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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.

 Fall Work.

NEW! Wood Prairie 'Supreme Mountaineer Special.'

     Once we get done harvest, we shift right over to “Fall Work,” some of which is farming and some are those jobs we didn’t have time to do while we were farming. Fall is also the time of year we put together our new Catalog, send it off to the printer plus get our Wood Prairie farm-direct-to-customer Webstore updated.

The Supreme Mountaineer Special is our brand NEW kit. The ‘Mountaineer’ has now made it to our Webstore - and soon you will see it highlighted in our NEW Catalog. Featured in the ‘Mountaineer’ are three of our newest and most outstanding potatoes in a twelve-tuber-collection perfect for Garden experimenting. The extraordinary varieties are Organic Sarpo Mira from Hungary, Organic Huckleberry Gold from Idaho, and Organic Baltic Rose from Germany.

Here in Northern Maine, we had a nice stretch of sunny weather which allowed us to get a good start on Fall work. Then in the last week we had two big rain events which dropped a total of 4” of rain. Local wells sure won’t go dry this Winter!

We hope your harvest has been plentiful, that the sun is shining and that the snow holds off so you can get that seasoned firewood in nice and dry.

Stay safe and stay warm!


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



Introducing Our New Organic Sarpo Mira Potato!

     Organic Sarpo (pronounced "Sharpo") Mira is a premier potato from Hungary. After years of multiplying up this extraordinary variety on Wood Prairie Family Farm we are for the first time making our limited supply of Organic Sarpo Mira available to you.

     The red skin of this large, elongated golden-fleshed tuber opens to true-potato flavor and the dry, floury texture that is so prized in Europe. This is the potato of choice for organic gardeners - no spraying necessary because it's so highly resistant to blight and many other diseases.  

     Bake, mash, roast or fry one of the best-tasting potatoes available. Such a superior variety is worth every penny the royalty commands...your investment will come back to you in tremendous yields that keep without refrigeration. you must try Organic Sarpo Mira!


Maine Tales. That Cold October. Bridgewater,Maine. Circa 1979.

Another Bootfoot John Bean Mfg One-Row ‘Barrel’ Harvester Circa 1962.  (photo credit: Ray D. Yerxa, Yerxa Family Farm). In addition to Grover Patterson, another farm on Bootfoot Road dug their potatoes with a John Bean Barrel Harvester. Yerxa Family Farm is halfway out Bootfoot, where the Whitney Stream crosses the road. But Yerxas are on the north side of Bootfoot in the ‘Bridgewater Academy Grant.’ In this shot taken by Ray, driving that Oliver Super 77 or early 770 tractor is Ray’s son, Bill. On the ‘Bean,’ Bill’s wife Irene is doing the waving. Bill and Irene’s son, Bo, is at left. Of the three remaining workers, one is a local woman from Town. The other two are a Micmac couple from the Big Cove Reserve in New Brunswick. They were the last of three generations from the same family who came over from Big Cove to work on the Yerxa Farm. That one fact says something significant about both families.

    Some years, Winter can arrive early in Aroostook County, during the second half of October. Sometimes with snow and sometimes without.

Tough Fall

     It had not been an easy Fall. Persistent rain had prolonged the Aroostook Potato Harvest long into October. Weeks before, ‘Potato Harvest Break’ had ended and area students were back hitting the books and in their classrooms studying their Ps & Qs. After Harvest Break ended, harvest help was hard and getting harder to come by.

     It was the end of October and neighbor Grover Patterson and his son, Scott, were still struggling to dig their potato crop which was planted on the west side of what map makers call ‘Estabrook Hill.’ Back in 1880, Wilson Estabrook came over from Canada and bought 500 acres of wildlands for $2 an acre. This plot was in the middle of nowhere but located in the ‘Portland Academy Grant’ on the south side of Bootfoot Road. Never marrying, ‘Wils’ worked hard, cleared off the trees and succeeded in establishing a productive farm.

Wilses Hill

     Back in pioneer days, times were friendlier and first names sufficed. The local kids attending the nearby one room ‘Bootfoot School’ called it “Wilses” Hill. The Winter attraction which gave Bootfoot kids purpose and a good reason to get out of bed on cold Winter mornings was the fun of sledding down nearby Wilses Hill before school and during recess.

     Compared to the flatlands of Aroostook, Wilses Hill is high and offers the best views in our corner of the Township of Bridgewater. On top you could see numerous farms, and out to the west and north, the Maine Woods for miles and miles over to Number Nine Mountain and Maple Mountain on the horizon. Wilses Hill was high enough that there was nothing to obstruct the arctic air blowing in from the northwest. A gentle breeze on our Wood Prairie Family Farm - protected by the Maine Woods - nearby to the west might be a near gale up on the highlands of Wilses Hill.

Help Wanted

     So, Grover came by one late October morning relating that he had virtually no crew left and wondered if Jim could help him and Scott get out the last of their potatoes. He could.

     Knowing that it would be cold Jim prepared, only he didn’t prepare enough. Those end-of- October days that Fall were uniformly overcast, with daily high temps in the upper-thirtys. Up on Wilses Hill the bitter Canadian air blew as a relentless blast from sunup to sundown. Still in his mid-twenties Jim had not yet figured out that the only hope of cutting the wind and staying warm was to wear one-piece insulated coveralls. His layers of wool clothing were effective for the calm of the flatlands, but no match for the daily tempest on Wilses Hill. But there was work to be done, so no choice but to just soldier on.

John Bean Harvester

     Grover and Scott dug their crop one potato row at a time with their old John Bean Mfg ‘Barrel’ Harvester. Dug potatoes exited the ‘Secondary Lag Bed’ and funneled into sturdy 12-peck cedar Potato Barrels which hold 165 pounds of potatoes. When the barrel was full a foot-operated pedal allowed the floor to drop, the barrel to then kiss the ground and gently get left behind as the harvester steadily crept forward. The aftermath was a straight row of potato-filled-barrels awaiting their turn to be picked up later on by the flat-bed barrel truck with its hoist and barrel grapple.

     Harvesting potatoes directly into accompanying bulk body trucks was the coming thing. However, some smaller and traditional farmers still back in those days held fast to the potato-barrel-centric systems that they and their fathers and grandfathers knew well and trusted.

Fall to Spring

      That cold Fall we succeeded in digging every Potato we could get off of Wilses Hill. The wet holes never dried enough to surrender their cache. Rain that comes to Northern Maine in October doesn’t evaporate, it just accumulates there in Potato ground and gets in the way. The straggler potatoes left behind got froze solid with Winter’s approach. They thawed the next Spring and then decomposed down to again become one with the earth.

     And during planting that following Spring, with past hardships forgotten, amidst the sunny, bright mornings there was universal, infectious optimism among farmers that this year has all the makings for one fine crop of potatoes.

Caleb, Jim & Megan


Roasted Fall Vegetables.

 2 Sweet Dakota Bliss Beets
 2 Sweet Parsnips
 5 Chantenay Carrots

      Wash, Peel and cut vegetables into 3/4" cubes or slices.
 Prepare a heavy roasting pan by layering vegetables one layer thick  and dotting with 2-3 Tablespoons of butter. Cover roasting pan with  foil.
      Roast in a 400 degree oven for 45-60 minutes, until vegetables are  tender.
      Dress with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with  sour cream or Penzey's Ranch Salad Dressing.



Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

The Last Day of Potato Harvest 2022. After digging our main crop Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes  from farm fields, the last step for us is to harvest the seed plots protected under our ‘Tunnels’ covered with special Aphid-Excluding netting imported from France.  The extremely-fine-mesh netting prevents entry by destructive Aphids which can transmit yield-crushing Potato Virus.  Here, Megan (right) and Cassidy finish up the harvest of our tissue-cultured disease-free Potato "Minitubers" which were grown out from lanky alfalfa-sprout-like 'Potato Plantlets.'  The Plantlets were planted back in June into gray 'Mushroom Totes' filled with top notch 'Vermont Organic Compost’ and grown inside our hundred-foot-long ‘Short Tunnel.’   Harvest from the Plantlets consists of small disease-free Maine Certified Seed Tubers known in the potato industry as Minitubers.   Next year these Minitubers will be planted into the soil inside our portable 600-foot 'Long Tunnel' which is similarly protected with Aphid-Excluding netting. It’s after further multiplication in our rotated Organic Potato fields that our Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes are offered for sale for you.  In the background, the 'Lockwood' Rock Picker is hooked to our White 105 Diesel tractor.  Beyond the Rockpicker, our Tarp Barn houses a winter’s worth of Organic hay and protects our small herd of Organic Dexter/Low-Line Angus cattle from the elements on stormy Winter days.

Winter Work Begins: Grading & Shipping Organic Potatoes. This week we had a wholesale 'Tablestock' (the potato industry term for ware or Kitchen Potatoes) order to put up.   Because it was not long ago that these Organic Potatoes were harvested, they were still tender.   At this early storage stage, tubers would be prone to skinning up if we ran them over our long brushing & sizing Grading line.  So, instead we opted to use the necessarily more labor-intensive technique which required the help of most of the Wood Prairie crew.  Here, Caleb (right) is using the 'Box Rotator' on the battery-powered Yale Forklift to gently pour the 'Field Run' potatoes from 4'x4'x4' hardwood Pallet Boxes onto our wide Haines 'Nylon Brusher (made by Haines Mfg in nearby Presque Isle). Justin (orange hat) alternates helping Caleb "grade" out the bad ones in between weighing the cartons and stacking them onto the pallet.  Jim is the one sitting and he’s running the foot-pedal-operated Haines 'Single Bagger.'  He and Cassidy (left) and Heather (right) are pulling off the 'Tops' (the largest 40% of tubers), leaving behind the smaller 'Strip' which are the tubers we will sell later in the Winter & Spring as Organic Certified Seed Potatoes.  Those sorted-out Seed tubers are being placed into smaller hardwood pallet boxes like the one at right which hold 1100# of spuds. The variety we were grading was the popular and very early Organic Caribe'

Irony on the Wood Prairie Road to Climate Change Adaptation. Farmers tend to think long term and that attribute benefits them and society both.  The drought year of 1991 and the severe drought of 1995 convinced us to dig irrigation ponds so that we’d have reliable-on-farm sources of water.  We kept a stiff upper lip when our pond digging was followed by a decade of wet weather.  Then the pendulum swung yet again and over the past decade the growing season in Northern Maine has trended from dry to very dry.  With farm help harder and harder to find, in recent years we’re investing in systems which make us more efficient, more productive and more resilient.   For the past two years we’ve been installing underground irrigation main lines so that we can more easily and quickly get water to parched Potato fields.  This week, in the photo above, Caleb (right) and Justin are making concrete “Thrust Blocks” at key pipeline connections.  Thrust blocks securely anchor the weak links in irrigation main lines and prevent the system from blowing apart under the high pressures – about 160 psi – of modern irrigation pumps. We use 6” thick-walled SDR 21 Schedule 80 PVC underground pipe.  In the photo below, Caleb is on the edge of one field pouring a thrust block for a spur-line irrigation hydrant. ‘Ralph,’ Caleb & Lizzi’s one-and-a-half-year-old Rottweiler watches from beside the gas generator needed to sump-pump-out some of the 4” of rain water we’ve had in the last week.  Brindle-colored ‘Rudy,’ their six-month-old Cane Corso is in the foreground taking in the action.  After all that rain, the ground was too wet and muddy for the Redimix concrete truck to get anywhere close, so Caleb had to ferry concrete over in the bucket of our New Holland Skidsteer Loader.  Concrete has been in short supply and orders must be placed at least a week in advance.  That morning the local concrete plant had called.  Due to a cancelation they had an opening that same afternoon.   Caleb & Justin jumped at the chance and rearranged their work day.  So, on a brilliant, sunny October day in the 50s, they constructed thrust-block-forms.  Late that afternoon they savored their reward enjoying the good fortune of unexpected concrete.


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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