REMEMBERING AROOSTOOK POTATO FARMER DUANE GRASS. Local residents are mourning the Covid-related loss of life-long potato farmer Duane Grass who in his late 70s still actively farmed with his son, Kevin, in nearby Mars Hill.
For many years Duane was also a reliable school bus driver for Central Aroostook High School, which included hauling 'Panther' athletes to away games. Many years ago Kevin had been advisor to CAHS's FFA (Future Farmers of America) chapter. Reflecting their commitment to community, the Grasses generously donated 7 acres of potato production every year to fund local FFA activities.
In growing less than 200 acres of french fry potatoes for McCain's they were a smaller yet very conscientious operation. At the 2019 Annual McCain's Grower Banquet, Duane and Keven were awarded First Place in the 'field delivery' category. Pictured in the photo from that event below, Duane is sitting third from left in the green shirt (fiddleheadfocus dot com/2019/09/05/news/community/lajoie-farms-receives-champion-grower-nod/).
Duane was one of the of the last remaining old-school farmers left in our local area. He was very down-to-earth, kind and approachable. Duane was a friend to many and will be missed by all.
A few years back, at a winter CAHS Basketball home game, Jim sat next to Duane, and of course, in between the action they talked about potatoes and farming.
The previous growing year before had been dry – hampering tuber bulking and limiting yields for short- and mid-season varieties. However, the rains returned early enough in September to REALLY size up late-season Russet Burbanks destined for the french fry factory. In a rare stroke of luck, french-fry growers were forced to scramble to find adequate storage for the all-of-a-sudden bumper crop.
During the game's half-time, Duane related how experience helped them decide how to handle the year's extraordinary yield. With every bin filled to capacity they still had 10-15 acres of Burbanks left to dig. Fresh in Duane's mind had been a similar overflowing, bumper crop 25-30 years earlier. That year they readied an old-style underground potato house and filled it with their surplus potatoes. Not untypical of a bumper crop year, they were never able to find a buyer for all those extra spuds. What's more, next year he and Kevin spent "all summer" shoveling out BY HAND the potatoes in that cramped potato house which had no capacity for modern mechanization. Painful as the decision was in this most recent Fall, informed by old-time know-how, they decided to leave those last acres of potatoes in the field undug. Caleb, Megan & Jim
BREAKING NEWS! WOOD PRAIRIE WINS FEEFO's TOP 'PLATINUM TRUSTED SERVICE AWARD.' Feefo is one of the largest and most highly respected independent Review platforms. Feefo monitors and validates Reviews submitted by company customers. In order to prevent the posting of fraudulent Reviews Feefo only accepts Reviews directly coupled to actual verified purchases.
This year's ultimate 'Platinum Award' was the result of strengthened performance in how we treat our customers. During the 30-year-run of our Organic Seed mail order business we've always tried to apply the Golden Rule and treat our customers well and in the same way we would want to be treated.
In recent years Amazon – among others – has been castigated for failing to curb internal fake Reviews generated by bots and the alarming click farm industry (cnbc dot com/2020/09/06/amazon-reviews-thousands-are-fake-heres-how-to-spot-them.html).
Our Platinum Award offers proof honesty still works. Caleb, Megan & Jim
BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF MAINE'S WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY & ENVIRONS. Circa 2021. On Janaury 1 – after pre-testing negative on two Covid tests – Caleb's sister, Sarah, flew into the Presque Isle airport. She sat on the right side of the United plane and was able to take this shot of our farm, looking eastward, with Canada on the horizon.
Prominent in the center of the photo are roughly 50 acres of Wood Prairie fields, somewhat hour-glass shaped. Frozen over and covered in snow are our two irrigation ponds.
Directly north and west of our farm is paper company land clearcut a few winters ago. We remain concerned that should they decide to aerially spray glyphosate herbicide to kill hardwood regrowth, the drifted chemical would trespass onto and contaminate our farm, resulting in losing our organic certification and forcing us out of business. In 1979 we were "accidentally" sprayed by 'Globe Air' planes spraying insecticide 'Sevin' (carbaryl) contracted by the State of Maine (fronting for the paper companies which orchestrated an escape from liability) in that year's 4-Million-acre Spruce Budworm Suppression Project. As a result, we lost our organic certification for 3 years. Now forty years later, again losing our organic certification because of unwanted spray trespass would be a catastrophic knockout blow for our business.
This is one reason we strongly support active legislation by Allagash logger and Maine Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) which would create a statewide ban on the aerial spraying of herbicides on Maine's industrial forest.
The environmental damage from spraying glyphosate herbicide on Maine's forests is bad forestry, is demonstratively unnecessary, and represents an unacceptable risk to residents and visitors of Maine's Unorganized Territory.
