Evening On a Wood Prairie Potato Harvest Day
With leaves still on the trees, this evening shot of our
potato harvest was taken during September. Looking
westward, we are working at harvesting Prairie
, a delicious golden potato variety we
discovered growing on our farm twenty years ago. The
crew’s job is to steadily separate potatoes from rocks
on their way into the wooden pallet box.
Despite Northern Maine experiencing the driest growing
season since local records have been kept beginning back
in 1939, we have harvested and safely put into
storage a high quality organic Certified Seed Potato
that was moderate in size.
Since completing harvest we have been working hard to
catch up on shipping out orders placed while we were in
the fields harvesting. We’ll be shipping out of storage
from now until the 4th of July - or until we sell out.
Last Spring an astounding 20 Million Americans joined
the ranks of home gardeners. Seed companies all across
America were challenged to keep up with the spike
The seed industry is anticipating continued strong
demand for potato and vegetable seed this Winter. For
this reason, we want to encourage you to place your
order as early as possible
in order to avoid
disappointment and limited choices. As always, we are
happy to store your organic Certified Seed Potatoes here
in our underground on-farm potato storage and then ship
them out whenever you instruct us to.
Wherever you are we hope you are well and safe and
enjoyed a good growing year!
Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Our Best Selling
Wood Prairie Family
Organic Seed Potatoes on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
During the Summer we go through our fields
every week in a traditional practice called
“Roguing.” As farms get bigger and bigger Roguing
is becoming a lost art.
We carry on this
practice to remove and destroy “rogues” - or abnormal
potato plants - not suitable for producing seed.
Here, in a shot looking westward, Megan is carefully
roguing our plot of Russian Banana. The clouds that day
consolidated and gave us a paltry 0.05” of rain,
symbolic of the scant rainfall we experienced throughout
this year’s growing season.
Thirsty Wood Prairie Potatoes.
have calculated that it takes 14” of water to grow a
crop of potatoes. This year during the
growing-season-months of June, July, August and
September we received a grand total of 5.65”
rainfall. It was the driest growing season ever
since records began being collected in 1939. This
year surpassed 1995 which - as one of the three driest
years last century - has served as our
dry-year-yardstick ever since. Due to our NOAA D3
Drought designation (“Extreme Drought”), Northern
Maine has been declared a Federal Disaster Area by
. This marks the third time in the last
ten years Aroostook County has received Federal Disaster
designation. Both 2011 and 2013 were similarly
declared USDA disasters thanks to excessive rainfall,
approximate 200% of normal, during the growing
year. This year’s irrigation water really helped
at Night on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
Potatoes need to be killed ahead of harvest in
order for the skin on the tubers to "set" (lose
moisture) and toughen up for the rigors of
harvest. A freeze below 27ºF will kill potato
plants. Conventional farmers in the West apply Sulfuric
Acid to plants to accomplish kill. In the East
most conventional farmers spray broad-spectrum 'Reglone'
herbicide (formally called 'Diquat,' cousin to
‘Paraquat’). Reglone has now been banned in Europe
for use as potato "topkill.” This was the first
year conventional European potato farmers had to get by
without it. As organic farmers we opt to
utilize propane flame to topkill
. We try to get
flaming done ahead of harvest ("digging") but this year
we were a few days behind. So, Jim needed to flame at
night after the day's digging was done.
Prairie Potato Harvest Operation.
year we swapped over tractors and put the 18-speed
Oliver 1750 Diesel on the Juko Potato Harvester.
The Juko’s secondary lag belt dumps potatoes directly
into 4’ x 4’ x 4’ hardwood pallet boxes each of which
holds a ton of potatoes. We creep along at a
ground speed of just over a half-mile-per-hour. Three to
four people work the ‘secondary table’ fine-tuning
the Juko’s “separation function” which means
separating potatoes from our farm’s plentiful
rocks. During plenty of potato harvests we’ve
gone from wearing T-shirts at the beginning to
snowsuits at the end.
2020 was unique in
that the weather was cold to start, then turned hot,
then - typical of October – it turned cold and wet to
From Wood Prairie Harvester Tractor Seat Looking
This year as we slid
into October and wound down harvest, the pendulum
shifted and our record dry turned toward record
wet. In this photo we were down to the very
last potato rows left to dig. However, on this day
we ran out of daylight before we ran out of rows.
Those clouds did bring us rain overnight. With
more rain on the way for the following night we waited
until noontime and then pushed to dug in the wet ground
to get done. That strategy turned out to be a wise
move because over the next ten days Northern Maine
received over 5” of rain, turning fields into a muddy
Pallet Boxes on Juko Potato Harvester.
Here, Caleb’s sister Amy backs up an Oliver 1650
Diesel outfitted with forklift forks mounted onto the
tractor’s three-point-hitch. The 1650 has added
front weights which help counter-balance the 2000-pound
heft of the hardwood pallet boxes full of seed
potatoes. Aroostook County remains one of the
last regions in the United States which still close
schools every Fall for Potato Harvest Break
that local students can help farmers get the Maine
potato crop into storage. As a result of this
continued tradition, 17-year-old High School senior Amy
– as is the case with her siblings - has never missed a
potato harvest. Caleb and his brother and sisters
have all become hard workers and skilled tractor
operators proving the benefit of hands-on
experience. Taking a breather from working on the
Juko ‘secondary table’ are (left to right) Megan, Rob,
Cathy and Kenyon.
After Wood Prairie Potato Harvest.
spite of a warm up during the middle, this year was a
cold harvest. Over the almost four-week-long
harvest we had three mornings which dipped down to 22ºF
including a hard freeze early in the going on September
21. Thankfully we dodged the bullet and harvested
our potato crop free of frost damage to tubers. In
this shot, after the last spud was picked, Caleb used
our 92-HP Oliver 1850 Diesel tractor (made in Iowa) to
pull a two-row Lockwood Lag-Bed Rockpicker (made in
Nebraska) to remove piles of rocks left behind by the
Juko Potato Harvester (made in Finland). Located
on the edge of the North Maine Woods, our farm has
enjoyed the unshakeable reputation of being the
stoniest farm in Town.
Over the last four decades
we have steadily removed countless hundreds upon
hundreds of yards of rocks. And at relatively
break neck speed, at least when compared to the work of
many glaciers from eons past which evidently deposited
rocks so Maine farmers would never suffer from idleness.
Plowing Potato Wood Prairie Ground.
soon as a section of the potato field has been harvested
and rockpicked, we go through that plot with a
tractor-drawn International Harvester (IH) 7-Tooth
Chisel Plow. A chisel plow has extremely heavy
shanks and twisted chisel plow points. The chisel
plow requires 15 HP of tractor power draft per tooth
and rips foot-deep cuts into the soil,
counteracting compaction and incorporating surface
residues. In this photo, Caleb's sister, Amy, is
chisel-plowing with an Oliver tractor. Jim follows
behind Amy with our IH 510 Grain drill pulled by a
second Oliver, sowing Winter Rye and clover seed.
If you look closely you can see a section of ground
which has already had it's earlier planted Winter Rye
already sprout up. Next July our Winter Rye will
be harvested as an organic grain crop. In
the meantime, the Rye will do double-duty and protect
the soil from erosion during the Fall, Winter and
Caleb & Jim &
Wood Prairie Family
49 Kinney Road
(207) 429 - 9765
Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox