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Friday, May 14th, 2021
Volume 30 Issue 6

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In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

   Still Lots of Time to Plant!

A California Potato Harvest.

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.

Dear Farmers,

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!

Ralph Elder

Forestville, CA

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 with 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!

Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine

Special Offer: Welcome to Our Wood Prairie Sale!

Act now and enjoy great Savings for a Limited Time! Order today from our extensive selection of Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes, Organic Vegetable Seed, Organic Herb Seed, Organic Flower Seed and Organic Cover Crop Seed.

Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Putting Up 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 planted out.

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 days.



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