Friday May 10,
Issue of The Seed Piece:
Up in the State of Maine.
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.
Megan Gerritsen & Family
| Maine Tales.
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
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
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."
“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the
Ansel Adams. Noted
Salted Rye Cookies. Photo
by Angela Wotton.
c butter, room temperature
tsp finely grated orange zest
T Turbinado sugar
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.
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
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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.
This morning I have my first leaves from my Yukon
Gold potatoes. In fact, several of the plants have made the scene! I'm
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Wood Prairie Farm Quick
& Megan Gerritsen
Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm