Prairie Farm Seed Piece Newsletter
This has been a whirlwind year at Wood Prairie Farm. While many areas
of the country suffered from severe drought and catastropic rains the
growing season in northern Maine was excellent. Our Fall has gone very
well, topped off by a month of warm dry weather, perfect for Harvest
and Fall projects. The long Fall allowed Peter and Jim extended
opportunity to mechanically pick rocks from the fields ( a record 122
loads @ 2.5 cubic yards from 11 acres ). The rocks then became the
foundation for a new cow barm which we are only just now buttoning up
for winter. We've had snow and cold weather for the past ten days, so
it's high time.
The fall months are all about potatoes in our part of Maine but in
central Maine much is centered around the apple harvest. This month's
'Conversations with ...' interview is with John Bunker, former
president of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association,
founder of the Maine Pomological Society and all-around heirloom apple
With Harvest behind us and the holidays approaching, our work turns
inside. We look forward to sending out this year's bounty to you our
co-producers and hope that you will share in the bounty of this 2007
Harvest by sharing our organic goods with friends and family. - Jim
CLICK HERE TO GO TO WOOD PRAIRIE FARM'S HOME PAGE
Potato of the Month--Red Cloud
in 1977 by researchers at the University of Nebraska, Red Cloud was
named after the Oglala Sioux Chief and was officially released in 1992
after extensive testing. Red Cloud is a handsome round tuber with deep,
dark red skin and white flesh. It has the driest texture of any red
potato with excellent taste and great storage ability.
CLICK HERE TO READ INFORMATION ON WOOD PRAIRIE'S OTHER SEED VARIETIES
and A. "What do you mean by curing the potatoes after harvest?"We
kill the vines about 3 weeks before we dig the potatoes that we are
going to store through the winter. That allows the skins to "set"
(thicken) so there is less damage to the tubers during the harvesting
process. We don't let the potatoes sit out in the sun any longer than
necessary after we dig - only about 0 to 2 hours; we get them right
into wooden boxes and into the storage. Then Jim warms the storage to
50 or 60 degrees for 2 weeks. This helps the wounds heal -
"suberization." Then he cools it to 38 for the rest of the winter and
keeps the humidity way up.
FOR MORE SEED RELATED QUESTIONS, CLICK HERE
OF BREEDS WORLDWIDE
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is urging the international
community to adopt a plan of action against the alarming rate of
livestock breed extinctions. Alexander Muller, FAO assistant
director-general, addressed attendees at the Animal Genetic Resource
conference in Switzerland in Sept. and stressed that, "Climate change
and the emergence of new and virulent livestock diseases highlight the
importance of retaining the capacity to adapt our agricultural
production systems." Farm animal diversity provides unique
characteristics that may be useful in resistance to disease or
adaptation to climatic extremes. Mr. Muller also pointed out the danger
of within-breed genetic diversity by the use of a few highly popular
sires for breeding.
According to FAO's State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources
report, at least one livestock breed each month has become extinct over
the past seven years with 20% of the world's breeds of cattle, goats,
pigs, horses and poultry currently at risk of extinction. Source:
Heritage Foods, www.heritagefoodsusa.com
To learn more about heritage breeds in the USA, go to the American
Livestock Breeds Conservancy website at www.albc-usa.org.
* * * * *
*GOOD, CLEAN and FAIR
Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini made the words "Good, Clean and Fair" a
focal point of the 2006 Terra Madre conference in Italy. "Good" is the
quality that comes with taste, "Clean" means producing and consuming
food in a sustainable manner and in a way that respects animals, the
environment and biodiversity, and "Fair" is the guarantee that
production and commercialization should dignify the livelihoods of
those who do the work, respecting cultures, regions and ensuring a fair
* * * * *
*IFOAM GETS LOCAL AND RURAL
Attendees at the first International Federation of Organic Agriculture
Movements (IFOAM) International Conference on the Marketing of Organic
and Regional Values held in Germany, unanimously issued the Schwaebisch
Hall Declaration, which concludes that as rural communities are
threatened by corporate monopolies and genetic engineering, regional
development must be strengthened by all means. Below are a few of the
Organic farming has to be developed as the social and economical
perspectives for prosperity in rural areas;
Viable rural development has to be based on diversity and not
monoculture, be it in agricultural or economic systems;
Local and regional values stemming from local and diverse cultures like
traditional food, local knowledge, biodiversity can add value to
specific products or product groups especially in a globalized world;
We are what we eat. Through our food we express our connection to our
To read the declaration in full, go to http://ifoam.org/ and click on
the news link.
* * * * *
*POTATOES: THEY'RE NOT JUST FOR EATING ANYMORE
The Maine potato industry could become a leading producer of bio-based
plastics made from potatoes according to a report by the Margaret Chase
Smith Policy Center. The report shows there are enough waste potatoes
left over from every harvest to supply the potatoes needed by such
companies as Interface, a manufacturer of fabrics for commercial
interiors which has three plants in Maine. The company already uses
products made of corn starch and are interested in using resources
located closer to home.
