Wood Prairie Farm
 The Seed Piece Newsletter
             Organic News and Commentary
                  Friday March 21, 2014

 In This Issue of The Seed Piece:

    Living Large in Pig Heaven.

     Some Work & Some Play. Winter stubbornly maintains its grip in Northern Maine. An 8" snow yesterday adds to the 16" last week and our snow banks are growing taller not shorter. Most nights continue to hover around zero. Some seed potato orders have been held waiting for warmer conditions. But we have all hands on deck and are steadily sending out loads of seed potatoes southward.
      Our barnful of thirteen Guinae Hog piglets - now five weeks old - from our three sows, romp, tussle and feed. Their antics are a fun distraction, as is their total oblivion that our world is colder than it's supposed to be for late March. Do take a few minutes and watch our new YouTube Video (3:19) of these frolicking organic piglets. Listen close and you'll hear Megan offering dry background commentary.

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

Click here for the Wood Prairie Farm Home Page.
Maine Scientists Publish Study Proving Wood Prairie Farm Organic Practices Excel.
   At long last the results from a three year integrated systems approach biological study conducted on organic and conventional potatoes in Maine from 2007-2009 have been published in the scientific journal Plant and Soil.  The research plots were in two locations in Northern Maine’s Aroostook County: Wood Prairie Farm (identified as “WPF” and “Bridgewater”) and Aroostook Farm, the University of Maine’s potato experiment station, (identified as “AF” and “Presque Isle”). 

  The title of the important research paper is Rapeseed rotation, compost and biocontrol amendments reduce soilborne diseases and increase tuber yield in organic and conventional potato production systems The research was conducted by a combination of career scientists and graduate students from the fields of agronomy and soils, plant pathology and entomology from both University of Maine and the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) lab in Orono, Maine.

  The study validated many organic practices we have employed for decades on Wood Prairie Farm involving sod and green manure crops, use of approved biological soil inoculants for disease control on organic seed potatoes and a long four-year crop rotation including plow down rapeseed as a soil cleansing biofumigant.  Importantly, contrary to the tired serial propaganda from corporate detractors of organic farming, yields and effectiveness of disease suppression stood up very well on the organic plots when compared to their conventionally farmed counterparts.

“WPF is an organic site characterized by yearly organic matter inputs and a four-year rotation which ordinarily includes a rapeseed cover crop compared to AF, which is a conventionally managed farm with a short, two-year rotation. One of the primary resulting differences between the sites is in the amount of organic matter and organic C in the soils, with WPF having more than double that of AF… This observation at WPF suggests that the inclusion of the rapeseed crop in the four-year rotation is integral for disease management… The combination of all of these management practices (rotation crop, compost amendment, biological control amendments) is perhaps the most important aspect of this study, since it provides information on how these treatments function together in an agricultural system, in contrast to most studies which focus on the effects of a single type of treatment on disease suppression… Perhaps most importantly, this research demonstrated that these treatments and their combinations can be effective approaches for reducing disease and increasing yield under both conventional and organic production practices, and under a variety of cropping backgrounds and management histories.”

This valuable study is an example of thorough research which benefits all of agriculture. It has served to substantiate scientifically  the efficacy of sound organic production practices.

Jim & Megan 

Click Here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

Scientists and Farmer. (l. to r.) Dr. Robert Larkin (USDA-ARS), Dr. Stellos Tavantzis (Univ. of Maine) and Jim Gerritsen (Wood Prairie Farm) looking over a newly dug research plot of Yukon Gold organic seed potatoes in 2009.

Balanced Food. Rep. Chellie Pingree fights for sound food policy.
Chellie Pingree and the Battle to Change the Face of US Agriculture.

     Chellie Pingree is the member of Congress from Maine’s First District (Southern Maine).  Back in the 1970s, she was the first apprentice to work on an organic Maine farm under the pioneering program established by MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assn).  For many years Chellie farmed and ran a yarn business on North Haven Island off Maine’s coast in Penobscot Bay.

     Over twenty years ago she shifted her sights towards political reform and served in the Maine Senate.  Now a veteran and highly respected member of the U.S. House of Representatives, she has served on the Agriculture Committee and Veterans Committee. She now serves on the Appropriations Committee.

     Over the decades Chellie has maintained her farming roots.  Chellie owns the two hundred year old and now certified organic Turner Farm on North Haven.  Her talented family owns the Nebo Lodge Inn and Restaurant, also located on North Haven Island.  Much of the food needed for Nebo Lodge comes from their organic farm.

     Earlier this month Chellie was in Manhatten where she recorded her TEDx talk (14:14) on agriculture and food policy.  This talk is MUST WATCH viewing.  Grab a cup of tea and prepare to enjoy your next fifteen minutes.

     Chellie’s daughter, Cecily Pingee, also of North Haven, was the filmmaker behind the excellent Betting the Farm film.  Betting the Farm beautifully relates the gripping story of Maine organic dairy farmers who after losing their market set up their own milk company called Maine’s Own Organic Milk (MOO Milk).

Jim & Megan

Click here for our Wood Prairie Farm certified Organic Vegetable Seed

Notable Quotes: Ban Ki-moon on Climate Change.

Delicious Black Bread
Photo by Angela Wotton
Recipe: Delicious Black Bread

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/3 c warm water (105 - 115F)
1 tsp cane sugar or brown sugar
2 T cocoa powder
2 T finely ground espresso beans
1/4 c molasses
3 tsp caraway seeds, plus more for topping
3 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tsp sea salt
2 c coarsely grated potatoes (2 medium)
1 1/3 c rye flour
3 1/4 c bread flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
olive oil for baking sheet
2 T buttermilk or milk

In a large mixing bowl whisk the yeast with warm water and sugar and set aside until foamy.

In a small saucepan over med-low heat, combine the cocoa, coffee, molasses, caraway, butter, and salt. Stir constantly until just melted. You want the mixture to be lukewarm when adding to the other ingredients.

Combine the grated potatoes and molasses mixture with the yeast mixture in the large mixing bowl. Add the flours, and stir until you've got a soft tacky adhesive dough. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead for about  5 minutes, adding flour as needed, until the dough is elastic and springy. You can also do this step using the dough hook on your mixer.

Shape the dough into a ball, rub with a bit of olive oil and place seam-side down into an oiled bowl. Cover and allow to rise a warm place for 1 -2 hours. Gently press down, with a closed fist, across the surface of the dough. Turn dough out onto counter and shape into a round loaf. Place on a very lightly oiled baking sheet , then cover loosely with a cloth. Allow to rise a second time in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, about an hour.

Uncover, brush with buttermilk, sprinkle with a dusting of flour, 1 tsp caraway seeds, and use a serrated knife to slash an 'X' deeply across the dough (do your best not to deflate the loaf). Bake for 20 minutes at 425F. Lower heat to 350F and bake for another 20 - 25 minutes. Remove from oven and place bread directly on rack to cool.

Makes one extra-large loaf.

- Megan

Special Offer: FREE Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed.

    We often sing the praises of organic Buckwheat as a near perfect cover crop.  It thrives on poor soil with low fertility.  Buckwheat grows fast, smothers weeds, improves soil tilth, brings up Phosphorus from deep in the soil and decomposing buckwheat plants then make it available for subsequent crops.  If left to flower Buckwheat is a great bee forage and will produce edible Buckwheat groats.  However, do be warned: those groats can easily shatter, fall to the ground and become a future weed problem.  We avoid this protential problem by incorporating our plow down Buckwheat at 1-3% bloom which happens around 7-8 weeks after planting.  Buckwheat is sensitive to frost so let things warm and don’t plant first thing in the Spring.  Always keep a sack of Buckwheat on hand and lightly scatter some on a harvested corner of your garden patch (4 pounds will cover 1000 square feet).  You will like the results.

     Here's your chance to earn a FREE 2.5 lbs Sack of our Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed (Value $9.95) when the amount of goods in your next order is $35 or more.  FREE 2.5 lbs Sack of Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed offer ends Midnight Monday, March 24, 2014, so better hurry!

     Please use Promo Code WPF1173. Your order must ship with FREE 2.5 lbs Sack of  Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed and entire order must ship by 5/8/14. This Offer may not be combined with other offers.  Please call or click today!  

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Cover Crop Seed.

Buckwheat. King of cover crops.
Our Mailbox: Doing It Right, Fires Raging, Open High Ground.

Doing It Right.

Dear WPF.

     You and Megan and your family are doing it right. Small steps start an avalanche.

Portland, Maine

WPF Replies.

     Despite entrenched government policy which encourages and focuses benefits on one dimensional self-serving non-sustainable agriculture, there are many, many, many thousands of organic family farmers like us who are producing good food and seed in an environmentally sound manner. We are confident of the superiority of our organic systems but every day we must paddle upstream.


Organic Nutritious Food.

Dear WPF.

     Given the abysmal track record for accomplishing anything in DC, and the GMO Labeling losses in California and Washington, I'm in a quandary.

World Wide Web

WPF Replies.

     I would not call Prop 37 and I-522 defeats. Yes, we know they were stolen elections by the lies of Biotech and Big Food but they have mobilized the country and served as the best fast-track teaching tool for the public we could have hoped for. It may be that New England is now leading the way with Maine, Connecticut and soon Vermont, and others will follow. But we know we couldn't have made our gains out here without the West Coast starting the GMO Labeling fires which are now raging across the country.


Open High Ground.

Dear WPF.

     Planting season running late this year?


World Wide Web

WPF Replies.

     Time will tell. Our friend nearby in Littleton has open high ground and plants in the earliest potatoes in Aroostook County. Only about 4 of the last 50 years has he not got some potatoes planted in (late) April. He's now finding it harder to plant in April. The primary pattern for the last ten years: Springs have been colder, wetter and later; and the Falls have been warmer and wetter. We have plenty of snow now but it can go fast in April if it warms up.


 Jim & Megan Gerritsen
 Wood Prairie Farm
 49 Kinney Road
 Bridgewater, Maine 04735
 (800)829-9765 Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm