Wood Prairie Farm
 The Seed Piece Newsletter
             Organic News and Commentary
                       Friday, April 17, 2015
                        Volume 21 Issue 8

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 In This Issue of The Seed Piece:

    Organic Cross Pollination.

     Wood Prairie Farm’s Jim & Megan Gerritsen Standing in Jim’s Corner-of-the-Universe. Our windowless underground potato storage is where Jim spends most of his winter, grading our organic Certified Seed potatoes for the crew upstairs to pack, box and ship.  The photo was taken during a visit by organic seed farmers, Blaine and Suzy Schmaltz of North Dakota.  Their Maine trip is recounted in the Maine Tales article just ahead.
    Subsequent to that visit last month, we have had more snow storms plus cold temperatures.  In fact, Monday last week, the temperature here dropped to -10ºF.  That made April 6 the coldest April day on record for Aroostook County.  The old record had been -4ºF, recorded in Presque isle where records have been kept since 1893.  That same day, cold Clayton Lake near the Quebec border had -19ºF.
   The pendulum has swung and now mild April weather is melting snow, filling rivers and causing local concern over ice jams. If you haven’t seen this video (0:42) of an Ice Jam Release on a stream in Vermont, you will want to be sitting down when you watch it.  The burst will take your breath away.

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

Click here for the Wood Prairie Farm Home Page.

Maine Tales.                                   Travels From North Dakota and Back Again.                                   Circa 2015.
     Last month Maine farmers were fortunate when top shelf organic seedsman Blaine Schmatlz of Rugby ND, along with his wife Suzy, flew into Bangor to speak at the Annual Maine Grain Conference.  Their farm, known as Blaine’s Best Seeds has been certified organic since 1986.  They have a mixed livestock – grass fed beef - and crop farm.  Blaine grows a vast array of organic seed including hard red spring wheat, durum wheat, barley, oats, emmer, triticale, buckwheat, flax, dry peas, edible beans, soybeans, corn, sunflower, alfalfa and clover. Their knowledge and love of the land is extensive. We have been buying organic seed from Blaine for many years. They are our friends.

     Another of this winter’s many snow storms threw a curve ball into the Schmaltz’s plans to travel after the conference the 150 miles north from Bangor to Bridgewater.  To dodge the weather they reversed plans and instead headed west to Vermont.  Timing worked out well.  Blaine was able to co-teach Jack Lazor’s ag class at University of Vermont.  That would be our friend Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm organic yogurt fame, author of The Organic Grain Grower.  Blaine had visited Jack’s farm once before and Jack has been out to Rugby.

     Used to the cold and wide open spaces of North Dakota, the Schmaltzs next turned around, left Vermont, drove past Bangor and came up north to visit our farm and Aroostook County, Maine.  After visiting and touring our modest farm and organic seed operation,  Jim took Blaine into Ryan Bradstreet’s ‘potato house’ four miles away in Bridgewater.  There, Ryan, his father Wayne, son Ethan, and three more crew members, were grading and packing their conventionally grown Certified Seed potatoes into 50-pound paper sacks, fifty to a pallet.

     It was many generations ago in 1829, that these same Bradstreets’ ancestor, Nathanial Bradstreet, left the Town of Palermo in Waldo County to become the first European-American to settle this portion of the North Maine woods which was called on surveyors maps, the Town of Bridgewater, Maine. 

     Now forty years ago, Jim worked in this same Bradstreet potato house for Ryan’s grandfather, Dan.  In year’s since, on occasion, when Bradstreets have been short-handed he has lent a hand and helped pack potatoes.  In recent years, Bradstreet’s potato house has expanded significantly and cavernously into adjoining neighboring potato houses, giving Bradstreets substantially more room to store both field run and packed potatoes.  The day Blaine and Jim visited, Ryan had seven semi-tractor trailer loads of potatoes packed, palletized and organized ahead, waiting for trucks to show up to take the seed south.

     After a Gerritsen/Schmaltz family supper at Al’s Diner in Mars Hill, Blaine and Suzy drove back down to Bangor.  Next day they flew back to North Dakota.  Since their visit we’ve brought in half a semi-load of organic seed to disperse to local farmers.  And then Suzy was nice enough to send along these photos.

Jim & Megan

Click Here for Wood Prairie Farm Organic Cover Crop & Grain Seed.

Special Offer: FREE Organic Caribou Russet Seed Potatoes.    

     The newest variety to hit the potato world is the recently christened Caribou Russet  –  named after the nearby Aroostook County town of Caribou, Maine.  When we grew this potato last summer in our variety trials, it was known as AF3362-1 (Aroostook Farm 3362-1).  Caribou Russet was bred here in Maine and is a cross between Silverton Russet and Reeves Kingpin (named after Maine’s late potato breeder, Dr Alvin Reeves).  Caribou Russet is a mid-season, high yielding russet with good eating qualities, excellent early vigor and appears to be fairly resistant to hollow heart, scab and Verticillium Wilt.
     Here’s your chance to give Caribou Russet a try at no cost.  Get a FREE 1 lb. Sack of Caribou Russet Organic Certified Seed Potatoes (value $11.95) on your next order where the goods total $45 or more.  Please use Promo Code WPF460. Offer may not be combined with other offers.  Order and Caribou Russet must ship by 5/8/15. Offer Expires 11:59p.m., Monday, April 20th, so please hurry!

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

Maine's Newest Potato. The Caribou Russet.

Chicken Moat To Keep Pests Out of Your Garden. Innovation on the homestead.

Protecting Your Garden With a Chicken Moat.

   There is no lack of imagination when it comes to gardeners as this clever idea demonstrates.  In a Mother Earth News article which dates back to the 1980s, Gene Gerue explains his invention of a double-fence around the perimeter of his garden.  This six-foot-wide dry, protective corridor is home to marauding and hungry chickens, hence the name, “Chicken Moat.”  The concept is complete right down to “Chicken Underpasses.”

     The chickens patrol and eat wayward bugs which have designs on your garden’s bounty.  But does it work?  “Yes,” say the author.  “Two years ago, when our neighbor’s garden was nearly devastated by grasshoppers, our hens gorged themselves on the invading horde and saved our plot.”

     If you do construct a “Chicken Moat,” please send a photo and we’ll share it with our readers in a future Seed Piece.  Thanks!


Click Here For Wood Prairie Farm Organic Gardening Tools & Supplies.

Seed to Die For.

     Yes, seed is important.  Very important.  Many of the foods we humans eat – wheat, corn, oats - are, in fact, seeds. On another level there are stories of almost unimaginable heroism involved with protecting seed.  Such stories convey remarkable selflessness in addition to an exhibition of the grasp that seed stands as an irreplaceable resource.  Isn’t the modern-day fight to protect organic seed from catastrophic transgenic (GE) contamination yet another chapter in this crusade?

     A recent article in the New York Times, entitled “Open Sesame,” by Tamar Adler approaches the subject of seed as both food and foundation.  It is worthwhile reading.  “In 1943, a group of scientists, inspired by patriotism not to Mother Russia but to Mother Earth, starved to death in a St. Petersburg vault with the world’s largest seed collection rather than allow the gathering hordes to eat it.”


Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Farm Certified Organic Vegetable Seed Section.


Seed is Worth Saving. Seed requires heroic measures to protect.

Recipe: Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes.

12-15 small Dark Red Norland or Yukon Gold potatoes
Sea Salt
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with at least an inch of water. Boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until the potatoes are completely tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.

Place the cooked potatoes on a clean dishtowl. Let them drain and sit for a minute or two. Fold another dishtowel into quarters, and using it as a cover, gently press down on one potato with the palm of your hand to flatten it to a thickness of about 1/2-inch. Repeat with all of the potatoes.

Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; put a sheet of parchment on top of the foil. Carefully transfer the flattened potatoes to the baking sheet and let them cool completely at room temperature. If working ahead, refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Heat oven to 450 F. Sprinkle the potatoes with about 3/4 tsp salt and pour olive oil over them. Lift the potatoes gently to make sure some of the oil goes underneath. Roast until they are crisp and deep brown around the edges., 30 - 40 minutes, turning over once gently with a spatula halfway through cooking. Serve hot.
Serves 8


Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes.
Photo by Angela Wotton
Our Mailbox: Worse Than DDT and Planning for Fall Planting.

Dear WPF.

     It would seem EPA has raised the allowable tolerance levels on more than one occasion. Even worse Monsanto requested (and was approved) to have AMPA tolerance levels lumped in to be considered as glyphosate. AMPA is the breakdown product of glyphosate. AMPA is a nuroexcitory toxin that is toxic at very minute levels. So at the current allowable glyphosate levels, your food could conceivably be containing horrifically toxic levels of AMPA. Add to that, the type of bacteria that break down glyphosate, has actually caused outbreaks in hospitals, traced to be via contaminated water. Various hospital outbreaks that have already occured, co-incidentally correspond with the timing of crop cycles (spray time) in a given area of the country.


WPF Replies.

     Renound plant pathologist Dr. Donald Huber has said that glyphosate is worse than DDT.
     EPA has radically raised the allowable pesticide tolerance for glyphosate twice; once in the mid-1990s and then again just a few years ago. These actions do not reflect 'improved scientific understanding'. They do reflect collusion and the power of Industrial Ag to dwarf the interests of the people. Heads should be rolling over at the EPA. This recent primer on glyphosate by our friend, Bill Deusing of NOFA-CT, is MUST READ material.


Dear WPF.

     Do you suggest I plant an earlier maturing variety, or dig up some new potatoes earlier in the season to save as seed for a Fall planting? Also, did I understand correctly that you are shipping seed as late as July 4? Where are people planting in early July? Thanks again for your time and advice.


WPF Replies.

     Yes, we ship until Independence Day. Folks, anywhere in the north from Maine down to Pennsylvania can plant until July 4.
     Potatoes are a cool season crop which does not like hot weather (90s) or hot soil. Given your elevation you may be cut from a different cloth than most of the south. We have an experienced farmer in northern Georgia who plants whole seed tubers in mid-August (cut up tubers rot for him because of the high soil temps). Another alternative to consider is to order certified seed potatoes from us in Oct/Nov and have us ship in the cool weather around thanksgiving while the tubers are still dormant. Then put the tubers in your reefer and remove two weeks prior to your fall planting date.
     Yukon Gold are about as early as they come, Rose Finn Apple a couple of weeks later. With an early July harvest you would probably want to skip the reefer step. Just store the golf ball-sized tubers - which you would plant whole - in a cool (60s), dark place. Plant after you can see sprouts growing out of the eyes which indicates the tubers have broken dormancy.


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