Bioplastic products are better for the environment, decomposing in only
a few weeks in an industrial compost setting. Benefits to local farmers
include increased profits, added jobs and a more environmentally
friendly system of production, reducing the use of fossil fuels.
Source: Portland Press Herald, June 6, 2007
CLICK HERE FOR THE WOOD PRAIRIE FARM WEBSITE
This recipe was passed on to us at a recent
Slow Food gathering. We tried it and loved it not only for the taste,
but for the easy preparation. This flan is an elegant yet simple way to
add something new to your holiday table.
1 pound Chantenay carrots peeled, sliced and steamed al dente
1 small onion chopped
1 T fresh grated ginger (or one tsp ginger powder)
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch each of nutmeg, cloves and salt
1 c heavy cream
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. Pour liguid
into baking dish. Place filled baking dish in a larger dish and fill
the larger dish with water until water comes about halfway up side.
Bake for one hour until firm. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves
6 - 8
FOR MORE RECIPES, CLICK HERE
Conversations With...John Bunker
John Bunker moved to Maine in 1968 and has lived in Palermo on Super
Chilly Farm for the past 35 years. His passion is tracking down
heirloom fruit varieties. From September to November he is usually off
‘fruit exploring’ throughout the state, searching
old farms and
abandoned orchards. When not exploring, he works for Fedco, the co-op
seed and nursery company in Clinton where he coordinates nursery sales.
John established the Maine Heirloom Apple Orchard at the Maine Organic
Farmers and Gardeners Association's (MOFGA) Common Ground in Unity. The
orchard houses the only collection of apple varieties originating in
Maine. He currently serves on the MOFGA board of directors.
Wood Prairie Farm: Last year, you attended the Slow Food Terra Madre
meeting in Turin, Italy as a member of the delegation from Maine. Now
that you've had some time to ruminate about your experiences, what are
your thoughts about the Slow Food movement and its potential for
reconnecting food and the people who produce it and enjoy it?
John Bunker: The Terre Madre Slow Food conference was inspiring. The
opening ceremony was reminiscent of the Olympics. Delegates with flags
of each country proceeded in with bands blaring. People stood and
cheered. It was a bit silly, but also rather moving. It was a "UN" of
local culture. It was nice to see people concerning themselves with
something other than killing each other. The president of Italy spoke
as well as countless other dignitaries, all championing local food. It
was actually almost surreal. Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food,
was the best of all. If Slow Food has a reputation of being for rich
foodies, it’s not because of him. He spoke powerfully about
justice, local economies and local community. I was very impressed.
Of course the largest number of delegates came from the US and the most
of them from California. Most other states were represented and I had
some interesting talks with people from all over the country. It was
such a treat to be able to talk to anyone and have the focus be
In retrospect I am very impressed with Slow Food and with Terre Madre.
I see the value of the organization as largely two-fold: first as an
organizational tool; second as a source of inspiration. The work that
needs to be done to connect food with consumers and producers must be
done on a local level. Some would say it can only be done on a local
level. It is too big for any one group to do. It requires thousands of
little local efforts. It was reassuring and inspirational to attend
Terra Madre and to see that all around the world groups are doing the
local work in their own communities that we are doing here in Maine. We
are part of a world wide movement. As an organizational tool, Terra
Madre and Slow Food provide a valuable way to communicate with other
groups around the world. While we work locally, we can learn from one
another world wide through ongoing communication and by attending
local, regional and global meetings.
WPF: You've completed your 2 year term serving as the president of
MOFGA. From your perspective, what are the big issues facing
agriculture and beyond?
JB: As we approach the new year we find ourselves living in a world in
deep, severe and some would say irreversible crisis. We did not create
this mess, nor did we ask for it. We certainly do not deserve it. It
has been in the making for many years. It is ours only in that we
inherited that which others created. Perhaps they were reckless;
perhaps malicious; perhaps ignorant. Most likely they were simply doing
the best they could do. In any event, we have no choice other than to
accept the present as it is.
We would like the powerful international business community to act
responsibly on behalf of humanity and the earth itself. But they have
not, they are not, and most likely they will not. We would like state
and federal government to act responsibly on behalf of humanity and the
earth itself. Sadly, they have not done so, they are not doing so, and
most likely they will not do so in the future.
But while the past is set, the future is not. The future does not yet
exist. It is up for grabs. We will determine the future by our behavior
today. Call it our responsibility, our opportunity, our privilege, or
perhaps our curse. None the less, we are faced with this prospect.
As we take up this task, we need not accept a vision of the future with
which we do not agree. We can create a different kind of vision of the
future than others offer. We can create that vision, articulate that
vision and implement that vision. Some might like us to give up. It
would be convenient if all of us would simply capitulate, and allow
others to determine what is yet to be.
I have heard MOFGA minimized by others as a niche organization. If
government had been doing its job, if businesses had been acting
responsibly, perhaps MOFGA would be a niche organization and joyfully
so. I have heard us minimized as being naïve. Is it
want our grandchildren to have clean soil, air and water? Is it
naïve to want our grandchildren to have access to clean
food? Is it naïve to want our grandchildren to live in an
inhabitable world? I think not.
Rather, I say it is naïve to think that we can endlessly
our land, water and air and never have to pay the price. It is
naïve to think that agriculture utterly dependent on
energy is sustainable. It is naïve to think that driving cars
building more and more and more roads is sustainable. It is
to act as though the oil will not run out. It is naïve to
that economic growth is sustainable. It is naïve to think we
protect our plant world from being poisoned by GMO’s.
I have also heard others say that it is not right to ask people to
sacrifice our way of life for the good of the earth. But have we not
already done so? I would say that we have sacrificed our air, our
water, our soil, our health, our communities and perhaps even our
And I hear this question, “Who is going to pay to create this
sustainable future? We can’t afford it. We need
jobs.” To that I ask,
who will pay to feed us when the oil runs out and we can no longer
truck our sustenance from Chile and China and South Africa? Who will
provide Vacationland’s jobs when it is no longer
“Camden by the sea”,
but rather “Camden in the sea”?
We can not afford not to act now. We can not afford not to deal with
climate change now. We can not afford not to deal with loss of farmland
and lack of food security now. As the MOFGA mission statement says, we
must “protect the environment, recycle natural resources,
local food production, support rural communities, and illuminate for
consumers the connection between healthful food and environmentally
sound farming practices.”
WPF: What are some of your ideas for Maine?
JB: 1. Let us create a Maine where all young children have the
opportunity to plunge their hands into the soil, get dirty, learn how
to grow vegetables and know where their food comes from.
2. Where our children drink milk from Maine cows, bottled in Maine
3. Where all our bread is made with Aroostook grain.
4. Where our meat is raised and slaughtered here in our state.
5. Where Maine canneries pack the products of a thousand small Maine
6. Where young aspiring farmers can find the affordable land they need
to grow food for Mainers.
7. Where all the hospitals, colleges and schools serve Maine food in
their cafeterias. Where all Mainers have access to fresh, healthy food.
8. Where our crops are not threatened by GMO’s.
9. Where farmers can raise livestock without I.D. tags.
10. Where the food scraps in every Maine town are returned to the soil
to feed Maine people again and again and again.
11. Where Mainers can see for themselves all the contents of the food
in the grocery store by reading the label on the box or can.
12. Where farming becomes the most noble of professions and where
farmers are among the highest paid workers, not among the lowest.
13. Where our food system is truly secure because it is, as we say,
"made in Maine."
14. Where our food system is truly sustainable.
15. Where all Mainers can travel inexpensively from Aroostook to
Kittery by real public transportation.
There now exists a world wide movement of local groups –like
each in its own way, acting to create a different kind of future. A
future based on fairness, justice, respect, kindness and
sustainability. A future based on collaboration and cooperation.
This is a different kind of globalism: one where humans think together
and communicate with one another on a global scale, while they act
locally to create local sustainable communities, local sustainable
economies and local sustainable food systems. MOFGA has been a leader
in this movement for the past 35 years. Or, more accurately I should
say that MOFGA has been creating this movement for the past 35 years
and now finds itself among the leaders worldwide.
It is up to us to create, articulate and implement this vision of the
future for Maine. The work we do will lead us towards a truly just,
sustainable world. What we do well here in our state will effect the
future of all Mainers for generations to come. We do not need to fix it
for others around the world. Our work is here in Maine. What we do here
will be noticed around the country and around the world by others. It
will serve as a model for others as they seek to create their own
future. It will also be noticed by the state and the federal
government. It may even inspire their own courage to assist us in
creating an inhabitable, prosperous, sustainable earth for future
WPF: You've been working the land for a very long time. With the
benefit of hindsight, what 3 things would you do differently now than
when you started in 35 years ago?
JB: Spent more time with my next door neighbors. Found the oldest
farmers in town and asked them to teach me everything they knew. Joined
WPF: I know fruit trees and apples are a consuming interest for you. As
Maine's modern day Johnny Appleseed, what is your vision of the place
of extra-ordinary fruit varieties?
JB: Every locale in Maine has its own unique combination of community,
personalities, soil and climate. As we work towards re-establishing
local community, local economy and local agriculture, each area of
Maine has the opportunity to cultivate its own mix of agricultural
products – fruit, vegetables, dairy and livestock. I look
traveling around the state and being constantly surprised and delighted
by what I find in the orchards, farm stands, restaurants and kitchens
For more information on MOFGA, click here