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‘ORGANIC EYE’ IDENTIFIES IMPACT OF “ORGANIC STOCKHOLM SYNDROME.” In an article posted this evening, our friend, Mark Ka

‘ORGANIC EYE’ IDENTIFIES IMPACT OF “ORGANIC STOCKHOLM SYNDROME.” In an article posted this evening, our friend, Mark Kastel, Executive Director of Organic watchdog ‘Organic Eye’ takes to task feckless USDA and their wet noodle enforcement ability. He also implicates some errant NGOs who suffer from “Organic Stockholm Syndrome.” Jim serves as President of ‘Organic Eye.’ Mark’s post is below. Caleb, Megan & Jim

“Stock-holm syn-drome

noun: feelings of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage taking by a victim towards a captor.

The big news in the organic industry in mid-January was the publication in the Federal Register of a new set of complicated and comprehensive rules that will purportedly help tighten up the heretofore loose oversight of organic commerce that the USDA and the industry’s largest lobby group, the Organic Trade Association, had been assuring us was bulletproof.

But let’s not all declare victory and go home. A certain degree of skepticism and continued vigilance by committed organic community stakeholders (farmers, ethical business interests, and consumers) is well-warranted.

Let’s look at the pattern of how the powers-that-be in the industry react every time the organic label receives a new blackeye in the media due to a seemingly never-ending series of controversy, fraud, and scandals:

NGOs, like OrganicEye, acting as industry watchdogs, spend years uncovering and documenting serious fraud and deficiencies in oversight.

The USDA’s National Organic Program and lobbyists at the Organic Trade Association (OTA), in an effort at damage control, frequently do nothing more than thump their chests, assuring the public of how judicious and effective their oversight is.

Then a major scandal hits the papers and the OTA immediately announces they are forming a “task force” of their corporate members to investigate best practices. The USDA subsequently states that they can’t do any effective enforcement without new rulemaking (and in many cases the OTA, representing many of the agribusinesses that have benefited from the ongoing fraud, leads the public push supporting new rulemaking).

New regulations take, literally, years to a decade or more to promulgate (some allege that the glacial pace is intentional). Then the new rules are adopted and announced with great fanfare, as is the case with the new so-called “Strengthening Organic Enforcement” (SOE) enhancements just enacted.

And finally, even after all that, very little additional enforcement takes place. With a one-year phase in, it will probably take a number of years to really ascertain whether the new SOE rules have the teeth that they are purported to have and whether the USDA develops the backbone for more aggressive enforcement, rather than, essentially, acting as an industry cheerleader.

This scenario has repeated itself time and time again. I spent years ringing the alarm bell concerning unregulated imports China. In the early years, after a 12-year USDA delay in developing the regulations necessary to implement the Organic Foods Production Act, the USDA had essentially contracted certification oversight to the Chinese military. Freedom of Information documents indicated that, after our public complaints, they attempted to placate our concerns by suggesting top staff had “visited” China, when in fact they did nothing more than attend a short conference (rather than carefully monitor Chinese certification). Subsequent audits, after years delay, would show major flaws in oversight in China.

The OTA and its members, in the interim, were happy to throw US family farmers under the bus, procuring their commodities and ingredients from China and former Soviet Bloc states with endemic levels of commercial fraud (counterfeit name brand consumer goods, intellectual property theft, adulterated food and pharmaceuticals, etc.). We don’t even trust these countries, after disastrous experiences, to produce petfood, let alone what we are feeding our infants and children.

The organic manure hit the fan after I helped spearhead years of research and then partnered to support the Washington Post in a major investigative expose documenting wholesale fraud in “organic” animal feed being imported from Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia, and other Eastern Europe countries. And now, after many years, the new Strengthening Organic Enforcement rules are the result.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the new rules, although some other organic advocacy groups suggest that they haven’t gone far enough. But what is dead-wrong is the USDA’s delay and inadequate enforcement — using new rulemaking as an excuse.

The USDA seems to be better at political spin than executing their charge from Congress in protecting the interests of organic stakeholders. Subsequent to the Washington Post coverage of fraudulent imports, and after the former USDA organic administrator assured the public of the propriety of imports from Eastern Europe with great fanfare, the current management at the USDA’s organic program, in a damning admission, proclaimed that 75% of “Black Sea Region” organic operations certified under the USDA had either voluntarily relinquished their organic certification or were forced to do so. Seventy-five percent! No arrests, no fines, and no other penalties that we know of.

I call it damning because it’s an admission that we, as organic consumers, have been paying a premium for livestock products for years when the animals that produced our eggs, meat, and milk were consuming a material percentage of their feed that was really conventional.

And it’s important to note that cleaning house in Eastern Europe happened under the current, old regulations. They didn’t need these new ones to act.

More recently, the USDA responded to allegations of fraud in India, which had filled the void as a major exporter to the US after the USDA clamped down on Eastern Europe. It was one of the countries with an “equivalency agreement” with the USDA. That means the USDA, in essence, subcontracted the certification process to local authorities. Again, it took many years of documenting gross fraud, and India becoming one of the largest importers of organic feed and other food ingredients, before the USDA took action.

It became a game of whack a mole until the USDA finally recognized the problem and acted, eliminating the Indian government’s independent oversight of products certified under the USDA — after untold fraudulent organic commodities had already been consumed.

After years of the USDA betraying fundamental organic precepts, it’s disheartening to see many other public interest groups and certifiers join with the business interests in acting as industry cheerleaders rather than protecting the interests of the public. That’s what I refer to as the Organic Stockholm Syndrome.

As the organic industry has grown to over $60 billion annually, with lots of money flowing to nonprofits from agribusinesses and taxpayer funds doled out by the USDA, a more famous food muckraker than myself, Upton Sinclair, is still as relevant as ever with his declaration that, ‘It’s difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.’”

Mark Kastel is Executive Director of OrganicEye, a farm policy research group based in La Farge, Wisconsin. The organization is best known as the country’s most eminently qualified and aggressive organic industry watchdog.


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“HOW TO PICK THE PERFECT SPOT FOR POTATOES.” Another helpful VIDEO short by our friend, Travis Key, of Lazy Dog Farm in

“HOW TO PICK THE PERFECT SPOT FOR POTATOES.” Another helpful VIDEO short by our friend, Travis Key, of Lazy Dog Farm in Georgia. We know Travis back from the days of the twice-yearly ‘Direct Gardening Assn’ conferences. Caleb, Megan & Jim

How do you pick the perfect spot to plant your potatoes?

#taters #potatoes #planting #chickentractor #neverstopgrowing #backyardgrocerystore #homegrown


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“HOW MANY POUNDS OF SEED POTATOES DO I NEED?” Travis Key of Lazy Dog Farm offers his concise answer. Caleb, Megan &amp

“HOW MANY POUNDS OF SEED POTATOES DO I NEED?” Travis Key of Lazy Dog Farm offers his concise answer. Caleb, Megan & Jim

How many pounds of seed potatoes do you need for your garden?

#potatoes #taters #seed #planting #neverstopgrowing #backyardgrocerystore #homegrown


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WIND-DRIVEN LOGGING ON WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM. Thanks to Climate Change, here in Northern Maine we’re experiencing hi

WIND-DRIVEN LOGGING ON WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM. Thanks to Climate Change, here in Northern Maine we’re experiencing higher winds than what we used to get.
Last Summer a powerful storm brought down area trees. Then a more recent Winter storm blew down additional trees including a big ‘Popple’ (Quaking Aspen) which narrowly missed our electric lines but did snag our telephone landlines.
Until that foot-deep snow storm arrived a week ago, we’d had less snow pack than normal. So, we decided it was a good opportunity to cut down big trees located near buildings and power lines, ones which could cause trouble if they blew over.
In this photo Caleb (inside the ‘Case 125’ Excavator cab) and Justin work together to twitch out logs. The Excavator came in handy for convincing any leaning trees to fall out-of-harm’s-way, away from structures and power lines.
We’ve cut about 40 cords of semi-tree length Popple which is headed to a Maine mill to be chipped up and made into paper. Caleb, Megan & Jim


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MAINE’S WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM WINS TOP FEEFO ‘PLATINUM’ AWARD FOR THIRD YEAR IN-A-ROW! Twelve month’s worth of applauding Reviews – submitted by verified Wood Prairie customers – have propelled our family farm to once again receive the industry’s highest accolade, the “Feefo 2023 Platinum Trusted Service Award.”
Based in the United Kingdom, Feefo is one of the world’s largest and most-highly-respected independent Review platforms. Feefo carefully validates EVERY Review. A Review can only be submitted by a living-and-breathing-customer who actually has made a verified purchase. The forthright Feefo platform operates in stark contrast to the web’s epidemic of fraudulent Reviews uncoupled from purchase transactions. Fake Reviews have become a lucrative scam and are often churned out by bogus bots and ‘Click Farms.’
When we began our farm-based then mail order organic seed business almost 35 years ago, we were determined to interact with our customers honestly and fairly, the same way we ourselves want to be treated when we buy from others. In our modern age of cynicism, we’re happy to report that after decades of doing good business, honesty is still the best policy!
We’re indebted to our wonderful customers for supporting our family farm every step of the way.
Thank you so much! Caleb, Megan & Jim


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SO, JUST HOW VALUABLE IS JOHN DEERE’S NEW PROMISE TO ALLOW FARMERS THE RIGHT-TO-REPAIR THEIR OWN EQUIPMENT? A Federal ‘Right-to-Repair law would enshrine farmers’ right to repair the equipment they own. That’s a lot more security than one multinational equipment monopoly “promising” to reverse course and play fair.
The ‘Bangor Daily News’ features recent Congressional testimony by Jim and reports on the latest developments in Right-to-Repair.
Caleb, Megan & Jim

“’If a farmer buys a piece of equipment, it should be understood that they are buying the totality of it, not that they are buying simply the metal and not the brains behind it,’ said Bridgewater organic seed potato farmer Jim Gerritsen during congressional testimony in September.”


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MAINE TALES. PROUD MOTHERS. SPRINGHILL, LOISIANNA. Circa 1983. It all depends on your idea of having fun. For


It all depends on your idea of having fun. For a Mainer, sitting by a warm woodstove and looking out the window at the cold world outside is pretty hard to beat.

Jim was part of a crew of hoedad treeplanters spread out on the logging road across a clearcut in northern Louisiana. “Hoedads” are specialized mattocks swung with one hand while the other hand repeatedly grabs out trees for planting from a shoulder-strapped planting bag.

The weather had turned cold with the onset of the record-busting “Great Freeze of ’83.” After going through a bout of a half-inch of sleet, the area received another three inches of insulating snow. The cold, ice and snow had shut down the crew from hand-planting Loblolly Pine trees. The only thing that could rescue that icy Lousianna world was an above-freezing-thaw and that was not in cards.

Three treeplanters on the crew happened to be friends from northern Florida. Their idea of fun was to scratch the itch, leave camp and discover America up close by braving the roads. That was before the days of cell phones and those three weren’t heard from again until the thaw ten days later.

In the 1970s and 1980s hoedad planting became a way for independent nonconformists to earn money by working hard. Planting season down South occurs during the Winter when rain, cool weather and moist ground conditions increase tree survivability rates. Southern planting is high production planting on ground too rough and ornery to plant by machine. After paying your dues and learning the how-tos of the trade, there was good money if you had a strong back and the drive to work long and hard. Hundred-dollar-days morphed into two-hundred-dollar days and tree planting became a good way to earn big bucks and then sink them into the voracious appetite of a Maine farm getting going.

Most crews of Southern treeplanters were young men and many came down from the North. Forty years ago, in his bachelor days, Jim left the farm and planted for three Winters from November until April. During those three Winters he planted over one million trees in ten southern States from Texas to Florida to Delaware.

Southern tree planters lived in rigs such as hollowed-out Ford and Chevy vans parked right on the very clearcuts they were planting. They were compensated for their repetitive stoop labor with piece-rate pay. Forty years ago tree planting reflected a raw, unbridled capitalist system. Hardcore planters worked every daylight hour. Pay week ran from Sunday through Saturday and by Wednesday morning they would have the week’s first forty hours under their belts.

In those laissez-faire days every week or two they’d relocate to working/living on a new clearcut which needed planting. Hitting the road and moving sites provided the opportunity to descend upon a town and restock their camper vans with nonperishables, canned food and Gerry cans full of water. That way they could lay in for the next siege.

The Great Freeze of ’83 hit hard and fast. Treeplanting across the South screeched to a halt. Our one company had twenty crews of 15-20 treeplanters spread across the South. In the fullness of time, ten days later after our jail birds had returned, we learned local icy roads had been treacherous and impassable. With cars lacking snow tires and trucks devoid of snowplows, officials had elected to place barricades across roads to ‘encourage’ would-be-rubber-neckers to stay home until the sunshine could melt away the mayhem.

Before leaving Maine, Jim had installed a compact icehouse woodstove in his van. Everyday, he would emerge from the toasty van and spend an hour with a hand saw cutting up short chucks of hardwood logging slash, collecting them into his treeplanting bag. Once thawed and dried out inside the van, the limitless firewood provided fine fuel for warmth from the stubborn icy cold North wind.

Earlier that season at a second-hand-store, Jim had scored for twenty-five cents a hardcover copy of the classic livestock farmer’s bible, ‘Morrison’s Feeds and Feeding’ which details every aspect of the myriad of types of livestock farming. During that forced downtime he read that book word-for-word cover to cover.

Reading ‘Feeds and Feeding’ was staycation fun, and Mr. Morrison’s mother should be proud.

Caleb, Jim & Megan


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BRAND NEW ‘WOOD PRAIRIE SEED PIECE’ NOW POSTED ONLINE! Read our NEW ‘Maine Tales’ entitled “Proud Mothers,” offering a

BRAND NEW ‘WOOD PRAIRIE SEED PIECE’ NOW POSTED ONLINE! Read our NEW ‘Maine Tales’ entitled “Proud Mothers,” offering a Southern view of the “Great Freeze of ’83.” Plus Megan’s Delicious Recipe for ‘Sea-Salt Baked Potatoes.’ And the ‘Two Best Fingerling Potatoes,’ Winter Farm Photo Stories & Much More! View our new ‘Seed Piece’ here:
Caleb, Megan & Jim Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine


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Douglas Bradstreet – Monday, January 9th, 2023

DOUG BRADSTREET PASSES ON. In Bridgewater, we have two clans of Bradstreets. There are the ‘Farming Bradstreets’ and there are the ‘Logging Bradstreets.’ Doug was patriarch of the Logging Bradstreets.
Doug was a good man and a tireless, hard worker. For much of his life he logged in the Winter and did construction work in the Summer and had a fleet of well-maintained heavy equipment. He helped us on numerous construction projects over the last 30 years. He was good at running every type of heavy machinery. He was an especially deft master at running bulldozer.
Two years ago – at age 89 – in order to help us catch up he came out with his excavator. He helped dig a trench for an underground irrigation line which we immediately put to work getting water to our thirsty potato crop.
Over the years, half of his 18 grandchildren have worked for us. Every one of them had picked up Doug’s work ethic and was a no-nonsense hard worker.
Doug leaves behind quite a legacy and an enormous, generous clan.
He will be missed. Caleb, Megan & Jim

Douglas Bradstreet – Monday, January 9th, 2023