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Friday, July 15th, 2022
Volume 31 Issue 7

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In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

   Already It's Mid-Summer.


Megan Inspecting ‘Sarpo Mira’ Potatoes on Wood Prairie Family Farm.

A brand new and rare Potato variety we have been multiplying up for several years now - and hope to make available this Fall after harvest - is Sarpo Mira, an exciting and delicious disease-resistant variety from Hungary. In the distance beyond Megan, is a now-drying-down crop of Organic Winter Rye we planted last Fall immediately after we harvested from that same field our main 2021 crop of Organic Seed Potatoes. Nearby, in the headlands next to the Potatoes, is a field-perimeter Beneficial Flower Bed (another perimeter Bed is the lighter green you see between the Potatoes and Winter Rye) designed to attract and nourish Beneficial Insects which help control potato-damaging insect pests.

Really Good News!!! We sold out and ended sales of Potatoes out-of-storage from the 2021 crop at the end of June. Now that it’s mid-July we’re opening back up sales once again of our new Organic Potato crop now growing in the field! If you are an Early Bird and would like to place your Potato order now in order to be first in line to secure your seed, we have opened up for sale many of our most popular Potato varieties in small bag sizes on our Website. You may order either Organic Certified Seed Potatoes to plant in your Garden or Organic Kitchen Potatoes for Cooking in Your Kitchen. Because the crop is still growing in the field we will not begin shipping orders until after Potato Harvest, sometime around November 1. Once we dig our Potato crop and know what quantities we have to sell, we’ll open up for ordering the remainder of our wonderful Potato varieties – including Sarpo (pronounced “Sharpo”) Mira! - as well large quantities of your favorites.

Finally, Hold On To Your hats!!!  We have added three NEW! GARDENER MUST HAVES products to the website: Wood Prairie Red Hardwood Stakes, Wood Prairie Yellow Paint Pens and powerhouse Organic Oasis Fertilizer. Read about these great new products below in this Seed Piece, and please take advantage of our Special Limited Time Offer for FREE merch!

Thanks, stay cool and stay safe!

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

 

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Special Offer!


We go through a pile of these hefty, painted Red Hardwood Stakes every year, marking out seed lots and identifying plant varieties. High visibility in a very Green World. Rugged, survives serial abuse and insult from Flamers and 4MPH Finger Weeders. Stands tall the entire growing season, even in our biologically active soil. Dimensions are 12” long x 1 1/8” wide x 1/8” thick. When betrothed to our Yellow Paint Pen these Red Hardwood Stakes constitute a rare marriage made in heaven.

Amish-made powerhouse Organic fertilizer blended from high-nitrogen NOP-Compliant amino acid complex ingredients. Organic Oasis Fertilizer packs a real punch as a mid-season soil side-dress booster to droopy plants or high-feeders like potatoes, corn and squash. Also valuable as a foundational ingredient in planting-time fertility. 1.5# will cover 100 square feet or 35 feet or row (45 lbs/1000 row feet).

The world is full of pretty promises and voided vows. In the cruel world of Paint Pen bunko hucksters unsuspecting farmers, gardeners and junk yard professionals have been lured into spending their hard-earned cash on vacuous Paint Pen beauties which won’t last, quickly dry out and deserve a hard toss into the nearest swamp. After decades of wasting our farm’s money on Paint Pen fraudsters and wannabes, we came upon these American-Made gems who have selflessly dedicated their lives to law, order and clear identity. Unparalleled and outstanding performance makes our Wood Prairie Paint Pens a truly exceptional and permanent solution. Big barrel and awesome paint capacity. We’re into our second year with our current heirloom-quality workhorse Paint Pen. Measures almost 1” diameter and 6” long. Slanted chisel tip allows you to write pretty dainty when necessary. Comes in highly visible Salvage Yard Yellow as standard.




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Maine Tales. An Awful Nice Field of Buckwheat. Grand Falls, New Brunswick, Canada. Circa. 1987.

Buckwheat Wins First Place for Earliest Flowers in This Year's Beneficial Insect Beds!
  During potato planting, around and inside our potato fields we plant a variety of flowers in strategically-placed Beneficial Flower beds designed to attract-and-nourish Beneficial Insects which have the admirable habit of feasting on damaging potato pests, such as Potato Virus-transmitting Aphids, Colorado Potato Beetles (CPB) and Potato Leafhoppers (PLH).  Buckwheat wins again this year as our first annual Beneficial flower offering its sweet nectar to an army of Beneficial Insect friends.


No doubt our recurring nightmare of Buckwheat-weed-seed-paranoia traces back to one fateful Organic inspection we had thirty-five years ago. Today, we ought to be holding a party celebrating that this Spring we finally broke free of that Buckwheat phobia.

Forty years ago we were part of a group of farmers who met ‘across the line’ in Canada for monthly meetings in the wintertime, and field trips in the Summer. We called our group “SAVE” (“Sustainable Agriculture for the [St. John] Valley Ecosystem”). Sometimes a knowledgeable speaker would be brought in; other times, a local farmer would give a talk about some innovative practice she was doing.

Buckwheat, as the miracle soil-building cover crop that it is, got plenty of attention and deserved-hype from speakers and farmers alike. We were fluent and well-warned to chop and incorporate Buckwheat at 2% bloom lest early setting groats shattered to the ground and came back the next year as a miserable weed infestation in a valuable cash crop.

Going Into the Business

One upper crust big conventional potato farmer with a stiff-collared-shirt would attend ‘SAVE’ meetings every once in awhile. He tended to grumble that we should be holding our meetings in the afternoons so his nights could remain free. We smiled but we kept having our meetings in the evening, after our farm chores were done.

So, over time ‘SAVE’ morphed into an ‘OCIA’ chapter and “Organic Crop Improvement Association – New Brunswick” started to certify Organic Farmers in New Brunswick and Aroostook County, Maine. Not long after, our stiff-collared friend decided he would get into the business of growing Organic Potatoes. He planned ahead and had got his ground ready with a cover crop of Buckwheat the Summer before.

When the organic Inspector arrived at his farm, with great admiration, he exclaimed to our friend, “That’s an awful nice field of Buckwheat you’ve got there!” In a panicky tone of voice our stiff-collar farmer replied, “No! You don’t understand! That’s my potato field!” There was not a single Potato plant to be seen under the towering crop of volunteer Buckwheat. It seems that after planting his Buckwheat that previous Summer he did zero to the field until well after potato harvest. Late Fall, he plowed down the Buckwheat, future-potato-crop-Buckwheat-weed-seed and all.

Bringing Home the Buckwheat Paranoia

When the Inspector soon after arrived at our farm for our Organic inspection, he let slip out-of-school comments about the Buckwheat fiasco he had just witnessed. In doing so, he infected our minds with a double-dose of long-lasting Buckwheat weed paranoia.

Years ago there was one relentlessly wet Summer when wild-eyed, Jim donned rubber boots and a rain suit and braved a Maine Summer rain storm in order to chop down with a tractor and Bush-Hog a lush crop of Buckwheat which had already reached 5% bloom. He had been warned and was not about to allow for the possibility of a next-year Buckwheat field growing where our Organic Potato crop had been planted.

Despite our annual war-against-weeds and the use of the heavy artillery like Vibrashank Harrow, Propane Flamer and Finger Weeder, our Buckwheat paranoia simmered on high for decades.

Then just last year we were in for a real big surprise. In what would become this year’s Potato fields, on August 1 we planted a combination cover crop of biofumigant Rapeseed and Buckwheat. As is the historical norm, we were counting on a killing frost no later than September 15 or 20 – about 2-5% bloom - to blister the frost-sensitive Buckwheat. As we had done plenty of times before, we would then allow the Rape to grow and prosper until we plowed everything down around November 1.

Then Came the Curve Ball

Instead of being ‘normal,’ in 2021 we experienced the warmest Fall ever in 45 years of farming. The only times we had never had first frost in September was when frost arrived in August, as was fairly common back in the cooler Falls we used to get in the 1970s and 1980s. Last year, our first Fall frost arrived October 5. We were still digging potatoes and that October frost completely killed the Buckwheat, right back to the ground. However, by this time the plants were heavily loaded with viable Buckwheat groats.

It goes without saying that once Aroostook County begins to dig potatoes, nothing else is ever allowed to get in the way. Until potatoes are dug and safely in storage, nothing else matters. With plenty for a potato farmer to worry about during ‘Digging,’ the spectre of a next-year-problem might just as well be a thousand years away.

Well, weren’t we surprised this Spring when all that Buckwheat hullabaloo turned out to be nothing. Our multiple, overlapping organic weed control techniques combined to shut out the Buckwheat. You’d barely know we even had Buckwheat growing last year. Turns out, our Buckwheat dread melted away like an ice cube in a Maine July.

Caleb, Megan & Jim

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Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.



Megan Transplanting Potato Plantlets into Mushroom Totes.
In the last issue of the Wood Prairie Seed Piece we told you about our planting 3000 tiny tissue-cultured potato plantlets from their Petri dishes into Soil Blocks. After a couple of weeks the plants - especially the roots - had grown enough for the Soil Blocks to hold it together and survive the rigors of transplanting into these commercial Mushroom Totes. Here, Megan is laying out twenty plantlets per tote. Kenyon and Cassidy follow behind her, adding additional organic organic compost to fill up the tote and then water down the works. We picked to work on a cooler, cloudy day to minimize transplant shock. Behind Megan lays Israeli Netafim irrigation Drippers & Stakes attached to a black supply line. Next year we'll find the time to build wood benches so this job will progress to an easier standing-up effort. With thousands of details to tend to on a family farm, it takes a generation to get a farm set up pretty well. But there are always changes and new enterprises to adapt to. 


Applying ‘Aphid-Excluding’ Netting to the Wood Prairie Long Tunnel.   With the wettest Spring in Northern Maine in nine years, we had to dodge the rain and push hard to keep on schedule with the work flow of planting. The Sunday prior to the Wednesday when this photo was taken we began our 2-day ‘Long Tunnel’ process and laid out the 600-feet of ground fabric and then intensive-planted the disease-free tissue-cultured Potato Minitubers we grew out last year from Plantlets. It rained hard again that Sunday night so we spent Monday & Tuesday catching up on shipping out orders. Then, on Wednesday we set to completing the Long Tunnel project. We moved into position, connected together and anchored down the thirty 20-foot metal hoop-sections. Then we laid out and secured the heavy-duty aphid-proof netting we brought in from France. In this shot, we're using a pair of tractor-drawn carts to reel-out the netting. Caleb's brother-in-law Rob is up high on the right unit. Megan is out of view driving the tractor on the left. Caleb's nephew-in-law Miguel and Caleb’s sister Amy work as a team keeping the netting taut and securing it with vinyl-covered 'Wiggle Wire' in bottom-edge wire channels. Out of view behind them Kenyon is laying paving bricks. Also, out of view and working opposite on the right side, Caleb, Cassidy and Jim systematically secure the netting and lay brick. The paving bricks - placed nose to tail - serve to further anchor the tunnel and prevent critters from gaining entry. By mid-afternoon we'd finished this job and we went back to shipping out more orders.



Wild Horses on Cape Lookout National Seashore. Last week, we pulled up stakes and headed down to North Carolina for the wedding of Caleb’s sister, Sarah, to Travis Hatfield. Travis is from Limestone in Aroostook County and last year he completed his four-year hitch as a Marine truck pool diesel mechanic at Camp LeJeune. Now, when someone from Maine tells you they’re not used to the humid, oven-like HOT conditions found in coastal NC, you’re gonna want to believe them. The wedding pictures are still being sorted, but it was an outdoor evening wedding ceremony. Everyone was relieved when a late afternoon thundershower cooled things down ahead of the wedding. Ever magnetically attracted to nearby National Parks, we also made our way by boat over to Shackleford Banks in Cape Lookout National Seashore. Cape Lookout is towards the southern end of the Outer Banks, south of Cape Hatteras. The roadless, proposed wilderness island of Shakleford Banks is home to over one hundred thriving wild horses. They are the descendants of horses from 500 years ago when their Spanish vessels shipwrecked. We went for a hike, came upon these wild horses and Amy was able to take this photo.



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