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Friday, April 16th, 2021
Volume 30 Issue 4

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In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

   Big Spring Sale!


Milliken General Store, Bridgewater, Maine. Circa 1954

This remarkable shot was captured on the cusp of a new era. It was taken by acclaimed American photographer Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). Only in the years following the close of World War II did Towns and the State begin to plow snow from wintertime roads in Northern Maine. Until that changeover, snow was packed by horse-drawn ‘Rollers’ and winter travel was limited to a horse-drawn pung or sled plus - for greater distances - the railroad. Cars and trucks would be parked in the Fall only to be started up again after snowmelt in the Spring. Schools followed the rhythm of the seasons by beginning in November after Fall farm fieldwork had been finished, and continuing until March when mud-season made travel difficult. This pattern allowed plenty of time to haul, cut seed and plant potatoes. The old joke was that either you were living through Winter or getting ready for Winter. While we humans are still very social beings, it’s hard to imagine seeing the same sort of camaraderie and loafing today that is depicted in the photo.

Here on the farm, loafing has been the thing farthest from our minds as we put in long weeks working extra hard trying to keep up with shipping out orders. Shipping has peaked and that expected seasonal development is now allowing us to make progress on catching up. Turnaround time on orders has been about a week but thanks to our dedicated crew we’re beginning to trim that back.

In case you are wondering, YES we do have good supplies of most varieties of our Organic Seeds including Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes, Organic Vegetable Seed, Organic Herb Seed, Organic Flower Seed and Organic Cover Crop Seed. We have a BIG Spring Sale going on right now – please scroll down to find the details and enjoy huge SAVINGS!

Thanks for your business – and patience - and we hope you are enjoying a wonderful Spring!

Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine
Maine Tales. The Fall Wendell Berry Visited Aroostook County. Presque Isle, Maine. Circa 1984.

We picked up Kentucky farmer and author Wendell Berry at the small airport in Presque Isle. In the remaining daylight hours we squired him around the farm fields of Central Aroostook. In time we parked by the side of the road when we came upon one of Hershel Smith’s massive fields where a large crew of farm workers were laboring, hand-harvesting jade green broccoli.

Our friend, Stan Scott, an English professor at nearby UM-Presque Isle was that year in charge of the outside-speakers-committee. Stan had miraculously been able to secure Wendell for a three day Aroostook visit in which among other events Wendell spoke before a large crowd at the college and answered questions posed by the honors English class at Presque Isle high school taught by author Glenna Johnson Smith.

It was the end of October and by that time the Aroostook potato crop had for weeks been safely harvested and put away into local potato houses. What is now the 40-year old Aroostook broccoli industry had gotten its start as a promising rotation crop for potatoes just a few years before in 1980. The workers were hacking the broccoli heads off their stalks with a heavy harvest knife, then tossing those heads into an accompanying wagon slowly creeping across the field. We sat in silence watching the workers work.

After a while, Wendell – steeped in the nuances of labor-intensive hand-harvest of tobacco in Kentucky – began a blow-by-blow, detailed expert’s narration of process and the workers’ individual movements the rest of us were rather cluelessly watching. He singled out one man and noted how his motion was not as fluid as those of his co-workers. Wendell interpreted that after a long day of harvest this man’s back was troubling him and that in response he had adopted a certain back-saving technique so he could keep up with the work flow and make his back pain bearable.

That day we came to understand better that there are deep layers that may well remain hidden and undiscovered. Many of us ramble along in a fog while rare others - benefiting from depth and experience - reap a richer harvest from life. We are indeed fortunate on those occasions when circumstances line up and others with insight generously share their bounty with us.

Special Offer: Welcome to Our Wood Prairie Spring Super Sale!

Our Yankee habit of consistently low balling Winter-long estimates of what quantity of organic Certified Seed Potatoes we have to sell sometimes results in a real Springtime reward! That’s the case this year and we’re happy to announce today we have good supplies on hand, including most of our Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes, Organic Vegetable Seed, Organic Herb Seed, Organic Flower Seed and Organic Cover Crop Seed.

But better hurry because our Organic Seed is sure to go fast!

Also, please take advantage of SIGNIFICANT SAVINGS – going on right now! - on some of our most popular Organic Seed Potato varieties: Yukon Gold, All-Blue, Caribou Russet and Russian Banana Fingerling.   

Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

The Real Reason World Procrastination is Alive & Well. By early March snow depth had reached its peak. While others of us slaved working a Saturday shift trying to keep up with shipping seed orders, outside under striking blue skies two local Sargent brothers - Howard (pictured) and William – were up on the roof earning gas money and ‘shoveling’ snow from a notorious roof valley. Starting in at 645am when it was +5ºF, they used "snow scoops" which slid along the rooftop and minimized the back-breaking lifting required by actual shovels. The roof had 2 feet of wind packed snow throughout, but it rose to four feet deep in the valley they are working over to. By Sunday afternoon the boys had finished. Weren’t we surprised by the next weekend when an early warm spell had effortlessly melted the snow from all other roofs on the farm.

Caleb Rotating a Pallet Box of Potatoes onto Grading Equipment for Final Inspection.
   From November to January we pre-grade our entire crop of organic seed potatoes into thousand-pound-capacity wooden pallet boxes. This step allows us to generate a pretty accurate count on the tonnage of each variety of potatoes available to sell and ship to gardeners and farmers like you in all 50 States. Then, as they are needed during the main Feb-June shipping season, the seed potatoes get one last inspection just before they are packaged up and shipped out. Here, Caleb is using our newly installed forklift pallet box Rotator to gently empty a box of the new mid-season Maine variety, Caribou Russet. Potatoes get graded into manageable fifty-pound-totes which are then palletized and sent upstairs for the crew to bag.

One Thousand Wood Prairie Orders Packaged Up and Ready-to-Go.
   Demand for seed has remained strong all year. Despite the nation’s farm labor shortage we’ve almost been able to keep up. In this weekend session, Caleb (blue shirt) and his packing crew stack parcels head high on three pallets awaiting pickup by the Post Office. Kenyon (out of view) grew up without electricity inside the wilderness Baxter State Park where both his parents were Park Rangers. He drove his snowmobile 12 miles every day to meet the school bus to East Millinocket. Cathy (orange hat) also worked at BSP and used to commute an hour-and-a-half to Wood Prairie. That was before she could move into her new old farmhouse in Easton, next door to Old Order Amish neighbors. High schoolers Jim O'Meara (reaching for a 'pink box' full of Blue Seed Tags) and his brother Tom (working with Jim in the underground potato storage grading potatoes) travel an hour to help on weekends from their organic farm in New Sweden. Young Jim has taught himself to become an accomplished blacksmith and built himself a shop last Summer, sawing out the needed lumber on his family's sawmill. Out of sight in the office, Megan, Rob and Caleb's sister, Amy, sort orders and print shipping labels. After working during the week, RJ and Miguel use the weekend to catch up on school work. Laura and Leah work from their homes stickering bags and filling vegetable seed packets while tending their families. Longtime co-worker Frank (our local IT genius) plus Gail, Emily and Michelle work from home answering the phones. Here in Maine it takes a village to fill an order.

Wood Prairie Cats Admiring Our Maine State Bird.
A winter-long obsession for Goose (left) and Ginger is to watch Black-capped Chickadees grab a lunch of oil-seed sunflower seeds from the bird feeder outside the kitchen window. Perched in the ultimate safety of adjacent spruce trees, they will dart in momentarily, rapidly eat their fill then fly back to the security of the boreal spruce. Chickadees are the State bird of Maine and Massachusetts, as well as the Provincial bird of our neighbor New Brunswick, Canada. They aren’t snowbirds so they go through the Maine Winters right along with the rest of us. 

Bright Winter Days Inside the Wood Prairie Cattle Barn.
  While our cowboy ancestors might be turning over in their graves, truth-be-told our reasons for having cattle center around the need to clean up cull potatoes. Potatoes with gashes, gouges and defects are 'picked out' into 5-gallon buckets. As needed for feed they are ground to smithereens with a noisy potato grinder built for us thirty years ago by local-metal-fabricator Lawrence Bros in Mars Hill. Our 'tarp barn' is a converted year-round snow-shedding greenhouse mounted on a four-foot concrete knee-wall. The covering is two-layers of heavy-duty UV-treated polyethylene which creates a bright and appealing abode. Out of boredom the cows sometimes abrasively lick the inner layer with their rough tongues. Here, looking south, Megan is eyeing her Irish Dexter and Dexter-cross cattle (increasingly crossed with beefier Low-Line Angus) as one-year-old Australian Shepard, Oakley, looks on. The door on the south is always open allowing regular access to the outside world. We use a warm, deep-bedding system in which sawdust, waste hay and manure accumulate throughout the Winter. Once a year after planting we clean out the barn with our Skidsteer Loader and then refill the loafing-area with a foot or two of fresh sawdust. The bedding-mix becomes fertilizer for next year's potatoes and Fall-thinned beef becomes grass-based sustenance for our family.



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