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Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
Saturday, January 2nd, 2021
 Volume 30 Issue 1

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   New Year News.

Wood Prairie Family Farm’s ‘New’ 1977 White 2-105 Tractor.

       Over the years the largest potato operation in our town of Bridgewater was owned by four brothers and is to this day known as ‘Bradbury Brothers.’ For decades, Bradbury Bros - besides farming potatoes - had also acquired and operated a bustling Oliver Farm Equipment dealership. This local Bradbury Bros dealership is a big reason why there have always been so many Oliver tractors in this part of Aroostook County. We long ago became fans and confidently pull our farm’s equipment with Oliver tractors.

In time, Oliver was bought out by truck-maker White Motor Corporation which kept the Oliver name alive for more than a decade. In 1974 White shifted gears and decided to re-brand their tractor line as ‘Whites’ and paint them silver and black instead of Oliver green. The White 2-105 was designed by Oliver engineers and was built in an Oliver factory by longtime Oliver factory workers. Basically, they took a 92 HP Oliver 1850 (we own 2) with a Perkins Diesel engine and added a turbocharger to raise the power to 105 horses, painted it silver and black and called it the White 2-105. This Fall, Caleb stumbled across a good deal for the local, used White pictured above which is in very nice condition.

Now, down to business! The gigantic factor for seed companies throughout 2020 was the sustained high demand. That surge continues now that we’re into 2021. Again, we urge you to order early because seed supplies appear unlikely to keep up with demand. We remain current on shipping out your orders. It’s been that kind of year and we are late getting out the new catalog but look for it in your mailbox soon! In the meantime, please check out our website www.woodprairie.organic . NEW! offerings for 2021 include: Organic French Charlotte Potatoes, the Southern Belle Special, Lehigh Gold Potatoes, Organic Gold Rush Wax Beans, Organic Zeb Lettuce and much more!

Thanks for your support and all the best in the New Year ahead!

Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine
Our Best Selling Products!


     Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Caleb Performing Property Maintenance on Wood Prairie Family Farm.  Upon the completion of a recent farm project, we had a couple days left before the rented JLG 60-foot Manlift had to go home. Caleb used the time to good effect, cutting down big Poplar ("Popple") trees we came to realize posed a danger when growing too close to our buildings.  Ten years ago we were subjected to the powerful remnants of an early-season Tropical Storm.  On the Saturday of that 4th of July weekend, our town received 6" of rain accompanied by 45 mph winds.  With saturated soil, shallow-rooted, top-heavy Poplar trees could not stand their ground and toppled over in the wind, often taking down a half-dozen nearby Spruces and Firs along with them.  Even since we've been on a logger's crusade of cutting up for firewood big Poplars loitering suspiciously close to our buildings. Trees like this one Caleb sawed down from the safety of the skyhigh Manlift.

Maine’s Winter Off to a Mild Start.   With La Nina taking control of Northern Hemisphere weather patterns for now – and expected to last at least through March – Maine experienced a mild November & December.  So far we’ve only twice dropped below zero and the disappearance of firewood has been subdued.   Snowfalls to date have been modest and often rotate with rain, making for slick and icy footing.  Caleb carefully rebuilt and re-painted every part between the two bumpers on his vintage labor-of-love red & white 1994 Ford F250 crewcab diesel pickup.  So far, it has journeyed a modest 240,000 miles.  He grounds the F250 on the farm every Fall for the duration of Winter as soon as road crews first start spreading ice-melting road salt.  Salt is tough on metal vehicles and rusts them out.  Caleb’s goal is to get 400,000 miles from this truck.  It was built just two months before he was born.

Oakley & Halle Enjoying Aroostook County’s First Snowfall. This is the first winter for our 8-month-old Australian Shepherd, Oakley, and this was his first snowfall.  As an uber energetic 8-month old he has never, ever met something that he is not excited about, including new snow. He is beginning to learn - through skidding - that braking in snow is different than braking on snowless ground.  Beside him, our wise Great Pyrenees, Halle, now six years old long ago outgrew her puppy-like behavior.   At middle age Halle is content to let Oakley run circles around her.  Behind the dogs is our farm-auction-prize: an 8' wide PTO-powered snowblower awaiting mounting onto the rear of a farm tractor. In an annual pre-snow ritual, we had spent the day prior to the snowfall clearing out the yard and putting equipment and pallet boxes away so that we can push the snow around unimpeded until April.

Caleb Towing Stuck Truck on Icy Driveway. In decades past snowy Aroostook County was pretty inexperienced with ice.  While snow might randomly fall in October and November it would rarely stick around.  The first snow that was to stay with us through April would reliably fall during the week before Thanksgiving.  Then, every few years we’d see stretches in mid-winter when the day’s high temperature migrated somewhere above freezing.  That was called the ‘January Thaw.’  In the last couple of decades, Falls tend to stay warmer, Winter begins later often with alternating snow and rain, and then Winter doesn’t let go its grip until April or even May as it did last ‘Spring.’.  The rain-snow zig-zag now leaves icy roads in early Winter, especially troublesome for truckers with Summer-style tires.  Caleb had been hauling gravel from a local pit late into Fall and had outfitted our dump truck with tire chains all around.   The chains gripping power came in handy recently when a tractor-trailer couldn’t navigate our icy driveway and needed a tug uphill.

Iced Over Outlet from Wood Prairie’ ‘Small Pond.’ They began keeping  records at the Weather Office in Caribou in 1939.  Northern Maine’s growing season in 2020 was the driest they have ever recorded.  On our farm from June 1 – Sept 30 we received  5.65” rainfall.  A potato farm in the Ashland rain shadow, 20 miles northwest of here, got just 3” during the same period.  It takes 14” of water to grow a potato crop.  Then, as Potato Harvest was winding down the pendulum swung and in October alone we had 6.52” of rainfall. We pumped our ponds down irrigating our crops.  The third-acre ‘Small Pond’ when full is eighteen feet deep.  We drew that pond down about halfway.  Thankfully, when the rains come back that pond has especially good recharge from our woodlot and it has been re-filling all Fall.  A heavy rainstorm accompanied our record warm +58oF Christmas Day 2020.  The rocked-in engineered-outlet from the now full Small Pond over-flowed with the surplus rain and snowmelt.  That overflow soon iced over and left a beautiful display.

Ginger Helping with New (Late) Catalog Project. For us, 2020 has been the year of being behind, catalog included.  Thirty years ago we produced our mail order catalogs on a traditional, entrepreneurial kitchen table of lore.  However, as the Gerritsen family grew with more and more place settings that location became impractical for drawn-out-projects.  We came to use a table festooned with paraphernalia such as the boxes holding thirty-year’s worth of ancestor catalogs.   The table was covered by an army of catalog clipboards ordered to keep track of hard-copy-pages on their journey towards perfection, amid graphics, catalog copy and hundreds of testimonials.    The table is near our rugged and reliable Fisher woodstove which effortlessly heats the whole house, aided by a quiet window fan that circulates the heat.   A cozy, fleece-lined pet bed is the warmest perch in the house and is usually occupied by one lucky cat-of-the-day.   Here, 15-month-old rescue-kitten ‘Ginger’ generously contributes by keeping important papers from blowing around.

Jim Putting Up ‘Florida’ Seed Potato Samples. Maine initiated its official State-run Certified Seed Potato program 106 years ago.  Seed certification is important to severely limit disease transmission via seed tubers - from one generation to the next - for this major vegetatively-propagated world food crop.  In Maine every seed lot of every variety destined for sale must pass the post-harvest test. For many decades the State of Maine owned a farm near Homestead , Florida, where it would conduct a well-respected "Grow-Out" test.  Representative 400-tuber samples of each seed lot were trucked down to Florida, carefully planted on the farm in early November, and then two months later  potato plants were laboriously scrutinized in the field for potato virus by skilled Maine Seed Potato Inspectors on temporary work re-assignment.   Following the grow-out test, the 'Florida Readings' were published each Winter in a well-circulated book by the State of Maine.  This reliable process allowed potato farmers across the country who were interested in purchasing a given seed lot an accurate glimpse into how that seed lot would perform for them when they planted that seed on their own farm the following Spring.  In recent years the 'Florida Test' has been transformed into a locally-conducted laboratory ELISA test.  In this photo, Jim is working in our underground potato house re-inspecting representative seed tubers collected for the post-harvest test by a co-worker on the potato harvester.  Each bag represents one seed lot and the pallet is headed to the test lab. https://www.woodprairie.com/images/littlemoose.png

Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765 Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox