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Friday, July 30th, 2021
Volume 30 Issue 8

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In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

   The Rains Return.

Milliken’s General Store, Bridgewater, Maine. Circa 1954.

An enduring photo taken by famed photographer Berenice Abbott towards the end of her trip motoring along all of U.S. Route 1 from Florida to Maine, and stopping to document with her camera small town America.

While it was a different era almost 70 years ago, no one would have ever imagined then calling such a casual gathering 'social networking.' The building known as the Milliken Store exists to this day on Main Street (U.S. Route 1) in our quiet potato farming town of Bridgewater (Pop. 610) here in Northern Maine. Though more often vacant than vibrant in recent decades, the building has periodically been home to additional aspiring retail enterprises. Most recently, a local, young farming Mennonite family fixed it up and turned it into a Farm Market full of their delicious fresh produce.

Our farm is located four miles to the west of the Milliken Store, on the edge of the North Maine Woods. It’s been a particularly busy year here as we are tackling construction projects above and beyond keeping up with farming. The pendulum has been swinging for weeks now and our early Summer heat and dryness has been shifting over to increased showers and cooler temperatures. The crops look good and in no time we’ll be gearing up for harvest.

We hope you are enjoying your Summer and that your harvests are coming in bountiful.

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

Special Offer: Order NOW for Shipment ANYTIME after October 15 Harvest!

Beat the rush and order NOW while the selection is at its best. Our current crop of Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes is growing in the field and looking excellent!

We have now opened up ordering and are accepting small and moderate future ship orders. With our "Back Order" system primed, we will begin shipping seed potatoes anytime YOU want them, beginning at end of our Potato Harvest in mid-October.

Want Organic Seed Potatoes for Fall Planting? Order NOW and we'll ship to you October 15.

Want Organic Seed Potatoes for late Fall, Winter or Spring?  Order NOW and tell us what date you want us to ship.  Then we'll keep your Seed Potatoe in tip-top-condition in our state-of-the-art underground potato storage.  We will ship your potatoes the week you tell us in the Comment field. We'll also begin shipping orders for Kitchen Potatoes in mid-October.

Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Planting Potato Minitubers in Maine on Wood Prairie Family Farm. Following a light frost one June morning we finished planting into the Long Tunnel the crop of ''Pre-Nuclear' (as in the "nuclear family") “Potato Mintubers” which we grew last year in our “Short Tunnel” from tissue-cultured “Potato Plantlets.” We have a soil-building 5-Year crop rotation for these special plots into which we plant the Minitubers. The entire process consists of multiple ordered steps beginning with getting the ground ready, applying organic fertilizers and seed inoculants and laying down landscape fabric anchored by landscaping bricks. Planting has always been the slow and back-breaking step for this work. New this year is our solar-powered 'RoHand II Harvest Pro' unit built in the Amish country of Lancaster PA and invented to eliminate stoop-labor for low-to-the-ground jobs such as picking strawberries. In the foreground Caleb's sister Amy takes her turn lying prone on the RoHand as Megan tends her with trays of Minitubers ready-to-plant. Featuring front-axle drive, the hydraulic steering and infinite speed control are actuated by foot controls leaving both arms free to work. In the background a second crew of four co-workers one-by-one move thirty individual, home-made 20-foot tunnel sections into position, bolt them together and stake them into place. Drip irrigation lines were added next, delivering water to the then thirsty ground. Last step is reeling out the roll of heavy-duty Aphid-Excluding-netting from France and securing it in place. Come harvest time we reserve the process and then dig up what are termed “Nuclear 1”Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

How We Rogue Our Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.
   On our weekly rounds we begin roguing while it's still cool at 7am and plants are heavy with dew. The day this shot was taken we had started out our roguing under ideal conditions. We had overcast skies which diffused the sunlight and made it easier to spot the subtle leaf variations and mottling indicative of potato plants which have picked up aphid-vectored "Potato Virus." No need for worry since potato virus is only a problem for potatoes and has no impact on humans. Here looking west, with clouds already burning off, Kenyon and Megan are walking the thousand-foot-long rows of potatoes. Amy Gerritsen (pink shirt) is bent over the 'Roguing Cart' pulled by the Farmall tractor driven by Caleb's brother-in-law, Rob. Rogue plants we identify are dug up, placed on the cart, removed from the field and destroyed. Tubers are plucked from the rogues and deposited into the white bucket. A half-bucket of tubers was collected and the crew ate them with relish as tender rainbow 'New Potatoes.' Despite our early Summer dry conditions, plants look very good, tubers are sizing up fast and this crop of organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes is showing us - and our Maine Seed Inspector - that this crop of twenty potato varieties and sixty seed lots is largely free of virus.

The Year of Wood Prairie’s Beneficial-Insect-Flower Trial.
   Promising new ideas for better ways to grow potatoes without hard chemicals are coming from the UK. There, amid shifting pest pressures, governmental authorities have been banning common chemical inputs due to environmental and health concerns. Farmers are scrambling for sound substitute concepts to tackle ongoing production issues. 'Beneficial Flowers' are special varieties which have qualities that attract beneficial insects serving as predators to crop pests. Of insects which populate a healthy potato field, 90% are said to be beneficials. Broad spectrum insecticides knock out everything and in doing so create an imbalance which typically favor the wrongdoers - triggering a downward spiral of additional and increased spraying. This year we've planted 40 different promising flowers into plots inside our potato field. Our goal is to identify 5-10 top flower varieties which most effectively attract and nourish beneficial insects that will in turn protect our organic seed potatoes. One of the first flowers to blossom is the beautiful California Poppy. If you look closely, you can see a beneficial bug resting at 11 o’clock on the flower perimeter.

Hydrant #3 on the Kinney Road Portion of Our Irrigation Trunk Line Project.
Looking east in the early morning is this year’s crop of organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes. They were showing gratitude for the welcome, gentle soaking showers totaling 0.74" received over the previous three days. With the returning rains the first planted half of our varieties had gained full row closure, an achievement their predecessors have not been able to achieve in recent years, restrained by persistent dry conditions. Caleb’s sister, Amy, painted the concrete-filled 6-inch x 6-feet-long steel posts red. They protect Hydrant #3 from tractor abuse in this recently completed section of underground irrigation trunk lines. The buried hydrant and protective posts are anchored in a yard of concrete, a system rugged enough to make our tractors tremble with fear. When needed, a special metal cap apparatus is secured to the top of the white hydrant allowing irrigation connections to be hooked up and the underground valve to be opened. The red pressure relief valve at right is a part of the system design which maintains pipeline integrity under high operating pressure around 150 psi. The hay mulch was placed to baby along the oats, clover and timothy seed which we finished sowing at 9 pm the evening before the predicted overnight rains began. In farming timing is everything. 



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