Wood Prairie Farm
 The Seed Piece Newsletter
             Organic News and Commentary
                       Friday May 10, 2013

 In This Issue of The Seed Piece:

     Life Heats Up in the State of Maine.

    Aerial Photograph, TDR2 and Bridgewater, Maine, August 1975. Wood Prairie Farm's buildings and our home are located on the south end of the small crescent-shaped field (below the last three of '23003'), the southwest most clearing in the photo. West of us is the beginning of the North Maine Woods. Many of the fields indicated on this forty-year-old photo are now growing in and reverting to forest. Our dry Spring is now getting some welcome May showers and this will help lower the high fire danger in Northern Maine. Wheat and corn are planted. Potatoes begin next week.

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

Maine Tales.                       Remembering Forest Fires.                    Number Nine Mountain, Maine. Circa 1989.

     A dry Spring in these parts can generate plenty of anxiety because of real concerns over fire danger.  Our little farming town of Bridgewater is woods surrounding potato fields.  In the pitched battle for dominance, the woods are winning and steadily gaining ground as fields revert to woods.  Folks up this way know just how fast dry forest can burn.
     Bridgewater has had more than its fair share of fires over the years.  One hundred nineteen years ago, in 1894, Bridgewater’s village center was located at Bridgewater Corner, about where our gas station now stands.  That May, the village was burned flat in a just one hour, when brush piles being burned to clear land for growing potatoes went way out of control.
     Then it was two decades later in the years leading up to the Great War that another wild May woods fire took off.  That blaze burned many thousands of acres of wild lands in the southwest corner of Bridgewater and beyond, including what would, in another 60 years become Wood Prairie Farm. If one were to walk today through our Cedar swamp they would see the three foot high rot-resistant cedar stumps (trees cut at snow level during preceding winters) with hundred-year-old scorch marks on them, left by that fire.
     Maine and rain go hand in hand but we can turn dry anytime, especially late summer.  This was the case in July and August of 1989.  One Thursday that August we were finishing up baling hay for the year.  It was after dinner and we were baling on Bootfoot Road which is the road which leads back into town. While we worked we watched as one after another speeding green Maine Forest Service pickup truck careened past us heading west into the North Maine Woods beyond our farm.  As the last bale was thrown on the truck we finally could see a plume of smoke emerging from the woods.
     That smoke looked pretty close. Those were easy going, laissez-faire days in the State of Maine prior to the modern credentialing and layered certification of firefighters.  So, with some self and public interest in mind, we decided to quickly unload the hay.  We then loaded the farm truck with shovels, steel rakes, chainsaw and maddoxes.  We set out to see if we could find the fire and help out. The smoke plume served as our North Star and we meandered and navigated disparate logging roads until we finally arrived on the scene of an impromptu roadside Forest Service operations center full of commotion.  The green Forest Ranger pickup trucks were loaded with water-filled with ‘Indian’ backpack fire-squirters.  It was suggested - until the fire trucks showed up - that we grab an Indian pump pack and take off along the fire break being bulldozed.  Dozers had been conscripted for government use from an adjacent logging operation.  Our job was to squirt out any new fires that had jumped the fire line.  The Forest Service had called in a fire-fighting helicopter with a giant bucket on a cable.  The pilot would swoop over Number Nine Lake a couple miles away and slurp up a load of water.  Then he would fly over the fire, dump his load and go back to the lake and repeat the process.
     Bridgewater’s volunteer fire department was first on the scene.  Once the Forest rangers had assessed the magnitude of the forest fire, additional mutual aid was requested from neighboring volunteer fire departments including Mars Hill, Monticello and beyond. We worked hard and afternoon turned into evening.  Before too long, the Red Cross showed up with piles of sandwiches and drinks for what were becoming scores of trained volunteer Maine firefighters and untrained loggers and farmers, all working together.
     In time, numerous fire tanker trucks arrived on the scene. They would fill up at Nine Lake and ferry their loads in rotation back to the fire site.  Full trucks would get hooked up to the thousands of feet of rolled out canvas fire hose.  They would pump until empty and then go for another load.  The next waiting tanker truck was backed into place, hooked up and pumped until it was empty.  The repetitious process continued on and on.  Lugging around heavy loaded three-inch hose required a lot of effort.  The lead volunteer firemen were trained and experienced and they knew what they were doing.  Their efforts were effective.
     Once the night and darkness arrived, high quality battery powered headlamps were handed out.  They were utilized as we continued to patrol the fire break perimeter throughout the night.  The dozers worked steady but did not get done creating the perimeter fire break until into the night.  Estimating the size of a woods fire anytime is hard.  Estimating the size of a woods fire after the darkness falls was beyond anyone’s ability.  All night long everyone was working under the belief that the fire was 20 acres in size.  In the end it was determined the fire was closer to 100 acres.  It had taken almost two hours to complete a single lap of walking the fire line perimeter.  It had seemed like it took an awful long time to walk around just a 20 acre piece.
     Next morning by 730am a new batch of fresh firefighters came into relieve us.   They would have the unenviable job of mopping up and cleaning and rolling up all that fire hose.  Even after having worked 16 hours straight through the night we understood that in the end we had gotten the best job.  We were happy someone else would do the cleanup.
     Everyone at the fire felt confidant that a spark from a chainsaw on the tinder dry slash in the adjacent logging operation had started the fire.  However, had logging been named as the official cause, the stiff collars down in Augusta would have certainly shut down the woods and put all the area loggers out of work.  So in typical Maine working man style, instead, the official Forest Ranger report saved jobs and cited the fire as being of “undetermined origin.”  
     Weeks later, the final element of this story showed up in our mailbox.  Unexpectedly, checks arrived for everyone, rewarding us for the hours spent in our forest fire adventure.  The State of Maine was grateful for our help.  And the wages they sent from Augusta were a lot better that what we ever earn farming. 

GMO Label Bills Forge Ahead in New England

     Yesterday the Vermont House voted overwhelmingly 107-37 in favor of H-112, Vermont’s Right to Know GMO Labeling bill.  The bill had already received the blessing of the House’s Agriculture Committee and the Judiciary Committee. With the Vermont Legislature nearing recess, this bill will now be carried over until the next session and will be handled by the Vermont Senate in January 2014.  Read more details here.

     Both Connecticut and Maine are making progress on their versions of Right to Know GMO Labeling bills. Action is continuing and both states are hopeful of positive outcomes yet this Spring.

     Support for GMO labeling in Maine is massive. Scientific polling in Maine indicates 91% of Mainers want a GMO Label law. Here’s the latest endorsement of LD 718 by the Portland Press Herald.

     Meanwhile, new research has identified serious problems with genetically engineered crops. One recent example is that transgenic Bt pesticides which are gene-spliced into GE crops have now been shown to be destructive to blood in mice.  This contradicts decades of assertions of safety by Biotech.

     Finally, yesterday, the Monsanto lobbyist for Maine, Mr. Robert Tardy, wrote a misleading opinion piece for the Portland Press Herald.  Wood Prairie Farmer Jim Gerritsen responded and wrote the following rebuttal:

Mr Tardy, the article's author, is paid by Monsanto to protect the position of Monsanto's patent seed monopolies - patents whose validity are being challenged by federal lawsuits. But, sadly, Mr Tardy misses the point. LD 718 is a consumer Right-to-Know bill. It does not make a judgment whether GMOs are good or bad. It simply makes the sound conclusion that there is sufficient uncertainty and concern about GMOs - health, environmental, and religious to name a few - that the people do have the right to know what's in their food so they can make appropriate choices for their own family. This simple fact is supported by the vast majority of Mainers: in a recent scientific poll, over 91% of Mainers favor a GMO label law. LD 718 has an astounding 123 co-sponsors out of 186 Maine Legislators. Not only has the Portland Press Herald endorsed LD 718, but so has Maine's largest newspaper, the Bangor Daily News. We are farmers in Aroostook County and farmers also support LD 718 as evidenced by the endorsement of LD 718 by Aroostook County Farm Buerau. At LD 718's Public Hearing in Augusta on April 23, Monsanto's man, Mr Tardy, called those in support of LD 718 "Luddites." Apparently he was referring to the 91% of our citizens and 123 of our Legislators who support transparency in food labeling. Rather than resort to name calling Mr Tardy might do his homework on problems associated with GMOs. He could start with this new research: "CRIIGEN Study Links GM Maize and Roundup to Premature Death and Cancer."

 Quotes: Ansel Adams

      “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.

- Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams. Noted Photographer. 1902-1984.

Delightful Salted Rye Cookies. Photo by Angela Wotton.
Recipe: Salted Rye Cookies.

1 c butter, room temperature
3/4 c sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest
2 1/2 c Rye Flour
3 T Turbinado sugar

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, pinch of salt and orange zest. Gradually mix in flour. Divide dough in two and shape into logs 2-inches in diameter. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On waxed paper combine 1 1/2 tsp salt and turbinado sugar. Roll dough logs in mixture and cover evenly. Cut logs into 1/8" thick rounds and place on cookie sheet 1-inch apart. Bake cookies about 16 minutes until lightly browned at edges. Cool on wire racks.


Special Offer: FREE Wood Prairie Farm Tote Bag.

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     Please use Promo Code WPF1145. Your order and FREE Wood Prairie Farm Tote Bag must ship by 5/17/13. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please call or click today!

Click here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Certified Seed Potatoes Section.


Our Mailbox: Yukon Rocket, NY Buffoon, Organic Meat, Black Spots.

Yukon Gold Rocket.

Dear WPF.

     This morning I have my first leaves from my Yukon Gold potatoes. In fact, several of the plants have made the scene! I'm so excited! 

Sanford NC

WPF Replies.

     Due to their long dormancy and excellent keeping quality, Yukons are somewhat slow to emerge but once they pop through the ground they take off like a rocket. Hold onto your hat.


New York Buffoons.

Dear WPF.

     A proud day for Mainers today, Citizens:300 and Lobbyists 6...I thought the lobbyist who admitted he was also an NRA lobbyist was comical...His comment about "not voting for Obama" really added reality to their "show". Wasn't he from the "Maine Grocer's Association" ? We got moved to an overflow room where I was sitting near a young lobbyist from Gorham from the 'Koch Chamber of Commerce' and he could not make eye contact with any of us. We left him alone and discussed what we knew about the dangers of GMO food contamination and he was really sweating a little. All in all I think the will of the people was heard and if they vote it down, then I am for a State Wide work stoppage...oops that is only allowed in Democracies not in a Republic.

Portland ME

WPF Replies.

     That hapless lobbyist from New York - who used to lobby for the NRA - now lobbies (and not very well) for the National Grocery Manufacturers Association representing Big Food (they gave $2 million to defeat Prop 37). He clumsily was trying to play the Maine crowd, indicating that while he himself didn't cast his vote for President Obama, he did have great faith in Obama's FDA to look after the peoples' interest. Mainers are polite and it is to our credit that we were able to hide our laughter at his buffoonery.


Organic is Real Meat.

Dear WPF.

     Is it true that if you are raising "organic" meat that you can't feed them GMO soy or corn or is that you TRY not to feed it to them? Seems like non-gmo corn and soy is hard enough to find for people let alone feed for animals.

New York NY

WPF Replies.

     Yes, the former is correct. If one raises organic livestock for milk or meat - as we do - according to USDA National Organic Program Standards, the animals MUST be fed only organic feed and that absolutely means no conventional or GE feed can be fed to them. Adherence to this requirement is verified by third-party-inspection and review of a farm's paperwork audit trail. In other words, if you buy organic meat (or milk) it is certified to be free of those GE and conventional feed inputs. That's why the Certified Organic label has so much power and value in the marketplace.


Black Spots on Potatoes.

Dear WPF.

     My daughter's organic farmer friend in Toronto told her that the dark black spots on potatoes that look like dirt, are a form of mushroom or fungus that has lots of nutrition and shouldn't be scrubbed or cut off. I'd never heard this before and can't find anything about it online. Do you think this is true? Is it something you are familiar with? Thanks very much. 

World Wide Web

WPF Replies.

     The "black dots" are called Rhizoctonia or Black Scurf. I'm not aware of any harm from eating potatoes which have Rhizoctonia on the skin, but this is the first I've heard about its possible nutritional benefits. From a production standpoint Rhizoctonia is something to avoid. It is a fungal disease in the same family as "Damping Off" which can kill young cucurbit plants like cukes or squash. Seed potato tubers loaded up heavily with Rhizoctonia in a worst case scenario may not sprout at all or if they do they will send up spindly stalks and set only small deformed tubers attached directly to the stem called "Air Tubers." Good seed which performs well is free of Rhizoctonia and that's our goal as certified seed producers. 


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