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Friday, September 23rd, 2022
Volume 31 Issue 12

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In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

This edition of the Seed Piece may be found in our Wood Prairie Seed Piece Archives.

 Good Potato Harvest.

A Foggy Start and Another Day of Digging Organic Seed Potatoes.

     Wood Prairie Family Farm is 150 miles inland from the coast of Maine. While we occasionally get fog, what we experience here in farming country is not nearly as thick or as frequent as they receive down along the ‘Vacationland’ coast. Still, in the Fall during Potato harvest we can get morning fog so thick that you can’t see a tractor or truck at the far end of the field.

     The morning this foggy shot was taken, once the fog burned off, we enjoyed a bright, sunny day and perfect to ‘dig.’ We’re coming good harvesting our new crop of Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes, but we could use less rain more dry days. Tropical Storm Fiona is leaving Northern Maine dry but causing strong winds. On the other hand, PEI (the Canadian Maritime Province of Prince Edward Island), where they also grow a lot of Potatoes, is forecast to get 6” of rain. That excessive amount would be a unwelcome headache no one wants this time of year.

     In this issue of the Wood Prairie Seed Piece, Megan shares her scrumptious Recipe for Kale & Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes. As well, please take advantage of our Special Offer for FREE Organic Vegetable Seed for your Fall Garden. Plus, there’s a new ‘Maine Tales’ recounting that Potato Harvest 28 years ago when National Geographic came a-calling. And as always, new Farm Photos this time around taken from this year’s Maine Potato Harvest.

     Wherever you are, we hope your harvest is bright and bountiful. Stay safe and stay warm!


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



Special Offer! FREE Seed of Hardy Fall Crops.

 We're way up in Maine and Megan just planted some more spinach last week in our high tunnel. So you have time! Stock Up Now & Receive FREE Organic Vegetable Seed! Place a minimum $40 order TODAY and get your Choice of one of our Most Popular Fall Greens: Organic Red Ursa Kale, Organic Fall/Winter Salad Mix or Organic Merlo Nero Spinach. Please use Coupon Code WPFF555.


Maine Tales. National Geographic Meet Aroostook. Bridgewater, Maine. Circa 1994.

Close to Mother Earth.  "Baby Caleb rides with mom, Megan Gerritsen, digging Rose Gold potatoes on Wood Prairie Family Farm near Bridgewater, Maine. Leland Daugherty, an intern sponsored by an organic growers association, helps out. Megan and husband Jim sell 17 potato varieties, harvesting by hand to avoid bruising. Certified organic by two trade groups, the farm grows potatoes, grains, and clover in rotation. Soil fertility is sustained with barnyard manure, fish scales, sawdust, and plant residue, known as green manure."

    Some potato harvests are more memorable than others. Take 1994, for instance. We didn’t know it at the time but that Fall of ‘94 marked the end of the Late Blight epidemic which had plagued Maine and the Northeast for three consecutive wet years beginning with the potato crop of 1992. The miserable ‘A2’ Late Blight strain first made its way north from Mexico into the USA in '92. The next year, 1995 turned out hot and very dry - one of the four driest years ever recorded - and miraculously inhospitable to Late Blight. The blight died out in ’95. Maine was free of blight pressure for another five or six years and times were good.

     In 1994, Megan had our second boy, Caleb, born after potato planting and before we were done haying at the end of June. Sometime during that wet Summer we got a call from the National Geographic magazine. They were doing an extensive story on ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ and wondered if they could send up a photographer during 'digging', as potato harvest is known here in Aroostook County. We replied, send away.

Lights, Camera, Action!

     Back in those days we dug our Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes with an Oliver-tractor-pulled John Deere 30 two-row ‘Potato Digger.’ With a small crew we gathered up by hand into buckets the potatoes gently laid on top of the soil by the digger. Then buckets of potatoes were poured into awaiting 11-peck cedar potato barrels. Then barrels were hoisted (‘histed’) with a hydraulic boom and grapple onto a potato trailer. Then barrels were hauled into our ‘Potato House.’ Barrels were rolled inside. Barrels-full-of-potatoes were dumped through strategic holes in the floor through canvas potato-chutes down into ten foot deep wood-walled storage bins in the underground concrete-floored cellar below.

