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.
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
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
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!
Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Our New Organic Sarpo Mira Potato!
Organic Sarpo (pronounced "Sharpo") Mira
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!
Tales. That Cold October. Bridgewater,Maine.
Bootfoot John Bean Mfg One-Row ‘Barrel’ Harvester
(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
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.
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.
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
Dakota Bliss Beets
2 Sweet Parsnips
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.
Family Farm Photos.
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
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
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.
Quick Links to
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