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Friday, June 18th, 2021
Volume 30 Issue 7

In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

   Planting Almost Done.

Potato Planting on Maine's Wood Prairie Family Farm.

In this shot, Jim is following the previously planted row and driving our reliable mid-1960s Oliver 1750 Diesel tractor pulling behind it our Tuber Unit Potato Planter.

The enlarged green 'Fertilizer Box' on the planter behind him is outfitted with an at one time breakthrough stainless steel conveyor chain. The 'chain' precisely meters out and dispenses dry organic ground rock fertilizer. Tubes place its steady dusty flow 2" below and 2" beside each seed pieces so plant roots will grow down into the fertility bonanza. By fabricating an add-on extension to the Fertilizer Box we are able to apply over an acre's worth (about 1200#) of blended-ground-up-rock-fertilize before having to refill.

In its single-minded potato-centric culture - and only marginally tongue-in-cheek - Aroostook County has developed an irresistible expression "if a little bit is good, a lot's gotta be better" which has universally captivated local thinking. One can see this belief system silently playing out in the rigor with which we deploy organic biological inoculants in our not one, not two, but three-stage-program to improve the health and performance of each seed piece and the rhizosphere in which it resides. The stainless steel 55-gal drums at the tractor's front contain a Wood Prairie concocted liquid seed inoculant solution. Coinciding with the two-row Potato Planter, two chisel plow teeth have been positioned on the mid-mount tool bar under the tractor's belly to hollow out and fluff up seed bed soil. Simultaneously, this special inoculant solution is dribbled deep into the trench which will become the seed piece rhizosphere. Potato plants have never had it so good!

We're done with planting potatoes and soon to be done planting everything else. We had pretty good moisture through May, but following the pattern of recent years it's now turned dry with June. Hope you're getting enough moisture and that your family and crops are doing well!

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

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Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Getting Organic Seed Potatoes Ready for Planting on Wood Prairie Family Farm. Using a forklift outfitted with a hydraulic Bin Rotator, Caleb pours a hardwood pallet box full of sprouted seed potatoes into a hopper.  With Kenyon's assistance, the two work together to then run the tubers over a ''Roller Inspection '' outfitted with two overhead sprayer nozzles which apply organic biological seed inoculants directly to the tuber surface. The Roller Table conveys tubers forward rolling them over and over to allow not only for superior inspection of all sides, but enabling in this application 100% spray coverage of skin surface and to each sprout growing out of each and every eye.

Adding Organic Fertilizer to the Wood Prairie Potato Planter.
   Under clear blue skies, with a warm stretch in the forecast and the soil temperature having climbed up to 49oF, 2021 potato planting got underway earlier than in recent years.  Caleb is filling the ''Fertilizer Box' on our modified Lockwood 2-Row Tuber-Unit Potato Planter. The fertilizer is a custom blend of ground up rock powders we have mixed for us by the Amish-owned 'Lancaster Ag Products' in Lancaster PA.  Based on analysis of a combination of Soil Tests, Petiole (Leaf) Testing and observation of weed species pressure, we generate a recipe specific to each field we plant.

How We Plant Our Organic Potatoes on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
  Megan took this picture of our tuber-unit potato planting operation.  The four workers on the Potato Planter - Cathy, Mathew, Miguel and Kenyon - take sprouted tubers from the hopper in front of them, cut the seed potatoes into appropriate 1.5 ounce 'seed pieces' and lay them sequentially onto a segmented rubber conveyor belt. "Tuber-unit" planting allows all seed pieces from one mother tuber to be planted as a group and increases our ability to successfully rogue out potato-virus-infected plants ("rogues") in July. Tuber-unit planting is an old-time method devised by seed growers and modernized by our conversion of a two-row ''pick-style' Lockwood Potato Planter. We've been tuber-unit planting for 35 years and this 'latest' Lockwood is our third machine rendition. We creep along at the breakneck speed of 0.5 mph.  Every year we plant about 30 miles of row and cut over a quarter million seed pieces.      

Harrowing Ahead of the Potato Planter.
This photo was taken one mid-morning while clear blue sky was on display to the East.  However, it wasn't long before clouds invaded from the West.  By mid-afternoon a line of thundershowers had traveled southeastward from Quebec and brought us mild thunderstorms which ended planting for that day.  In this shot taken from the seat of the Oliver 1750 Diesel tractor pulling our Potato Planter, Megan is driving a 92 HP Oliver 1850 Diesel and pulling a 19-foot IH (International Harvester) 'Vibrashank' harrow.    Both tractors hail from the Oliver factory in Charles City, Iowa and the halcyon days of the mid- to late-1960s when Oliver was on top of the world. Potato farmers ''Bradbury Bros' here in Bridgewater had secured an an Oliver Tractor dealership after the War, and that fact led to the populating of a great many Olivers on potato farms in this part of Aroostook County.

Handpicking Rocks on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
Picking rocks is the last-step-cleanup after the Wood Prairie potato planting party is over.  It took a recent morning and 4 dump cart loads to clean up our potato field of grapefruit-sized rocks and up, ones  big enough to break equipment and bruise potatoes. Here, Kenyon is driving the Farmall tractor attached to the hydraulic dump cart.  It's satisfying and permanent work in that once a rock is cleared from a field it will never have to be handled again.  We have always used our rocks to good effect as foundation to roads and buildings and over the years we have hauled thousands of yards of rocks, much by machine but always some left to pick by hand. 

Post-Planting Water Sports on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
Our best worker Amy, Caleb's sister, graduated high school two weeks ago.  Since we've already had some 90F days the irrigation ponds have warmed up quickly this year, extending the swimming season.  Amy's one-year-old Australian Shepherd, ''Oakley,' is this year getting used to the water.  As all of us should, he's learning how to keep his head above water and keep away the panic.  Oakley is absolutely crazy about chasing sticks on land...and now in water.  Amy has also helped him master his balancing act on her paddle board.  Come Fall, Amy is off to Husson College in Bangor, and is working on the farm through the Summer.

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