     The NG photographer, Jim Richardson hailed from the Front Range in Colorado. He was a very affable fellow. One of the benefits of digging-by-hand is that the quiet and steady work allows for good and very long uninterrupted conversations. Time passed quickly as Jim regaled us with his year’s worth of farm adventures gleaned from traipsing back and forth across rural America and photographing farmers while they worked. During the three days he spent with us, Jim took eight hundred photographs, all with film. After Wood Prairie Family Farm, his final farm stop was at Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia. Then, Jim was to be given his marching orders at NG headquarters in Washington DC, before heading home to sort through a staggering one year’s worth of photographs.

Give it Your Best Shot

     In a comment reflecting the era, one thing that Jim Richardson said served as encouragement that Megan would find her way into the magazine. Jim observed that in shooting a story about American agriculture, if you didn’t go out of your way and make an extra effort to include women, that an article could easily wind up having shots of all men. Megan always has been an active farmer, doing everything from driving tractors to running barrel hoist to picking taters. After Jim’s comment we gained confidence Megan would somehow make the cut. In the fullness of time, she and three-month-old “Baby Caleb” did appear as a two-page-spread in the December 1995 issue of National Geographic.

     Back in those days, NG printed an amazing nine million copies each month. That number would equate with one copy for every twelve or fifteen American households. The NG photo created a local flurry of interest in our little farming town of Bridgewater. The shot elevated our hometown status like nothing else before or since.

Our Rocky Road

     For months after publication, we would receive notes and calls from friends and farmers across the country. The most common refrain went something like, ‘Boy, I never knew your soil was so rocky!’ Now it’s true: many glaciers have come through Northern Maine and left us all with wonderful, well-drained loamy potato soil and a great mess of rocks. Fact is, we have been picking rocks here steady for going on 50 years. And others before us picked rocks for another sixty years going back to when our fields were first cleared of trees just before World War I. And those Rose Gold Seed Potatoes happened to be sitting pretty on one of our ‘cleanest’ picked-of-rocks fields. So while there was no intention to insult, those rocky comments did kinda hurt our feelings. Not that you’d ever know. Being as how it pains us to let show our true feelings. Because that’s not the way you do things in Aroostook.

Caleb, Jim & Megan


Come Join Us! Immediate Job Openings at Wood Prairie Family Farm in Maine.

     Enjoy working together on a down-to-earth & real 46-year-old organic family farm and in our year-round organic seed mail order & web business located right here on the farm in beautiful Northern Maine.

     NEW job openings include: 1) Year Round Full-time Seed Assistant, 2) Seasonal Full-time Seed Assistant (Summers Off!) and 3) Part-time Seed Assistant.

Find Job Details Here.

     Please help spread the word by sharing with friends & family in Maine. If you are on Facebook, please go to our Wood Prairie wall and ‘Like & Share’ so that Maine folks may learn about this opportunity to earn their living working with us.

Thanks! Caleb, Megan & Jim

Kale & Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes.

3 lbs potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into large chunks
sea salt
4 T extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch kale, large stems stripped and discarded, leaves chopped
1/2 c milk or cream
freshly ground black pepper
5 scallions, white and tender green parts, chopped (optional)

     Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

     Heat 2 T of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chopped kale, a big pinch of salt and sauté just until tender, about a minute. Set aside.

     Mash the potatoes with a masher or fork. Slowly stir in the milk a few big splashes at a time. You are after a thick, creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper. Dump the kale on top of the potatoes and give a quick stir (stirring in the kale too much can lend a green cast to your potatoes). Make a well in the center of the potatoes and pour the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with scallions if using.


Wonderful Mashed Potato Variation. Photo by Angela Wotton.


Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Birds of a Feather Flocking Together. With near perfect field conditions we can use our Finnish Juko Potato Harvester to harvest the small but long Fingerling Seed Potatoes. Most every year has its challenges and this year definitely fell short of perfection. First thing in the morning, we had dug up the Fingerling rows with a tractor-pulled John Deere 30 ‘Potato Digger.’ In this shot the variety we’re ‘picking by hand’ is the Century Heirloom, Rose Finn Apple. In the foreground, the youngest members of the crew were two boys who were, of course, attracted to one another. Seven-year-old Nolan (dark long-sleeved shirt) is son of long-time employee Kenyon and his wife, schoolteacher Jess. Beside Nolan in the red shirt is 15-month-old Jack, son of our new re-bound co-worker Justin (at left in the gaggle of hand pickers in white t-shirt) and nearby his wife, Chelsea (navy blue t-shirt). Chelsea worked for us for over 10 years before and after high school. Then she met Justin when he began working here. After awhile they got married and about six years ago they moved to Southern Maine, buying a house in a rural spot not too far from Freeport & LL Bean. After having had enough of life Down South, they sold their house and have now moved back to quiet Aroostook County. Also visible in the photo are Caleb (straw hat) and behind him his sister, Amy, (kneeling up straight in light blue t-shirt) who comes home from college on weekends to help us harvest our Organic Seed Potato crop.

Does it Really Take a Harvest Breakdown to Put Congressional Testimony into Perspective?
Thankfully, this tractor repair was a lot less involved than it might look like. A few days before this repair was made, Wood Prairie’s potato harvest was interrupted so Jim could testify (from home via Zoom) as one of four witnesses at a Congressional Hearing in Washington DC entitled “Right to Repair and What it Means for Entrepreneurs.” The formal Hearing was held by a Subcommittee of the House Small Business Committee, chaired by Northern Maine’s member of Congress, Representative Jared Golden (ME-02). Jim’s testimony and subsequent questioning were in addition to his earlier submitted written comments.

The photo above is of our Oliver 1750 Diesel amid repair. For the last three years this is the tractor we've used to pull our 'Juko' Potato Harvester. This Fall we concluded the hydraulic power was not as strong as it was last Fall. After searching, Caleb located a replacement Oliver assembly with a used hydraulic pump - thought to be in good condition - at a junk yard across the line in Canada. Megan had her papers handy, so she logged onto the computer and filed for a Canadian crossing permit and she went over to bring it home. Meanwhile, with Justin helping him, Caleb used a forklift to lift off the 1750’s 400-pound assembly containing the hydraulic pump. Our old assembly is pictured in the photo below, sitting on the pallet next to Caleb and his 15-month-old Rottweiller, Ralph. By a little past dark, Caleb & Justin had swapped out the assemblies. We were able to start digging on-time at 7am the next morning. Our gamble paid off. Turns out this ‘new’ used Hydraulic Pump has more life to it than the 1750's old one ever did in the five years we've owned it. The hydraulics are now working great and the repair only cost us a couple of hours worth of digging.

We like owning equipment that we can fit ourselves. This kind of practical independence will be strengthened with new ‘Right to Repair’ legislation. And that was what Jim was trying to convey in his testimony last week before Congress.

Wood Prairie Potato Harvest Going Well. Northern Maine is having a rainy Fall. However, the day or two before the next rain have given us some good digging conditions. In this shot, the crew is digging with our Finnish “Super Midi” Juko (pronounced "Yuko") One-Row Potato Harvester. Right next door is a perimeter-planting of Beneficial Insect Flowers, this time of year dominated by tall Cosmos in full-bloom as well as Sunflowers. Those are Organic Dark Red Norland Certified Seed Potatoes you can see coming up the ‘Primary Lag Bed’ of the Juko. Working on the Juko's perpendicular "Secondary Bed" (L>R) are Justin, Rob (Caleb’s brother-in-law) and Kenyon. Out-of-sight working on the ground-level trailer gleaning tubers which dropped through the cracks is Caleb. Jim is driving the Oliver 1750 Diesel pulling the Juko and he snapped this shot. Megan is in the office keeping up with shipping orders and answering the phone. Amy is back at college studying and no doubt wishing she could be digging Potatoes with us! In the distance on the right is our Oliver 1850 Diesel outfitted with a pair of forklift-forks mounted on the 3-point-hitch. The 1850 is used to switch hardwood pallet boxes in the field when the box on the Juko gets full. Each full pallet box holds a ton of Potatoes. It’s very common, that on the days that are good enough to dig in, Maine is blessed with wonderful Fall days which are sunny and beautiful.

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Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765 / 207 (429) - 9682
Certified Organic From Farm to Mailbox