News and Commentary
Saturday, January 11th, 2020
Volume 28 Issue 15
Issue of The
Wood Prairie Seed
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.
Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Eliot Coleman. Maine
Our friend, longtime organic
farmer icon Eliot Coleman at Four Seasons Farm in
Harborside, Maine, has written another must read
powerful masterpiece, entitled, My
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."
Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Cover Crop Seed.
FREE Organic Caribe' Seed Potatoes!
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’
(‘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
$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!
Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Maine Certified Seed
Organic Caribe'. Should be in every garden.
|Wood Prairie Family
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.
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
Mini Potato Gratins.
Unsalted butter for muffin cups
4 medium Keuka
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.
for our Wood Prairie Organic Seed Potatoes
Mini Potato Gratins, a
Photo by Angela Wotton.
|Wood Prairie Mailbox:
Saving Organic and Real Potatoes.
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.
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
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.
When asked where potatoes come from, everyone responds
with "Ireland" When they originally showed up in Europe,
no one would eat them.
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
|Wood Prairie Farm
Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765
Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox