Wood Prairie Farm                                     In This Issue of The Seed Piece: 
 Seed Piece Newsletter                        Maine Tales: The Work of Heroes.
      Organic News and Commentary
                                       Maine Ranked As Most Peaceful State.
              Friday April 27, 2012                                                        Recipe: Potato Gnocchi.
                                                                                                                     Special Offer: FREE Organic Potato Fertilizer
                                                                                                                     Mailbox: Potatoes Rule Potato Cahoots.
  End of Winter.

Alternative to Ice Jams Against Bridges.  Circa World War I photo showing farmers in western Aroostook County crossing the Aroostook River with a load of hay destined for work horses in distant logging camps.  Because of their inaccessibility, logging operations represented a premium market for oats and hay which were grown in rotation with potatoes.

Maine Tales.           The Work of Heroes.               Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, Canada.                 Circa 1987.
      It’s been about a month since the ice jam on the St John River caused the nearby  town of Perth-Andover, New Brunswick to flood in historic proportions. Local blame swirls around suspicions of NB Power’s downstream 60-year-old Beechwood hydroelectric dam and the freakishly record warm spell we had in March.  Devastated residents are still waiting for the deciders in the provincial government to determine whether their low-lying homes and businesses will be re-located up to higher ground.

     Virtually all of our Aroostook County, Maine is within the St. John watershed which means that if a raindrop falls in Aroostook it will eventually end up in the Bay of Fundy courtesy of the St John. For quite a ways up north, the St. John forms the boundary between Maine and Canada.  At our latitude the international boundary lies to the west of the St John as the river begins to flow towards the southeast and entirely within Canada until it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The early European settlers, both the Acadian French and the English, primarily used the navigable St. John, and its tributaries such as the Aroostook River, to extend their settlements into the wilderness in order that future potato farmers would gain access to good ground where they could clear off the trees and grow their potato crops.

     Floods may be nothing new but unless you live in the north, the floods caused by ice jams may be beyond not only your own experience but also beyond your imagination. In the Spring, rapid snowmelt waters snake their way into the St. John and flow along with broken chunks of ice, some as large as boats. River obstructions like intact river ice, river narrows or bridges can be problematic when the ice begins to pile up and hold back the free flow of water. Classic ice blockage of the water flow, unprecedented in magnitude this year, caused St. John River flooding in Perth-Andover to be the worst on record.
     Ice jams on the St. John and the resulting flooding have certainly occurred before. One time, many years ago, the ice lodged up against the upstream side of a railroad bridge and the water and ice rapidly started to back up.  One quick thinking official ordered a half dozen rail cars full of hundreds of tons of gravel to be rolled onto the bridge so as to anchor and provide weight against the mighty force of ice and water.  The gamble paid off and the bridge held until the ice jam relieved itself, broke up, and let the backed-up water flow once again.  That decisive steel-nerved official instantly became a local hero and a local legend.

     Things did not go so well with the flood on the St. John in the Spring of 1987. We’d had a deep snowpack that Winter and moderate snow-melting rains that began towards the end of March made for high water levels on all the local rivers.  The result was rapid ‘thermal decay’ of the river ice which caused the ice pack to break up and move with the rapid flood waters.  On the morning of April 2, the river of ice quickly began to back up and accumulate on the bottom chord of the Canadian Pacific rail road bridge spanning the St. John River in Perth-Andover.  A student of local legends, perhaps with dreams of becoming a hero himself, gave the crisp order and six rail cars full of fertilizer were rushed into place on top of the bridge.  Three hours after the ice jam had first formed against the bridge, the metal members of the bridge finally gave way to weary fatigue and unceremoniously crumpled and collapsed into the river taking along with it all those rail cars loaded with fertilizer.
     There is no certainty in dealing with nature.  Decisions must be made, necessarily before the wisdom of those decisions, or the lack thereof, becomes evident.  

     Now, another Spring is upon us and planting is just ahead.  Not the work of heroes perhaps, but good work nonetheless.

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

Circa 1918. Four Peaceful Sisters in Aroostook County, Maine.
Maine Ranked Most Peaceful State     

     For the eleventh year running, our State of Maine has been ranked #1 in the 2012 U.S. Peace Index as the country's 'Most Peaceful' state.  Neighbors Vermont and New Hampshire, respectively follow at #2 and #3 and Louisianna came in at #50.  What criteria went into this annual ranking?  Click here for details.
     The comments of Michael O'Donnell sums the story up very well in his The Main Ideas of Maine.

1. A harsh climate predicates hard work. Loafers need not apply.
2. People know their neighbors.
3. A sense of community dictates cooperation.
4. Maine has one of the lowest rates of illegal immigration in the United States.
5. Maine has no major urban areas, and the associated city problems.
6. The Maine citizenry play an active role in civic duties, and vote in high numbers.
7. There is no reason for the folks in Maine to be obsessed with personal security.
8. Maine has relatively low rates of drug addiction.
9. People in Maine take democracy seriously, and remain suspect of big brother.
10. The state has a long tradition of self-sufficiency. It is more or less how this country as a whole once was.

Recipe: Potato Gnocchi 

(Pronounced 'No-Key')

You can use either waxy or floury potatoes. Waxy potatoes don't need an egg yolk when mixed with the flour but floury potatoes will.

2 potatoes (about 1 lb), unpeeled (I used Prairie Blush)

pinch of sea salt

1 egg yolk (optional)

3/4 c Wood Prairie organic whole wheat or spelt flour

2 tsp olive oil

4 T unsalted butter

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

freshly grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

fresh sage, for garnish

1. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water and add a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 30 - 40 minutes.

2. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan. Shake the pan gently over low heat to dry the potatoes. Let stand just until the potatoes are cool enough to handle.

3. Peel the potatoes and cut them in chunks. Pass them through a ricer or food mill. Transfer to a lightly floured surface. If using an egg yolk, make a well in the center of the potatoes and put the yolk in the well.

4. Sprinkle the potatoes with some of the flour and slowly work in. Repeat until all the flour has been added and the mixture forms a smooth, slightly sticky, dough.

5. Divide the dough into fourths, and roll each piece into a 15" long rope about 3/4" in diameter. Using a floured knife, cut each rope into thirty pieces. The gnocchi can be cooked as is; or to make decorative ridges, flour a dinner fork and roll the gnocchi under the tines.

6. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the olive oil, and then drop the gnocchi gently into the boiling water.

7. When gnocchi rise to the surface, cook 30 seconds more. Drain in a colander.

8. Melt the butter in a large skillet along with the sage and add the gnocchi. Toss gently and season with salt, pepper, and a generous grating of Parmesan cheese.

The New Basics Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

Serves four.


Potato Gnocchi
Photo by Angela Wotton

Special Offer: FREE Organic Potato Fertilizer       

     Have you ever wondered whether a good organic fertilizer would pay dividends in your garden with increased yields, higher quality and faster maturity? The simple way to conduct your own simple research to answer this basic fertility question is to take a uniform row and apply the fertilizer to half of the row and leave the other half alone. Then keep track of plant growth in each portion throughout the growing season and be sure to measure the yield at season's end.

     Here's your chance to conduct that fertility experiment for FREE. Earn a FREE 3 lbs sack ($9.95 value) of Wood Prairie Farm Organic Potato Fertilizer with your next purchase of $45 or more. FREE Organic Potato Fertilizer offer ends Tuesday, May 1.

     Please use Promo Code WPF 1119.  Your order and FREE Organic Potato Fertilizer must ship by 5/11/12.  Offer may not be combined with other offers.  Please call or click today!

Click here for Wood Prairie Farm Organic Vegetable Seed

Our Mailbox: Potatoes Rule Potato Cahoots.

Potatoes That Excite North Dakota.

Dear WPF.
     I just wanted to let you know that my son, from North Dakota, called me today very excited. He said that he had just received his potatoes and was very happy with them, the pamplets, the growing instructions, and the recipe booklet. He said that he could tell you cared about your product and your customers.

Idaho Falls ID

WPF Replies.

     We appreciate your business and your kind words.

Jim & Megan

Ruling That Ridicules.

Dear WPF.
     Can that judge be thrown out? Did she really ridicule the plaintiffs? On what basis does she think it's funny?

Bangor ME

WPF Replies.

     You can read the ruling for yourself here: https://www.woodprairie.com/downloads/OSGATA%20v%20Monsanto%20-%20MTD%20Decision.pdf.
We carefully choose 'ridicule' because that is the tone and content of the ruling. Assuming we win our Appeal, the Appelate court will send the case back to Judge Buchwald. While some might consider this 'judge shopping' Monsanto has already filed a motion for a change of venue to move the case to Eastern District Missouri (St. Louis), Monsanto's home turf. Once we do gain standing and get into Court we have a strong case and with four seperate legal arguments we are confidant we will be successful. We only need to succeed with one legal argument to win our case. Monsanto must defeat us on all four points in order for them to win. By the time our case is heard in Court it may be that Dr. Donald Huber's research will be out and peer-reviewed and this truth spells trouble for Monsanto.

Link to Dr. Huber Interview


Search For Standards.

Dear WPF.
     Hi, Thanks for all the good info you've been sending out this winter. I am wondering where I can get a copy of the national potato grading standards as it relates to eating potatoes and seed potatoes. Thanks.

Republic MI

WPF Replies.

     Glad you've been getting some good out of our Seed Piece newsletters.

     Here are the USDA Standards for Grades of Potatoes.  This standard is for 'tablestock,' the American potato trade term for eating potatoes such as you would find in the grocery store.


     In the United States there is no single uniform national grading standard for certified seed potatoes. Seed potato certification systems exist at the individual state level, and as a result standards for certified seed potatoes are established by each state for production within their respective statewide jurisdiction.

     I believe this lack of uniform national standards exists because of rivalries between seed potato producing states. The states with the best reputation for certified seed potatoes - among them, Maine and Montana - benefit from the market distinction and market recognition of their seed potato superiority.  As a result, the 'high quality' states are reluctant to help modify the status quo for fear that doing so will create loss of their identity and existing market advantage. Essentially, what we have now for certified seed potatoes is a decentralized state-based quality standard where demand and price advantage are determined by the market. Here in Maine, the view is don't fix what ain't broke.


In Cahoots With  Monsanto.

Dear WPF.

     Keep up the good work!  The other day, while surfing the net, I was appalled to see that Bill Gates is in cahoots with Monsanto and third world nationals touting that they are feeding the hungry with Monsanto's wonderful GMO research crops.  Those nations will lose so much more than a temporary fix on hunger.  I worry about all their regional seeds which have been selectively propagated, through seed saving over generations, keeping the best producers, the best tasting and the most nutritious for their region.  They could be lost forever!   I am so thankful there are people like you and all the organic gardeners and farmers who do want to feed their families good, safe, nutritious foods.  Greed is a pandemic which has the potential to kill us all.  Shame on you Monsanto and shame on Bill Gates!  When is enough, enough?

I know I'm preaching to the choir, so to speak, but REALLY?  I just had to let you know I'm behind you all the way!

Love your potatoes! Can't wait to get them in the ground!  (It's still too early here.)

Fisher MN

WPF Replies.

 Hi Kate,
     Appreciate your support. Jim.

Wood Prairie Farm Quick Links

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