May 14th, 2021
Volume 30 Issue 6
In This Issue of The
Wood Prairie Seed
Still Lots of
Time to Plant!
A California Potato
Ralph Elder clearly has a green thumb! While we here
in the North are waiting for the ground to warm up so
we can get out and plant, others of you in more
temperate climes enjoy a much bigger window into which
you can grow your gardens.
Ralph recently sent us the photo above along the nice
note below, all the way from California.
Once again your seed potatoes have grown
into sturdy, vital and lush plants filling
my garden. I attach a photo of my first
harvest of new potatoes, carefully culled
this morning. We look forward to roast
potatoes for dinner tonight, and for many
nights to come.
I know that you work hard to create and
maintain such high quality seed and wanted
you to know how much my family and neighbors
appreciate that work. Thank you!
With a warm up week in the forecast for Northern Maine,
we expect to be planting our own organic potato crop
soon. But not to worry! There is still plenty of time to
plant potatoes in most parts of the country. We’re now
caught up with shipping and have a very fast turnaround
on your orders. Selection remains excellent
most of our varieties in-stock and ready to go.
Please let us know how we can help you and all the best
with your planting!
Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Offer: Welcome to Our Wood Prairie
|Wood Prairie Family
Potatoes in Our Underground Potato Cellar. In this photo, Ken
helps Jim box up organic Yukon Gold potatoes onto a pallet
for immediate shipment. The potatoes had already been
pre-graded, cleaned and sized over our 'Long' grading line.
For this step of boxing up on our ‘Short’ line, we make a
final inspection using just two pieces of potato grading
equipment: a wide 'Nylon Brusher' and a foot-pedal-operated
'Single Bagger.' Both pieces of potato-handling units
are painted red, the tell-tale no-nonsense branding
mechanism conveying with certainty they were manufactured at
local potato equipment maker 'Haines Manufacturing' in
nearby Presque Isle. This sprawling potato
equipment business has been an irreplaceable linch pin of
Aroostook County potato production for nearly a century.
Their vast inventory of esoteric potato industry parts is
staggering and legendary. The business was started in 1930
and has been run day-in, day-out by three generations of
hands-on Haines, first Harold, then Junior, and now Fred.
Junior Haines passed a couple of years ago at age 88. Fred's
mother, Jackie, still keeps the books. Fred has been steeped
in this unique fabrication business since he could walk and
that was well over 60 years ago. Haines is open five
days a week, 51 weeks a year. Aroostook County farmers
have been well-trained to not break down during that week of
July which contains the 4th, because Haines and their crew
always take off that one week.
Three Pallets of Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes
Await Their Trips Southbound. In the
underground cellar, each placarded, stretch-wrapped pallet
is set to go to its own separate farm destination. An
accompanying clipboard maintains order and contains that
pallet's Bill-of-Lading. One of the natural advantages
which Maine has historically used to great advantage in the
potato business is just how quickly outside air temperatures
begin to drop as the days get shorter in October. Once
harvested, using fans at night, Aroostook potatoes which
can be quickly cooled down to their winter long storage
temp of 38ºF. In this way Maine potatoes not
only keep better than their more southerly counterparts, but
potatoes grown as Certified Seed possess a younger
physiological age. That youth translates into
valuable qualities of extra vigor and higher yields when
Pit Stop at Maine’s Wood Prairie Family Farm.
When busy, farmers tend to put off some jobs so that other
more pressing work can get done. Maybe five years ago we
ordered a replacement tire and wheel expecting to one day to
need to replace it on the Yale Electric Forklift entombed in
our underground potato house. Tires on these rugged
forklifts are solid rubber. With great hydraulic
pressure the tire is tightly wedged onto a sturdy steel
wheel. For tight turning in cramped warehouses, this Yale
features a tricycle design. The twin wheels on the front
axle are solid set. The single rear wheel serves as both the
drive and steering wheel. Tire performance had been rapidly
declining over recent months. It became clear the old
tire would not last until planting time. Using a
full 1200-pound pallet box of potatoes as ballast, Caleb
jacked up the rear of the heavy forklift. Having
corralled the necessary tools ahead of time, in the end the
tire/wheel replacement went pretty fast. We bought
this Yale as a used machine, 22 years ago and then built our
underground potato storage around it. It's been a reliable,
daily pit pony for us and we are counting on it for many
more years of service.
Parcels Ready to Go at Wood Prairie Family Farm.
If all goes well we hope to add onto our packing shed this
Summer. Between pallets of potatoes ready-for-bagging
and other pallets full of parcels bound for the Post Office
and Fedex, it can become pretty elbow-to-elbow crowded here
during peak shipping season. Unlike virtually all of our
competition – other seed companies which simply
buy-for-resale what they offer - we are an independent
organic family farm which grows the Maine Certified Seed
Potatoes we ship. Our direct-to-customer advantage
provides us phenomenal capability. It allows us to
ship your order when you want it, from our on-farm
underground storage 10 months per year, from late Sept until
July 4th, and not just a few inconvenient weeks during the
Spring. It also allows us to maintain seed tubers in
perfect condition, and to turnaround your orders
quickly. Finally, we are able to manage our seed stock
inventory effectively and this allows us to continue to
offer a wide selection of great varieties at the same time
everybody else is sold out.
Living the Good Life on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
As the days of Spring get longer, the winter long pastime of
lounging on the sofa are drawing to their seasonal
close. The weather is warming and the outside world is
calling. Here, Oakley, our one-year-old Australian
Shepherd snuggles up to his friend, Goose.
Oakley came here as a puppy from a horse farm not too far
away. Goose and her twin sister, Ginger, a couple of
years ago were local rescue kittens dispatched here for
“temporary” foster care at the tender age of 4 weeks
old. Caleb’s sisters, Sarah & Amy nursed
them to health and – surprise! – they soon became regular
fixtures on our farm. They help our old-timer cats
keep the mouse population in check.
Slipping Back Into the Rut of Recent Years: Spring’s
Progress in Maine Stalls in May.
Our April was warm and dry. We lost our snow
early. Dry soil warms up quickly and with a soil temp
of 46ºF on May 1 it looked like we were pulling ahead of the
20-year-average. Then came the impacts of three cool rain
events, totaling 2.65" in the last two weeks, teamed up with
the consistently chilly weather so far in May. This
week we had to scrape the frost away from the dial on the
soil thermometer to reveal that the soil temp had dropped
another degree down to 42ºF. Why does this
matter? Growth requires warmth. When it comes to planting
potatoes wound-healing (the callusing over of a cut surface
on a seed potato) won't occur below 45ºF. Cold seed in cold
ground sits and may become breakfast for opportunistic soil
fungi. We plant our potatoes when the soil temp hits
50ºF (measured 6” deep at 7am) so, taught by history we aim
to get going around May 20. However, the pattern developing
in recent years has our Spring warm-up stalling out. Last
year a 10" snowfall on May 9th - followed by a cold week in
the 30s - took its toll on soil temp. That radical
aberration from the 20+ year norm was depicted well in the
soil temp chart maintained by Dr. Steve Johnson at the
Potato Experiment Station in nearby Presque Isle,
Maine. The predicted warmth for the week ahead should
get us back on track.
Amy Heading Out to Harrow Our Potato Field for the
First Time. With a soaking
rain forecast for the next day on our minds, Caleb's sister,
Amy, took our 19-foot wide IH 4500 Vibrashank harrow out for
the first time. Her job was to arrest weed growth on the
field where we'll be growing this year's crop of Organic
Maine Certified Seed Potatoes. That end of April
effort marked the first time we got on the ground during
the month of April in many years. With last
year's cool, wet Spring and May snowfall it was mid-May when
we were first able to get on the ground and harrow.
That was a few days later than in recent times.
This year, the ice went out in our irrigation ponds early,
the Poplars leafed out a week earlier than recent years, and
we’ve been seeing Black Flies weeks early for the past ten
Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765
Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox