Wood Prairie Seed Piece
             Organic News and Commentary
                      Friday, April 8th 2016
                       Volume 24 Issue 08


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

  Hard Work Works.

     Work Season Coming Up.  That would be the outdoor work season. As the photo above shows work goes on in Maine in the Winter.  On a Maine potato farm, from the day you begin planting in the Spring you are fighting to get the crop cycle completed before Winter makes it’s-all-too soon return. 
     Most every year most every farmer up this way succeeds at that appointed task.  A potato farmer’s reward for their successful field efforts is a Winter’s worth of inside work grading and shipping potatoes in the +38ºF potato house.  A snug, tight cellar is a paradise – free of wind - compared to outdoor mornings of -30ºF.
    This mild Winter has left us with a good start on firewood for next Winter. But the cold has not departed.   Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week gave us lows of +7ºF, +4ºF and +2ºF.  But the sun is now getting higher, today we’ve been above freezing and the maple sap is flowing.  A good day to work.

 Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
 Wood Prairie Family Farm
 Bridgewater, Maine
Click here for the Wood Prairie Family Farm Home Page.

Maine Bob Sled. Loaded with four-foot pulpwood hand-stacked. 'Escape from Spencer Lake'.
WWII German POWs Work in the State of Maine.

     Nationwide, WWII resulted in a serious shortage of workers who were needed to keep things rolling, power the domestic war production effort, and replace the soldiers who had gone off to fight.  It’s widely recognized women in great numbers left home and hearth to help keep the economy rolling

     Less well-known is the use of German Prisoners-of-War in various labor-intensive work across the country.  Here in Maine, German POWs supplemented the trainloads of workers brought in from Kentucky and other States to harvest America’s biggest crops of potatoes here in Maine’s Potato Empire.  Potatoes were a critical staple food for both America and the entire Allied effort.  Huge crops of potatoes – from Aroostook County and elsewhere - were essential if the Allies were to defeat the Nazi Axis.

    By 1944, 4000 German prisoners were being housed in four POW camps in very rural northern, western and eastern Maine.  The Houlton POW camp was in the heart of Aroostook County’s Potato Empire.  Local stories abound of strong bonds developed between local Maine family farmers and the young German boys – not very different than their own sons who’d gone off to war - who were conscripted, then captured, and as POWs sent to America only to pick potatoes in The County.

   Another POW camp was built near Spencer Lake in western Maine.  There the POWs helped cut pulpwood destined for Maine’s paper mills.  A recent must read article in Downeast Magazine, entitled 'Escape from Spencer Lake' provides a fascinating glimpse into the very human and moving story of German POWs working in the Maine woods.  Don’t miss it!

“Dean Yeaton was among those who appreciated the work ethic of the German pulpwood cutters.

‘The Germans loved to sing ‘Don’t Fence Me In,’ the 1944 hit song by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters,’ Yeaton remembered. ‘It was the only English they knew, so they sang that song over and over. When I hear that song today, I think about those German boys who were only a few years older than me. They were teachers, musicians, and engineers. And like our soldiers, they were just doing what their country asked of them.’”

Jim & Megan

Click Here for Our Certified Organic Vegetable Seed.

Special Offer: FREE Sack of Certified Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed.

     Everyone should have a sack of the versatile warm-season cover crop Organic Buckwheat on hand for when a corner of the garden is harvested and opens up.  Buckwheat is sensitive to frost but takes just eight weeks to grow and then is ready to “plowdown” (incorporate).  We chop our cover crops of Buckwheat at 1-3% bloom (when 1-3% of the plants first show white blossoms) with a tractor-drawn “Bush-Hog” rotary mower.   A hand scythe or string mower will work fine on a smaller scale.  Incorporate mowed Buckwheat by discing, plowing, rototilling or turning under with a shovel while still moist and succulent.

    We’ll make it easy for you to secure yourself that sack of Organic Buckwheat!  Earn yourself a FREE 2 ½ lbs. Sack of Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed (Value $9.95) when the amount of goods in your next order totals $45 or more. FREE 2 ½ lbs. Sack of Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed offer ends Midnight Monday, April 11.

     Please use Promo Code WPF 484. Your order and FREE 2 ½ lbs. Sack of Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed must ship by 5/6/16. This offer may not be combined with other offers. Please call or click today!

Questions? Call us at Wood Prairie Family Farm (207) 429-9765.

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Family Farm Organic Cover Crop Section.


Planting Potatoes in Fort Kent, Aroostook County. Circa 1940s.
 Wood Prairie Potato School Webinars Now All Posted on Web.

    Our sixth and concluding Wood Prairie Potato School Webinar #6 “Why Crop Rotation is an Organic Potato Farmer’s Best Friend” in our wintertime series was presented last week.  As has been typical our discussion ranged in and out of potato crop rotations – beyond the whys and the hows – and included historical context of cropping systems over the centuries not only in Maine and the USA but also in the Andean region where potatoes were first cultivated beginning 8000 years ago 
       All six of our Wood Prairie Potato School Webinars are now permanently posted on our Wood Prairie You Tube Channel.  Find them using the hot links below.

Jim & Megan

Wood Prairie Potato School Webinar #5: OK, My Potatoes Are Planted, Now What Do I Do?”

Wood Prairie Potato School Webinar #4: 'Of Course Before You Harvest You've Got to Plant'

Wood Prairie Potato School Webinar #3:  'Why All This Hullabaloo About Efficiency at Harvest?'

Wood Prairie Potato School Webinar #2:  'So THAT’S How They Multiply Seed Potatoes'

Wood Prairie Potato School Webinar #1:  'Butte (Say “Beaut”-iful)'

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

 Research Reveals the Best Seed Potatoes in the USA.

     One thing we've learned in forty years of organic farming is that there is a wide variation in the quality of seed out there. "Germination" is one easy metric but seed performance and vigor - while much harder to measure - are extremely important in terms of overall yield, size and in the case of potatoes, tuber quality.

     One method to determine relative seed peroframnce is side-by-side seed source testing by planting different seed lots in replicated field plots. This is exactly what scientists at North Dakota State University did a few years ago in a multi-year test. They planted seed potatoes from various organic sources and used conventionally-grown Minnesota Blue Tag Certified Seed as a control.

     Here are the results from 2008 & 2009. We're happy to report that of all the seed potatoes tested our Wood Prairie organic seed potatoes came out on top in terms of total yield and #1s (full-sized tubers).

     A farmer or gardener puts a lot of effort into prepping and fertilizing the ground. Since high quality seed will consistently produce a better quality and bigger crop, who wouldn't want to use the best seed they can get their hands on?

Jim & Megan

Click Here for our Organic  Wood Prairie Family FarmMaine Certified Seed Potatoes.

The Best Organic Seed Potatoes. No bull here in NDSU research.
Notable Quote: Thomas Edison on Opportunity.

Recipe: Potato Pierogis.

Yields 25 to 30 pierogi

For the filling:
1 lb Butte potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Sea salt
1 1/2 T unsalted butter
2 Dutch Yellow Onions, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

For the dough:
1 lb (3 1/2 c) whole wheat flour; more as needed
2 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1 c warm water

Make the dough:
Put flour in a large bowl. Add the butter and work it into the flour until the mixture has the texture of coarse meal. Add 3/4 c of the warm water and stir with your fingers until the mixture begins to come together. If the dough is too dry, add more warm water until it forms a shaggy yet cohesive mass. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead it just until soft and elastic. Cover with a clean dishtowel and proceed with filling recipe.

Make the filling:
Cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to the pan. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden-brown and soft, 15 - 20 minutes. Reserve 1/4 of the onions for garnish and add the other 3/4 to the potatoes along with 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper and mix until well combined. Let cool to room temperature.

Divide the dough into 3 orange-size balls and roll out one at a time until dough is 1/8-inch-thick, 10 to 11-inch wide circle. Using a floured 3-inch cookie cutter or inverted glass, cut out circles of dough. Transfer the circles to a baking sheet, dust with a little flour and top with a sheet of parchment so they don't dry out. Repeat with remaining dough, stacking the circles between sheets of parchment.

Fill each dough circle with 1 T of potato filling and fold it in half. Using your fingers, tightly pinch the edges together to seal and create a border. Filled pierogi can be frozen for up to 6 months or refrigerated for up to 2 hours.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Working in batches of 10 to 12, drop the pierogi into the boiling water and give them a gentle stir so they don't stick together. When they float to the top (1 to 2 minutes for room temperature), use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a platter.

Before serving, top the pierogi with melted butter and sprinkled with the remaining onions. Serve with sour cream on the side.


Click here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Vegetable Seed

Perfect Potato Pierogi.
Photo by Angela Wotton.

Our Mailbox: Voting with Dollars and Three Questions.

Voting with Dollars.

Dear WPF.

     I guess when companies don't want people to know what's in their food, their only choice is to vote with their dollar.


WPF Replies.

     This latter-day corporate entry into organic is causing great friction. Industrial Food corporations have been buying up independent organic companies in an effort to maintain market share. Many of these corporate newcomers are acting like invaders by trying to make life easier for themselves by diluting organic integrity. Additionally, they are supporting Monsanto in the effort to prevent consumers from gaining their Right-to-Know GMOs. Their use of political and economic power to endanger traditional organic norms is being met with a firestorm of resistance by the authentic organic community. The organic community will continue to defend itself from these greed-driven invaders. We're not going away.


Three Questions.
Dear WPF.

    Hello.  I have looked everywhere I can think of on your website and can't find the answers that I am looking for so I hope it is alright to ask in this way.

1. Recently, I was digging through some parts of our garden preparing for next season and I dug up half a dozen or so small red potatoes that were just starting to sprout.  (This was on November 28, USDA zone 5/6, altitude 6,000, zip code 86512)  Not wanting to just throw them away I prepared a place for them, dug in a little goat bedding and manure, put down a very thin layer of chopped straw (to keep the potatoes from actually sitting on the manure, etc.) put down the potatoes, put a couple inches of soil over them and then put loose straw on top of that.  The problem I foresee is that we are just getting into real winter weather and these could freeze within the next couple of months.  So, how much straw can I pile on top of them to protect them and still have them find their way to the top come warmer weather?

2. The other question I have is in regard to hilling the potatoes.  Your instructions say not to cover the leaves when hilling.  But the leaves start showing up as soon as the sprout breaks the surface, so how can I hill (with dirt or straw) without covering the leaves?

3. One other thing that I just thought of.  I have tried growing a few potatoes the last couple of years with very limited success (partly due to bad Colorado potato beetle infestation) but one of the things that I have run into is deciding when to harvest the potatoes.  The instructions say to wait for the plant to wilt but if I do that it seems like the newly developed potato then sprouts and tries to make its own tubers and the plants don't actually wilt until the frost hits them in the fall.

Thank you for any help and/or advice you can provide.


WPF Replies.

1. I would err on the side of too much mulch - if need be remove some next Spring.

2. We 'throw' the soil in under the plants beginning at 6' height.  If a leaf here or there gets buried it's OK but you want to preserve as much leaf area as possible (photosynthetic energy factories).

3. One may harvest potatoes and eat them as soon as they are large enough to make harvesting worthwhile. The 'leaving them in the ground' advice is for potatoes one wants to store, but even then I would not wait as long as you describe.

Good luck!


 Jim & Megan Gerritsen
 Wood Prairie Family Farm
 49 Kinney Road
 Bridgewater, Maine 04735
 (207) 429 - 9765 Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm