the cut. She and three-month-old Caleb appeared as a two page
the December 1995 issue.
printed an amazing nine million copies of National
Geographic each month which
would equate with about one out of
every 12 or
15 American homes. Well, this photo elevated our status in hometown
like nothing else before or since.
For months after, we
did get notes and calls from friends and farmers all over the country.
common refrain was ‘Boy, didn’t know your soil was
rocky.’ Now it’s true:
the glaciers came through northern Maine and left us all with wonderful
and a mess of rocks. Fact is, we have been picking rocks here steady
before us picked for
another sixty years going back to when our fields were first cleared of
in order to grow potatoes around World War I. And those pretty Rose
Gold potatoes happen
to be setting on one of our ‘cleanest’ (cleaned of
So while it
wasn’t done on
comments did kinda hurt our feelings. Not that you’d know
Being as how it
pains us powerful to let our feelings show. Afterall, that’s
the way we do
things in Aroostook.
Fall 2010. Caleb's
harvest on Wood Prairie Farm.
Roasted Garlic & Potato Soup.
T extra-virgin olive oil
loaf day-old baguette, cubed
tsp salt, plus more to taste
small carrot, chopped
1/2 pounds Carola
potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2"
fresh ground pepper
c chicken or vegetable broth
ounces Fontina cheese, cut
into 1/4" cubes
oven to 400 degrees F.
Slice off top quarter of
garlic head. Place on aluminum foil, cut-side up, and drizzle with 1 T
oil. Add 1 bay leaf. Fold foil over garlic. Roast in a baking dish
cloves are soft and golden brown, about 45 minutes.
on a rimmed baking
sheet, toss together bread, 2
T olive oil and salt to taste. Bake, stirring once or twice, until
brown, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
a heavy-duty pot over
medium-high heat, heat remaining 3
T olive oil. Add onion, carrot, and potatoes and cook, stirring
until onion and carrot have softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Mix in 3/4 tsp
1/2 pepper and add remaining bay leaf. Add broth and 2 c water to
increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low
soup to simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove
leaf. Squeeze garlic head, from bottom up, to push out each clove into
stir. Simmer soup for 5 more minutes.
soup in blender. Whisk
Fontina into soup over low heat
until cheese melts and is fully incorporated. Sprinkle soup with
Country Living magazine,
flavor with a velvety texture. Megan.
Potato Soup. This will warm the nation.
by Angela Wotton
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here for Wood Prairie Farm Organic Vegetables
Mailbox: CPB Strategy & Happy Harvest.
grow in western Massachusetts, and have been told that there is a way
to time one's potato planting to avoid quite a few of the pest
pressures by planting very late in the season...like July-ish...such
that by just about the time the ground begins to freeze in the fall,
you harvest and store. Do you have experience with this, and if so,
what would be the last date you would ship seed potatoes? Any varietal
reccomendations for this strategy that store well?
Thanks for your time,
familiar with this
technique of delaying planting, a practice targeted at reducing damage
from Colorado Potato Beetle. The theory is that by planting late you
deny CPB a food source as they emerge in the Spring from their winter
rest and through starvation you get a reduction in CPB population. I
know some experienced organic farmers that adhere to this practice and
it seems to work for them.
We are in the North and our
growing season is short, Delaying planting for us is not practical or
advisable. Here in northern Maine, every so often in a wet Fall and an
early Winter potatoes do end up getting unharvested due to early ground
Additionally as seed potato growers,
we are more concerned about getting mid-late season aphid flight
(aphids arriving from the south; aphids spread/vector potato virus)
before our tubers size up. So in our own case we are anxious to plant
early (soil temp of 50ºF at 3" depth at 7am), kills tops
and harvest early.
We ship out our last organic
seed potatoes in June. By definition the most dormant varieties will
resist sprouting the longest. So these varieties keep the very best and
sprouting is delayed the longest in the spring. From the potato
varieties that we grow, the varieties with the longest dormancy are
Swedish Peanut fingerling and Red Cloud, followed by Yukon Gold and
Prairie Blush. Good luck. Jim.
I can't tell you guys how impressed I am with your product.
year I bought 2 1/2 lbs of your Reddale which planted an 18' row. We
harvested 73 lbs of wonderful potatoes!
Sugar Land TX
Glad our seed is doing well for you.
Any way you
look at it - 4lbs per row foot or 29x increase over seed planted -
that's a great yield and you're doing wonderful.
Some years ago we had a Washington
customer on a
with similar results. This farmer planted 750 lbs of our organic Rose
Gold seed and harvested 24,000 lbs. That's a 32x increase.
These examples are proof of the fact
that if you
start with good seed and do a good job the sky's the limit. Jim.
Keeping your soil healthy is top
are an indispensible tool to
help you manage that effort.
Crop Manual is a valuable addition to your farm library. Excellent
color photos and an easy-to-read
bullet format make learning about cover crops easy. Click
here for the link.
for the Wood Prairie Organic Cover Crop seed
Stopping GMO Bullying.
all been very
disappointed of late with seriously bad decisions about gene-spliced
(GMOs) coming out from the USDA. The
following link has information exposed by Wikileaks that will shed some
how the US government has been led horribly astray by biotech. Click
Our friends at
National Organic Coalition have done a good job distilling and
GMO problem and the solutions necessary to keep our organic food supply
being ruined by GMO contamination. Please
take a few minutes to read this
important two page piece that
maps out what needs to be done.
But we have
to be educated and
united in order to save organic. Click
here for the Wood Prairie Blog to learn more about
the GMO issue.
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Wood Prairie Farm Quick
& Megan Gerritsen
Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm