Wood Prairie Farm
 The Seed Piece Newsletter
             Organic News and Commentary
                       Saturday, May 02, 2015
                         Volume 21 Issue 9

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 In This Issue of The Seed Piece:

    Cultivating Organic Ground.

     Current Members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) (Photo credit Mark Kastel).  From left to right: Francis Thicke, Tom Chapman, Jennifer Taylor, Lisa de Lima, Nick Maravell, Ashley Swaffar, Jean Richardson, Tracy Favre, Mac Stone, Zea Sonnebend, Calvin Walker, Carmela Beck, Colehour Bondera (missing Harold Austin, Paula Daniels) (Farmers in bold).
     Jim’s last week was spent in La Jolla CA (near San Diego) at the Spring meeting of the NOSB representing Organic Seed Growers and Trade Assn (OSGATA), of which he serves as President.
     These normally bi-annual meetings are held both to solicit public comment on issues before NOSB and for the NOSB to publicly deliberate on issues critical to the integrity of organic food and organic farming.  These issues include matters in the organic policy arena, input materials up for their 5-year Sunset review on the “National List (NL),” and new inputs petitioned for admission to the NL.  Yes, the content might sound dry and other worldly and the days were in fact long and grueling in nature.  However, the decisions made by the NOSB have a dramatic impact on whether farmers get to play on a level playing field, whether corporate agriculture and corporate manufacturers can successfully game the system to advantage and whether the concerns of organic consumers are heard and respected. Public interest advocates - like OSGATA - help the NOSB gain a fresh and different perspective from the lobbyists and partisans promoting a reductionist status quo agenda favorable to their clients.  More on the NOSB meeting in the next article.
     Back here in Maine, the snow melts, the ground is nearing the point of being dry enough to farm and plant grain, and the orders for shipping out seed potatoes remain brisk.  We are mostly caught up with orders and still have good supplies of many varieties which we can once again ship out on a very quick turnaround.
     If you need excellent organic seed yet this Spring, please do let us know how we can help you.  Thanks!

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

Click here for the Wood Prairie Farm Home Page.

NOSB Meeting-Battle to Stand Up for the Public Interest.

Protecting Organic Integrity. In the era of growing corporate control, trustworthy watchdogs are essential.

     The 1990 Farm Bill included a provision called the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) which set in motion federal regulation of the organic industry.  OFPA created the National Organic Program (NOP), administered by USDA.  Eventually, with organic community involvement, a set of national organic production standards was created.  Beginning in 2002, all organic farmers were required to become certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agency (ACA).   In addition, all manufactured products bearing the word “Organic” must be produced by companies certified by an ACA.  While no system is perfect, the USDA NOP Certified Organic system represents the gold standard for high quality organic foods produced, defined and regulated under public and transparent world class organic standards.

     The fifteen-member volunteer citizen-advisory National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was created by OFPA to be the vehicle through which the organic community would convey its position on critical organic industry issues to the USDA. NOSB members are appointed to their five-year positions by the Secretary of Agriculture.

La Jolla Brouhaha.

     This week’s four-day NOSB meeting in La Jolla CA again witnessed dueling perspectives on what is the best direction for the organic industry to head.  On the one hand are the lobbyists and financially-indebted corporate supporters which advocate for the status quo and a low bar for decision-making on inputs which lightens their load and – importantly - benefits their bottom line.

     On the other side are organizations and individuals – with often zero direct financial stakes in decision outcomes – which advocate for the public interest: integrity over growth, fidelity to established organic tradition over corporate shortcuts, and deep respect for the honest desires of the huge constituencies of both organic eaters and organic family farmers.  Included in this latter group of public interest defenders are many dedicated organizations, including Center for Food Safety, Cornucopia Institute, Beyond Pesticides, Organic Consumers Assn, Consumers Union (Consumer Reports), National Organic Coalition and Organic Seed Growers and Trade Assn (OSGATA).  Jim is President of OSGATA, and continuing OSGATA’s long tradition of advocating for the public interest, this last week Jim attended and testified at the NOSB four-day Spring meeting.

Defenders of Organic.

     As might be easily imagined in the current political climate, a Board whose membership owes each appointment to the Secretary of Agriculture, there exists insufficient independence between the NOSB and the USDA.  The law intended NOSB members to be primarily committed to representing and defending the interests of the organic community.  However, in reality, the practical relationship is that the NOSB acts as a very junior partner and errand boy for USDA.

     What is clear is the dynamic between NOSB and USDA is not a healthy one. Rather than the NOSB conduct an independent meeting, it operates subservient and at the bidding of the USDA - the very agency the law says the NOSB has been established to advise.  Stunningly, as junior partner, NOSB no longer forms their own agenda:  USDA creates the meeting agenda for NOSB.  Nor are NOSB members allowed to offer independent motions.

Bogus and Impractical.

     One day of the meeting, several NOSB members requested formation of an “open docket” system as a means of improved opportunity for the organic community to offer written comment. Immediately, the idea was rebuffed and the NOSB was advised by USDA the idea was impractical and did not jive with USDA priorities. 

     When in the recent past the NOSB conveyed its opposition to bogus soil-less “organic hydroponics,” the USDA response was to unilaterally create a “Hydroponic Task Force” composed of non-organic hydroponic ‘experts.’  One might expect that in the fullness of time the ‘expert panel’ will explain how the organic community doesn’t know what it is talking about in wanting to ban hydroponics from organic production.

Scale Neutral Failure.

     The National Organic Program has a mandate to be “scale neutral.”  However, despite this requirement, on the meeting’s last day, a decisive vote was held, designed to ease up rules affecting corporations like Purdue.  These outfits desire to feed grain rations containing small amounts of the synthetic amino acid methionine to chickens in large confinement operations who have insufficient access to the outdoors where natural sources of methionine (insects and bugs) are available (think the pastured chickens grown properly by organic family farmers).  With five independent NOSB members – the core of which were the farmers on the NOSB - holding firm on their resistance to the proposal, the opposition only had nine members present. They needed ten votes to meet the 2/3 vote requirement for additions to the National List.  Incredibly, reversing past precedent against such a practice, the absent fifteenth NOSB member – confined to a hospital bed as the result of an unfortunate accident – was Skyped in and allowed to cast the deciding vote for Purdue above protests that such voting violated established procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order.  This spectacle of vote rigging was perhaps the low point of an otherwise hard fought meeting.

     Our allies at Cornucopia Institute have done a good job of making their daily Reports on the meeting readily available to the public.


Special Offer: FREE Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed.

   Organic Buckwheat is a top notch cover crop which belongs in every gardener’s garden shed.  As a warm-season fast-growing crop it will protect and improve EVERY soil in just 8-9 weeks.  Best to cut and incorporate Organic Buckwheat as soon as it begins to come into blossom.

     Earn a FREE 2.5 pound sack of Organic Buckwheat Seed (value $9.95) with your next order of $45 or more.  Please use Promo Code WPF 461.  FREE Organic Buckwheat will ship with your order and order must ship by 5/22/15.  Our FREE Organic Buckwheat Offer ends Midnight, Monday May 4 so please Call or Click Today!

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

Organic Buckwheat. All-Star cover crop performer.

Diversity of Potatoes. Diversity of planting times.

 Seven Rules of Thumb for When to Plant Potatoes.

   “When should I plant potatoes,” is a common question we are often asked.  An answer can come in many forms and is complicated by the remarkable versatility of potatoes.  For example, an increasing number of gardeners – and farmers - are finding success with Fall plantings of potatoes (typically August and September) where - in the milder southern half of the country – potatoes can be grown long into the cooling Fall.

   However, the vast majority of American potatoes are still planted in the Spring.  Even with Spring planting, there is a wide array of folk advice, much of it very locally-adapted.

   Here are Seven Rules we know about which help answer that question of ‘When should I plant my potatoes in the Spring.’

Jim & Megan

Seven Rules of Thumb for When to Plant Potatoes.

     1.    After Peas. Two weeks after peas are planted.

     2.    Last Freeze.  Ten days before that last Spring freeze date (28ºF).

     3.    St. Patrick’s Day.  This calendar year idea appears to have local historical significance for areas akin to the latitude of southern Illinois.  The idea seems to have since gone feral and spread northward.

     4.    Blooming Dandelions.  When dandelions come into full bloom.

     5.    Soil Temperature.  When the soil temperature between 7-8am at 4” depth reaches 50ºF (this is our primary methodology on Wood Prairie Farm).

     6.    Vanishing Snow.  When the last of snow in the woods melts (advice from old-timers in Aroostook County).

     7.    Ice Out.  Thirty days after the ice goes out on the St. John River (guidance from our ‘overhomer’ Canadian neighbors in New Brunswick).

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

Major Court Victory for Vermont GMO Label Law.

     In a stunning victory for the people – which has sent powerful Biotech forces reeling – a ruling by a Federal judge this week rejected Industrial Ag’s motion for a preliminary injunction and affirmed the constitutionality of Vermont’s historic first-in-the-nation-law GMO Labeling Law scheduled for implementation on July 1, 2016.

  “What a victory for Vermont consumers,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “From the beginning, we have said that Vermonters have substantial interests in knowing whether their food has been genetically engineered. This ruling brings us one giant step closer to that reality.”

   Within days, a sound analysis of the ruling appeared in industry publication, Food Navigator.  The article’s gist is self-serving Big Food and Industrial Ag will now likely re-direct their focus.  The means will likely come via Congress in the form of the ‘Pompeo DARK Act’: a draconian Biotech-backed bill which would usurp and pre-empt States’ rights to determine local policy and instead establish a bogus and meaningless ‘mandatory’ national GMO labeling sham.

   There is the nearly universal support among American citizens for GMO transparency and truth-in-labeling.  Aggressive, self-serving, cynical corporate forces - backed into a corner - can now be expected to lash out ferociously against democratic rule and the public interest.  The people have clear and dramatic momentum on our side.  With our ultimate victory in sight, now is the time to increase our uncompromising resolve to demand honesty from Biotech.


Click Here For Our Wood Prairie Farm Certified Organic Vegetable Seed.

Court Delivers Justice. The peoples' Right-to-Know trumps industry self interest.

Recipe: Maple Nut Squares.

For the crust:
1/3 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 c cold unsalted butter cut into 3/4-inch pieces

For the filling:
6 T unsalted butter
1/3 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 c heavy cream
2 c coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment, letting it extend up the sides.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar and salt until blended. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms large coarse crumbs. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust until the edges are lightly browned and the top feels firm when lightly touched, 12-17 minutes. Set aside.

To make the filling, combine the butter, maple syrup, and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat  and stir together until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the cream. Stir in pecans and pour hot filling over the crust, spreading it evenly to the edges.

Bake until filling is set when you give the pan a gentle shake, 22-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool until firm before cutting into bars, about 1 1/2 hours. 

Makes 25 small squares


Heavenly Maple Nut Squares.
Photo by Angela Wotton
Our Mailbox: Worse Than DDT and Planning for Fall Planting.

Dear WPF.

State Legislators Seek to Eliminate Trigger From Maine's GMO Label Law. What about the Roundup used on conventional grains to dry them before combining?


WPF Replies.

     The widespread practice of Roudnup being sprayed on nonGE conventional crops - like wheat, oats and dry beans - is a related but separate issue from GMO labeling.
     In a perfect world, based on the scientific evidence, glyphosate would be banned. However, experience has told us the collusion between government and industry prevents policy from protecting the public interest and Maine's desire to institute Right-to-Know labeling now rather than later.
     Therefore we must educate ourselves in order to protect our families and communities. The best way to accomplish this protection is to purchase and promote certified organic food grown by local family farmers.


Dear WPF.

     Dr. Oz Self-Defense Initiated Against Another Serial Character Assassination Initiated By Biotech. Yes, but his television proclamations are still highly questionably. Notwithstanding his GMO position.


WPF Replies.

     In my opinion, the revealing aspect of this case is the clearly established pattern of calculated, orchestrated, character assassination by Biotech against public figures who dare question their flawed technology. Therefore - though I have never watched his program - I judge Dr. Oz a victim.


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