Every citizen has a right to be secure in their home and free from the threat of unwanted chemical and transgenic trespass. We'll be sure keep you informed about the progress of Senator Jackon's visionary bill. Caleb, Megan & Jim
CLEANING ORGANIC SEED CORN ON WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM. Yesterday's Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday allowed Caleb's sister, Amy, the chance to finish up her project of the final cleaning of our 2020 lot of Organic Dorinny Sweet Corn seed. The seed had already been sorted and shelled, and cleaned by running it over a double-screen fanning mill and our Forsberg Gravity Table. Here, Amy is using a hundred-year-old Clipper Single 'Picking Table' made in Saginaw, Michigan. Originally treadle-powered, the Clipper had been switched over to an electric motor before we came to own it.
Last week the results for this seed lot came back from the lab on the 10,000 kernel PCR test and they were again good: No Detectable GE (genetically engineered) content. Our isolation on the edge of the North Maine Woods is a real advantage in avoiding trespass contamination by wind-dispersed pollen from fields of GE corn on the Canadian side of the line six miles away. Thankfully, we've never had a hot (positive) test in many years of growing and testing.
Now, as tested Organic Corn seed this seed lot is ready to be packaged up and shipped to gardens all over the United States. Dorinny (woodprairie dot com/product/sweet-corn-seed-organic-dorinny-heirloom/) is an exceptional early, yellow-kernel heriloom Canadian OP (open-pollinated) variety. In 1936 it won the "Market Gardener's Award of Merit. " Caleb, Megan & Jim
WE ARE HIRING! IMMEDIATE FULL-TIME SEASONAL JOB OPENING AT WOOD PRAIRIE. Join our team! Help us bag and ship orders and help plant our organic seed crops in the Spring.
Please help us by SHARING/LIKING this post and telling your Maine friends! Wood Prairie Family Farm is a MOFGA Certified Organic seed potato farm in Aroostook County, Maine. We are seeking to hire a Full-Time Seasonal employee NOW through Mid-June 2021. Our organic seed is shipped directly to gardeners and family farmers in all 50 States through our web store and catalog business.
We seek a flexible, quality conscious co-worker who possesses initiative, excellent communications skills, strong organizational ability, attention to detail and work efficiency.
Please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to request an application and to send your resume’. Immediate opening. Thanks! Caleb, Megan & Jim
'ACRES U.S.A.' JANUARY ISSUE FEATURES WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM IN ARTICLE EXPLAINING 'CERTIFIED SEED POTATOES.' The January 2021 issue is a milestone and celebrates the 50th Year Anniversary of maverick 'ACRES U.S.A.', the feisty mid-America monthly "Eco-Agriculture" publication.
ACRES was founded in 1971 by strong-minded economist and old-school family-farm-advocate Charles (Chuck) Walters, Jr. In addition to promoting good farming, ACRES (we were subscribers beginning in the 1970s) also regularly promoted 'Raw Material Economic Theory' aka 'Parity.'
Mr. Walters also wrote the book, 'Unforgiven,' which is a depthful biography of Parity (or 'Par Exchange') and it's inventor farm-economist Carl Wilken.
Walters tirelessly promoted Raw Material Economic Theory theory and about how wealth is created. Wilkin taught that there are only three ways to create real wealth: 1) to plunder another's assets from war, 2) to cheat at international trade, and 3) to debit nature without paying (as examples, the miner extracts minerals from the earth, the fisher nets fish from the sea, the farmer converts solar energy into crops). The common sense Wilkin economic theory – proved out by its implementation in the United States during and after WWII – has been distilled down into the catchy phrase, "All wealth comes from the soil."
Walters promoted the view that an economy works well when raw materials are properly monetized in balance ("par exchange") with other sectors of the economy. Debt injection into the economy imitates the creation of wealth but that's an illusion, because debt must be paid back, ferociously so due to compounded interest.
Forty years ago Jim secured a rare copy of then out-of-print 'Unforgiven' from a NFU office in MN and read it twice. Time to read that book again. Caleb, Megan & Jim
"Gerritsen has found success with mineral oils. This year, he complemented the tactic with a foliar spray that encourages the plant’s natural defense system. Since he is an organic grower, he is working with two certification systems that, for him, have yet to conflict with one another. He said he has found support through both systems to produce a healthy, quality crop, unlike the grower who interpreted organic management as no management at all.
“'I abide in the faith, the understanding that the system is right and that there has to be an organic method we can deploy,' Gerritsen said. 'I’m not interested in poison, and there have been no restraints. The goal is to grow healthy plants that make healthy tubers.'"
Potato Growers Go to Great Lengths to Ensure Pristine Seed | EcoFarming Daily
Keeping the seed potato’s wholeness intact is necessary because, ultimately, dirty seed results in substantial table stock and seed production loses. Certification along with breeding programs are the…
A NOTABLE ORGANIC FARM IN DENMARK. Circa 2010. Ten years ago last Fall, a group of twenty-two farmers and researchers from University of Maine and University of Vermont toured organic farms and mills in Denmark completing an assignment to gain insight into how best to create a well-functioning organic bread wheat system for northern New England. One of the final organic farms we toured, located less than an hour outside of Copenhagen, is pictured below. In the photo, the farmer is offering us a brief explanation of the farm's very long history. Behind him lies a sacred stone shrine established by ancient agrarians.
This farm has been in continuous agricultural product for 6000 years. It's valuable to keep in mind that we in the USA are a very young culture and we are still sorting things out.
Find an article we wrote about one exemplary vertically-integrated organic farm and mill here: mofga dot org/resources/international/new-england-farmers-visit-viskinge-farm-and-mejnerts-mill-in-denmark/ Caleb, Megan & Jim
"Viskingegård is a well-designed, vertically integrated ('Soil to Mouth') operation where significant value is added to homegrown organic grain crops through on-farm milling and savvy marketing. Its strong direct marketing component includes a modest on-farm store, Internet sales, and deliveries to stores and 'canteens' (cafeterias) where progressive businesses provide healthy, on-site workday meals for employees. We watched a new, 30-minute, professionally produced video about Viskingegård that adeptly displayed all the steps in farming, growing, milling and using their organic crops – including Anna demonstrating the correct use of the bread machines they sell to customers."
EXPERIENCING COMMUNITY IN THE MOUNTAINS OF IDAHO. Though we've never met, we can think of at least three things we have in common with Glenn Elzinga of Alder Spring Ranch in Idaho. First, we're both family operations. Second, we believe in authentic organic as best best way to go so we're both involved in and certified by the new family farmer 'Real Organic Project' (realorganicproject dot org). Third, we both live in isolated rural areas which get our fair share of cold and both factors have constructed our experience of community.
Glenn and his family are bonafide cowboys and cowgirls and run a magnificent organic beef operation on 11,000 acres in the mountains of central Idaho. They direct-sell their beef to individuals via mail order.
Glenn's regular missives about their ranching life are something to look forward to. And signing up won't cost you a thing. Caleb, Megan & Jim
"I could see by the tracks what happened. Peterbilt hit the curve and kept going straight on the ice, hit the cliff, nearly flipped over as the right wheel attempted to climb it and instead whipped the truck around, snapping the trailer off in a split second. It was a miracle all didn’t go in the deep waters.
"Many do. My mind flashed back to a turn a few miles downstream where I pulled a home health care nurse out of her Toyota hatchback, partly submerged in the frozen river waters a few years back. She was only wearing her scrubs, now soaking wet in the subzero cold, caught blindsided by black ice while heading for an appointment to one of the elderly residents of the canyon. My timber partner and I helped her up the steep rocks to the highway, put the heat on full blast, and dropped her off next to a woodstove, phone and coffeepot at the Sportsmen’s Bar, the only watering hole along the river canyon in those days. Her husband would come retrieve her from Salmon in another hour."
Black Ice in Deep Canyons – Organic Beef Matters
Dear friends and Partners “Are you OK?” I tried to gain eye contact of the obviously more than a little dazed driver. His jeans were freshly shredded, coat impregnated with the reddish ocher of Salmon River cliff-rock, and had a few fresh and bloody scrapes and bruises on his ruddy complexion. H…
LOGGING CAMP IN AROOSTOOK COUNTY, MAINE. Circa 1895. Historically, in Northern Maine Winter was the prime season for logging. Packed snow allowed for clean twitching of logs with horses, free of dirt and mud which would otherwise dull sawmill blades. Roads could be iced over and that would allow for massive sled loads of logs that moved large amounts of logs from cutting areas to riverbanks. Millions of board feet of sawlogs would be stockpiled on for the duration of Winter. Then in the Spring at high water provided by snow melt the iconic river log drives would take place which transported logs to sawmills down river. In time, demand for paper-making pulp wood overtook sawlogs.
Typically, loggers (who commonly might be farmers who farmed during the growing season), would head into the isolated woods in the Fall and not come out until Spring. They would work every daylight hour for six days a week. Payday would be a winter's end.
Forty-five years ago on our farm on the edge of the North Maine Woods there existed an old, crude horse hovel which was used to shelter seven teams of workhorses (14 horses) used in 1950s and 60s logging operations on adjacent Great Northern Paper Company timberlands. Caleb, Megan & Jim