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Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
          Saturday, January 11th, 2020
                Volume 28 Issue 15

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 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

   Two Decades More.


    Bird’s Eye View of Wood Prairie Family Farm. Bridgewater, Maine. Circa 1999.

One of the sweet benefits of having a four-year-crop-rotation is that it helps you to remember the past. Take for example, twenty years ago when this photo – looking East - was taken. As in 2019, we grew Organic Seed Potatoes on the ‘Home Farm’ fields in the foreground. So our crop last season was the fourth one we’ve grown on these fields since the ’99 crop. During the alternate fifteen years, the fields were benefitting from having been planted to soil-building cover crops. The fields in the photo are bare, indicating that we had already finished potato harvest. The progress of the leaves changing color indicates it was around the first week in October. We remember that year was incredibly busy because in addition to farming we built a major addition to our underground potato storage.

As you might imagine our soil is richer now, and grows better crops than we were able to grow twenty years ago. As well, that same soil in 1999 was better than when we farmed it twenty years earlier in 1979. The promise of organic farming is fulfilled each and every time we plant a field. We know, through our own observation, combined with the wisdom gleaned from those who have gone before us, that each time a cycle goes by and we plant a field anew, it will be better than the four years before when we worked it last.

Organic farming is the sort of enduring, regenerative, stable agriculture the world needs now more than ever. And as Eliot Coleman explains in our first article, we have our Grandparents to thank for this amazing blessing.

Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine
My Agricultural Grandparents.

Eliot Coleman. Maine organic farmer.

Our friend, longtime organic farmer icon Eliot Coleman at Four Seasons Farm in Harborside, Maine, has written another must read powerful masterpiece, entitled, My Agricultural Grandparents.

In this new essay Eliot pays homage to the pioneers of organic farming, contemporaries of his own Grandfather’s generation. It’s fitting that the organic community should show reverence to the soil as the foundation of organic farming. As Eliot makes clear, we should also share reverence for those stalwarts with understanding and vision who bucked the then popular yet ultimately dubious tide of ‘modern’ miracle-in-a-sack farming.

Caleb, Megan & Jim

“It is not uncommon for farmers to talk about the influence their grandparents had on their farming education and their eventual success in agriculture. I am no different. But my story comes with a unique twist. My paternal grandfather, Leander Walter Townsend Coleman, was born in 1868 but was not a farmer. Unfortunately for me, the Coleman family association with farming on the family land had ended three generations before Leander’s birth. So, the grandparents I am about to acknowledge are not related to me by blood. And, although they are long deceased like Leander, they reside on my farm and I consult them on a daily basis. My farming grandparents are old books and the people who wrote them. They live on the shelves in my library and I am indebted to them. I call them grandparents because all these books were published during Leander’s lifetime. The farming techniques they convey were understood when he was born, were practiced during the early years of his life, and were as successful then as they are now…

“The important fact from my experience, after 50 years of practicing what my grandparents have taught me, is that classical organic farming works and it works far better than most people can imagine. These concepts have successfully fed mankind for 4000 years, a fact that another grandfather on my list, Franklin Hiram King, expressed so eloquently in his 1911 book, Farmers of Forty Centuries. King pointed out that the obvious answer to maintaining agricultural production in perpetuity is written on the soil of farms all around the world where the importance of feeding the soil is recognized."

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Cover Crop Seed.

Special Offer: FREE Organic Caribe' Seed Potatoes!

       Of all the potato varieties we have ever grown there is only one which we have boldly stated: “Should be planted in every garden.” Its name Organic Caribe’. Caribe’ (‘Ka-REE-Bay’ – Spanish for Caribbean) was bred in nearby Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada by our friend, the now retired Ag Canada potato breeder, Dr. Hielke de Jong.

We have been growing Caribe’ since before it was officially released in 1984, thanks to some enterprising organic farmer friends on the Canadian side of the border. Caribe’ is so early and so high-yielding – tubers size up remarkably quickly - that back in the 1980s era when Colorado Potato Beetles were annually a horrendous production problem, researchers at University of Rhode Island recommended simply growing Caribe’ without spraying, as an effective CPB management technique.

You should check out Organic Caribe’ for yourself. We’ll make that easy for you! Earn a FREE 1 lb. Sack of Organic Caribe’ Seed Potatoes (Value $11.95) when your next Wood Prairie order totals $59 or more. FREE Organic Caribe’ Seed Potatoes Offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday, January 13. Please use Promo Code WPFF461. Your order and FREE Organic Caribe’ Seed Potato Offer - must ship no later than May 5, 2020. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please place your order TODAY!

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

Organic Caribe'.
Should be in every garden.
Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Snowy Wood Prairie Family Farm Driveway.   December was as mild as November was cold and snowy. A new foot of snow on New Year’s Eve allowed Northern Maine to welcome in 2020 with great beauty. It took Caleb most of five hours to plow us out.

Seven Sacks of Wood Prairie Seed.
   We were asked to donate some of our Certified Organic Seed Potatoes for a gardening contest and we were happy to oblige. We have spent the first part of Winter pre-grading our entire potato crop. This effort allows us to sort and measure what seed stock we will have to sell. We’re grateful to have a good-looking crop, moderate in size thanks to our Summer-long drought. So you’ll want to order early this year. We’re now down to our last four varieties needing grading. The step of pre-grading allows us to be nimble and quickly turn around orders for you. We’ve been shipping daily since last September and so far no shut downs from this end due to extreme weather.

Loading a 3-Ton Yale Forklift.
   Every so often there is a need to head down south to round up second-hand equipment needed on the farm. Before Christmas, Caleb and Jim got up at 4 am for a trip which would have them criss-cross Maine collecting goods to bring back home. Here, a heavy duty hoist on a lumber truck is used to heist up a battery-powered Yale Forklift. We’ve had an identical Yale just like it working in the potato house cellar for twenty years. The battery alone weighs a ton. The next step was to carefully back up the trailer until it was positioned under the forklift.

Chaining the Forklift Load.  On their way down, Caleb & Jim first negotiated the purchase of that heavy duty red car trailer. It’s safest to secure heavy dense loads – like forklifts - with logging chains and secured with chain binders. Because of their dense weight and unnerving capability to roll around, a truckload of forklifts is one of the more problematic loads a trucker can haul. Potatoes or lumber know enough to stay where you put them. Forklifts have been known to not always follow orders.   

Short Days and Long Hauls.
Fueling up the truck after the last pickup – eight used snow tires in good shape for $200 – daylight had run out hours earlier. Besides the Forklift battery charger, the truck was loaded down with a shower stall, new lumber, and a ragtag assortment of blocking, jacks, chains, tool boxes, ropes and ratchet straps. The boys ran into nuisance value snow along the coast but by the time they crossed the Penobscot River at Medway, the pavement was dry and it was clear sailing. Thankfully, roadways on this trip were free of roaming moose.

John Muir on Allure.

Wood Prairie Recipe:
     Mini Potato Gratins.

Unsalted butter for muffin cups
4 medium Keuka Gold potatoes, about 6oz each
Coarse salt and ground pepper
6 T heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter 6 standard muffin cups. Thinly slice potatoes. Place 2 slices in each cup and season with salt and pepper. Continue adding potatoes, trimming as necessary to fit into muffin cups and season every few slices, until cups are filled. Pour 1 T heavy cream over each. Bake until potatoes are golden brown and tender when pierced with a knife, 30 to 35 minutes. Run a thin knife or spatula gently around each gratin. Place a baking sheet or large plate over pan and invert to release gratins. Flip right side up and serve.


Click here for our Wood Prairie Organic Seed Potatoes

Mini Potato Gratins, a Fun Variation.
Photo by Angela Wotton.

Wood Prairie Mailbox: Saving Organic and Real Potatoes.

Saving Organic

     I still am not proud about organic certification going national back in early 2000's. That was another set back for small organic farms. With so much organic food available in the Big Box store it has driven the demand down for local organic.

Cornville ME

     Organic demand is up but that increase is being scooped up by large national chains. Supply is increasingly being filled by mega-scale operations whose commitment to organic principles is questionable at best. Organic family farmers and independent retailers are being squeezed very hard.

I served on the MOFGA Certification Committee for almost 25 years beginning in the mid-1980s. The fact is USDA - which then had and maintains yet today an institutional hatred of organic farming - was being pressured at that time by the State Commissioners of Ag to develop a single national definition of organic so as to facilitate interstate-commerce (an Executive branch responsibility under the U.S. Constitution). USDA was absolutely going to act.

The organic community had the option of sitting on our hands, doing nothing and letting USDA create a total disaster on their own - OR - take the bull by the horns and pass pioneering legislation establishing in federal law how USDA must enforce organic practices. Sen. Leahy’s (D-VT) bill, the Organic Foods Production Act, finally miraculously passed when it was skillfully attached as a rider to the 1990 Farm Bill. OFPA is not perfect (no law is) but it is a good law. The real failure we are dealing with has been rogue and corporate-captive agency USDA's willful refusal to obey and enforce the OFPA law and the Final Rule. It is an enormous problem and creates an existential threat to all organic family farmers.

The solution is we must use the courts to force USDA to obey the law. No person, no agency is above the law.


Real Potatoes

     When asked where potatoes come from, everyone responds with "Ireland" When they originally showed up in Europe, no one would eat them.

Huntington WV

     Years ago I was on a panel of potato farmers at the second Slow Food Terre Madre gathering in Turin, Italy. One farmer from Germany kept referring to his potatoes as "Irish Potatoes." Every time he used that misnomer I winced and felt badly for the Peruvian farmer sitting next to me.  The correct reference is "Andean Potatoes" because potatoes were developed by Andean farmers (in what is now mountainous portions of Peru, Bolivia and Equador) beginning 8,000 years ago.


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