News and Commentary
Saturday, February 22nd, 2020
Volume 29 Issue 4
In This Issue of
Yosemite Brand. The Earl Fruit Company.
Highgrove, California. Circa 1920.
Beautiful Fruit Crate Box Label Art from a century
ago. Then as now, there's plenty of work to be done by
farmers year round. Potato farmers like us grade and
ship potatoes during Winter. We also join in with
other farmers to attend Winter meetings and
conferences near and far.
Cross pollination occurs at conferences and sometimes
the meeting location creates opportunities to take in
new sights and new experiences. As farmers for forty
years, when we have traveled it's been almost entirely
in tandem with our farming. For the steady
stay-at-home work which dominates farm life there are
rewarding benefits to taking in fresh vistas.
Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
|Maine Tales. Tough
Times With Canada. Bridgewater, Maine. Circa 1985.
Grading Potatoes at
the Woodman Potato Company. Caribou, Maine. Circa
1940. By Jack Delano, Farm Security Administration.
depicting the perilous
plight of New York onion farmers echoed an all too
familiar tune. Border State family farmers in States like
Maine and New York perpetually get the short end of the
stick when it comes to trade with Canada.
The USA's huge population is irresistible to Canadian
producers. American farmers have no bone to pick with
our farmer friends in Canada. However, if there is ever
to be a just accounting it MUST begin with acknowledging
that we are two separate countries with two different
systems and all are selling into a single large US
market. The Canadian government is much more
generous with its Canadian farmers than our
government is with American farmers. The situation boils
down to persistent and devastating problems for American
farmers trying to compete on a steep-sloped playing
One problem is the differing values of our Dollars.
Today, for instance, our American dollar is trading 24%
higher than the Canadian Dollar. This fact helps
Canadian exports. What this means in practical terms is
that if you are a wholesale produce buyer at the Hunt's
Point Produce Terminal in Brooklyn and have US$1000 to
spend on potatoes, you can either buy from an American
farmer and get US$1000 worth of potatoes or buy from a
Canadian farmer and get US$1314 worth of potatoes for
the same money. It takes a great deal of loyalty in a very
cutthroat produce industry for an American
wholesale buyer to Buy American.
Then there is the huge impact of the Canadian Treasury
and government subsidies. History shows American
farmers must paddle very hard upstream to compete.
Perhaps it will be a Canadian subsidy for crop
production, capitalization or transportation, but when
unsubsidized American farmers face the 'free market' on
their own, it portends calamitous results.
About twenty-five years ago, during a period of
terribly low farmgate hog prices, we happened to be
tuned into and listening to the CBC (Canadian
Broadcasting Corp). We heard a news story encouraging
Canadian Pork producers to hang on tight and
survive the hard times by collecting EI (Unemployment
Insurance) benefits. They assured their intended
Canadian farmer audience that with prices this low
American hog farmers would surely soon be forced
out-of-business, hog populations would then decrease and
thanks to an improved supply/demand balance, farmgate
prices would rebound and it would eventually become
happy days for surviving Canadian hog farmers. American
hog farmers, who because they are self-employed do not
qualify for American unemployment compensation, were naked
and on their own during this crisis.
Potato crop year 1985 beat up both American and
Canadian potato farmers severely with desperately low
prices all winterlong. During that '85 crop year, there
were excellent growing conditions all across North
America bringing about a record-sized potato crop - a
whopping 11% larger than the previous '84 crop. With
this major oversupply, farm gate potato prices
universally plummeted. Throughout the Winter of '85/'86,
potato prices in Maine hovered under $1/barrel (165
pounds) farm gate. Back then it cost $7 to raise a
barrel of potatoes. Farmers got blistered and
commonly lost $1000/acre. Given the typical size of
potato farms back then, that translated into losses of
maybe $100,000 per farm in 1985 dollars (which would be
over $230,000 in today's dollars). As a result, a large
number of Maine potato farmers "got done" farming that
It was a cold day that depressed Winter when we were in
Boyd's Farm Repair shop in Bridgewater. Boyd's uncle, potato
farmer Eldon Bradbury walked in and
related to us a story told to him by a wholesale buyer
of his potatoes. Seems this buyer had just been talking
to a Canadian farmer and apologetically related that the
market price he could pay for packed potatoes was only a
disastrously low 23-cents per 5-pound sack (back then
the US and Canadian dollars traded about at par). In
those days the paper sack itself cost about 7-cents,
plus a farmer would have to pay wages to their crew to
put up a 10,000-sack truckload. Anyway, the Canadian's
response to the 23-cent price offer was, "Oh, you don't
need to pay me that much." What was unspoken, but what
that buyer knew, what Eldon knew, what Boyd knew and
what we knew is that somehow, someway, the Canadian
government was quietly behind-the-scenes baling out
Canadian farmers with a mandate "move Canadian potatoes
at any price, just move 'em, and we'll take care of
Over the decades it's been a pretty hard job for
independent Maine family potato farmers to survive in
this kind of market environment with the Canadian
Treasury often placing its finger on the trading scale.
We feel for you, New York onion farmers. Maine
farmers know what you're up against.
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We think you will agree that this is one of the
best-tasting open-pollinated Sweet Corns ever. The plants
reliably set two ears and you will be impressed how
laser-focused they are on ripening ears early.
We just got back the lab tests and they confirmed that
this Organic Orchard Baby
seed lot we grew last
season was free from detectible GE content
this means is that in a sophisticated and costly PCR lab
test, accurate to 0.01%, not a single kernel
the 10,000 representative seeds we supplied for testing
came up positive for contamination by genetically
engineered corn pollen. This purity is good news!
However, what is really remarkable is the fact that thanks
to our unique isolation on the edge of the North Maine
Woods, despite having grown dozens of at-risk seed lots
over many years, we have never ever tested hot for
GE content in our Organic Seed!
unblemished record is a reflection of the exceptional
quality you receive whenever you buy Certified Organic
Wood Prairie seed.
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|Wood Prairie Family
Mount Hood, Oregon. Last week
Caleb and Jim flew into the other Portland for the biennial
Organic Seed Growers Conference, routinely held in at Oregon
State University in Corvallis. Over the years, intrigued by
distant views of the impressive Mt Hood we had hatched a
plan to make our way to the Oregon Cascades not so far away.
On the day before the conference began we headed southeast
on the highway which follows the old Oregon Trail, and in
time travels the shoulder of Mount Hood. At the snowy resort
town of Government Camp (elev 3914') we turned left off the
main highway. We then drove steadily uphill through the
snow-covered forest until after five or six miles we arrived
at the alpine Timberline Lodge, perched high on the south
slope of Mount Hood, fittingly, right at timberline,
Mount Hood Timberline Lodge.
In the depths of the Great Depression, under
President Roosevelt's Work Progress Administration (WPA) all
across America it was decided to build lasting projects
which would better the country while providing honest work
to desperate and unemployed workers whose spirit had been
broken by the worst calamitous economic shakedown the world
had ever seen. Buoyant with hope about the prospects for
developing the fledgling ski industry, the decision was made
to construct the massive Timberline Lodge. Miraculously, an
army of hundreds of workers built Timberline Lodge in less
than two years, using local natural materials, primarily
stone and timber. The Lodge was completed in the Fall of
Timberline Lodge, First Floor.
Check-in is on the first floor, nearest the parking lot.
Mount Hood receives on the order of 25 feet of snow a year.
Winter snow depth at Timberline Lodge ranges from ten to as
much as twenty feet. Our cheap-seats dormitory-inspired room
on the first floor was Spartan yet comfortable. Our 12' x
16' room had bunk beds, a table, several chairs and a small
dresser, sink and mirror. Toilet and shower was communally
shared with those in neighboring rooms. There was a
curtained window facing south but the ten feet of snowpack
totally obliterated daylight.
Timberline Lodge, Main Lobby, Second Floor.
The WPA project hired a remarkable self-reliant army of
laborers and master craftsmen whose various highly-refined
skills included sawyers, wood workers, iron workers, stone
workers and weavers. Local stone masons - who had learned
their trade in old Italy - exhibited breathtaking skill.
Huge timbers from Cascadian forests were sawed or hewed on
site. We saw giant carrying beams which were a full 18' x
Virtually all materials were natural, produced locally and
by hand including all furniture, carvings, ironwork lamps,
hand rails, boot scrapers, and door latches, rugs, draperies
and bedspreads. This
video (7:41) offers additional detail about the superb
View of Mount Hood From Timberline Lodge, Second
Floor. Looking northward from
Timberline Lodge to the peak of Mount Hood (elev 11,250').
While the distance makes it hard to see, there are ski lifts
above the trees which rise a thousand feet towards the peak.
There are also networks of ski slopes below the Lodge. Snow
conditions are such that skiing is possible year round. The
orange machine strategically parked across from the Lodge's
phalanx of viewing windows is an antique relic, a 1959
Tucker Sno-Cat, manufactured in Medford, Oregon. It is
maintained in mint-condition. This Tucker has quad tracks
and can carry eight passengers with ski gear on top. Newer
Sno-Cats ' we counted at least ten on site - used for
grooming and transport are much larger and have gaint pairs
of bulldozer-like cleat-tracks that are often each four-feet
Aftermath of Blizzard on Mount Hood. Circa 1948. Hard-working
photographer Ray Atkeson captured this remarkable shot one
evening when a full moon had just broken through the clouds,
after a powerful blizzard had clobbered Mount Hood in
December 1948. Timberline Lodge stands today as an
extraordinary national treasure which belongs to us all. A
visit to Timberline Lodge and Mount Hood deserves a place on
everyone's bucket list. Accommodations are high caliber and
surprisingly affordable. The rare combination of grace,
isolation and serenity amid extraordinary human
craftsmanship serves as both a testament to nature's beauty
and to the indefatigable human spirit which bonds together
|Notable Quote: Cornell
West on Justice.
Spelt Squash Rolls.
1 Cup Milk
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Cup Mashed Cooked Butternut
1/4 Cup Pure
2 Teaspoons Salt
1 1/4 ounce active dry yeast
1/2 Teaspoon Sugar
1/4 Cup Warm Water
2 Large Eggs, Beaten
1 Teaspoon Grated Orange Zest
6 1/2 Cups Spelt Flour, as needed
Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over high heat until
tiny bubbles appear around the edges. Add the butter and
stir until melted. Add the squash, maple syrup, and the
salt and mix well. Transfer to a large bowl and let stand
until lukewarm (no hotter than 115'F)
Meanwhile, sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm
water in a small bowl. Let stand until the mixture looks
foamy, about 10 minutes, then stir to dissolve the yeast.
Stir into the squash mixture. Add the eggs and orange
zest. Gradually stir in enough of the flour to make a
Turn out a lightly floured work surface. Knead, adding
more flour as necessary until the dough is smooth and
elastic, about 10 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and
turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a damp kitchen towel
and let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume,
about 1 hour.
Lightly oil 24 muffin tins. Punch down the dough. Turn out
onto a floured work surface and knead a few times to expel
air bubbles. Cut the dough into 24 equal pieces. Form each
piece of dough into a ball and place, smooth side up, in a
muffin tin. Cover each pan with a moist kitchen towel and
let stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in
volume, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and
preheat to 375'F. Bake the rolls until golden brown, about
15 minutes. Remove from the tins and serve hot.
Spelt Squash Rolls.
Photo by Angela Wotton.
|Wood Prairie Mailbox:
Growing Bee Blossoms and NOT Genetically
Growing Bee Blossoms
We would like to establish a small area for bee friendly
cover - and we like sweet clover. We would like to plant
as soon as possible considering winter-spring weather.
However yellow clover, being a biennial, what would you
suggest to go with it to allow bee blooms the first year?
(wildflowers? sunflowers? other flowering farm seed?) Our
western soil tends to alkaline 7.5 PH. (We do not lime but
use gypsum on our farm)
Silver Springs, NV
We're certainly not experts on Bee forage in Nevada. That
said, if we had to guess, I say try Buckwheat as a nurse
crop for the Yellow Blossom Sweet. Buckwheat has prolific
flowers 8 weeks after planting and we see bees working
them here. You might spread your risk by mixing in Alsike
and Red Clover with the Yellow Blossom Sweet.
You say on your website that your King Harry seed potatoes
are not genetically engineered. Does that mean that your
other varieties are GE?
La Jolla, CA
No, quite to the contrary, nothing we have ever grown
or ever sold, including our Certified Seed Potatoes has
ever been genetically-engineered since we started up
44 years ago.
We have been a Certified Organic Farm for 38 years. Under
Federal law, Genetic Engineering is explicitly and clearly
designated as a 'Prohibited Method' in organic production.
We have never - and would never - grow or sell GE seed
because we understand GE technology to be a terrible
lose-lose concept for agriculture.
Beyond all that, we have been leading opponents of GE for
three decades. In fact, nine years ago we led a Plaintiff
group which filed a landmark federal lawsuit against
Monsanto (OSGATA et al v. Monsanto) seeking to
challenge the validity of their GE seed patents.
In fact it was Monsanto Corporation which twenty-five
years ago released the first GE potatoes ('New Leaf'
potatoes) which dangerously were
gene-spliced with a bacterial insecticide. Our website
reference to King Harry as not being genetically
engineered was intended to assure our seed customers that
Harry has nothing to do with Monsanto, or any
other Biotech corporation, and is a traditionally-bred
We do not, have not and will not ever sell any variety
under Monsanto control.
|Wood Prairie Farm
Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765
Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox