Wood Prairie Farm
 The Seed Piece Newsletter
             Organic News and Commentary
                Wednesday, August 05 2015
                        Volume 22 Issue 16

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 In This Issue of The Seed Piece:

    Thunder & Lightning.

     Thunderclouds Developing Over Wood Prairie Farm. We have a four-year rotation which means every fourth year we grow our crop of organic seed potatoes on the home farm near our house and farm buildings. This photo was taken early this afternoon looking west from the second story of our home. The nearest field, with potatoes passing out of bloom stage, has from front to back - Butte, All-Blue, Carola and Red Cloud. The second field in the distance has mid-season potatoes plus our variety trials. All told, this year we have five fields of potatoes, all located on the home farm.
     The triple-stacked wooden pallet boxes in the foreground are what we harvest our crops of organic seed potatoes into. The potatoes then store there for the duration of winter in our underground potato storage. Each rugged pallet box holds 2000 pounds of tubers.
     Today's clouds have thickened and given us frequent bursts of rain - very much welcome when those showers come gently and without wind or hail. It's at this stage of potato growth, called "tuber bulking" that potatoes need plenty of water in order for the tubers to size up.
     Our friends at Misty Brook Farm down in Albion experienced a wild storm last week which caused a lot of damage. Please scroll down to read their story and learn how you can help. Thanks!

 Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
 Wood Prairie Farm
 Bridgewater, Maine
Click here for the Wood Prairie Farm Home Page.
Maine Tales.                                  Fair Time.                                  Maine Circa 2015.

     Ask anybody in Aroostook County when “Fair Time” is and they will tell you it’s the beginning of August.  That’s when the Northern Maine Fair in Presque Isle happens.  And that’s when it has been going on for as long as anyone can remember.

     Fair time in Northern Maine is at once the bittersweet peak of Summer and the beginning of its end.   One local farmer, conveying unspoken angst about that impending demise once commented disapprovingly about a neighbor who seemed to always be late getting around to cutting hay.  To make his point, very direct and with escaped judgementalism, he allowed, “He don’t cut hay til it’s Fair time.”

     Being pretty busy on the farm we don’t always take the time off to go to the Fair.  If we do go, dollars to donuts, a Demolition Derby will be in the offing.  National media may be wringing hands over the anticipated decline of the institution of Demolition Derbys, but that news story has not made its way to Presque Isle.  This annual event still draws loads of cars and piles of people.

     Last Saturday night was the Demolition Derby at the Fair. Late entrants were our son Caleb and his best friend, Zack Sargent. The Sargent clan’s veteran ’89 Lincoln Town car – survivor from last year’s Derby – unexpectedly came up for grabs with just days to spare.

      Zack’s younger brother Sam, heir to the Lincoln – this year a high school Senior - decided on Thursday he’d rather spend his Saturday night seeing the tractor pulls over on Prince Edward Island.  So off he went with his boss, eighth generation potato farmer Ethan Bradstreet.  Ethan, just graduated high school in June, and - in the Bridgewater tradition begun two decades ago by his father, Ryan - is signed up for the Diesel Hydraulics program beginning this Fall at Northern Maine Community College. Our Caleb finished his two-year Diesel Hydraulics program a year ago in May.  And our farmhand, Justin, got his Diesel Hydraulics degree this last May.  These boys are all about machinery.

     So, they didn’t have a lot of time to make strategic improvements – such as relocating and re-plumbing the radiator to the car roof as they’ve done in the past.  However, safety requirements were in place:  windows removed, engine hood and door latches disabled and replaced with logging chain – easy for the attendant firefighters to snip open with bolt cutters should there be an engine fire or driver injury.

     Zack’s successful driving in the initial free-for-all landed their heavy Lincoln #07 into the Final Round.  Caleb, driving second in the Finals, battled his way into 4th place.  He suffered a sharp blow to the front end which shoved the radiator into the engine plus another side hit which crushed a rear wheel and broke the drive-axle-tube.
     Despite all this destruction, limping along Caleb maintained mobility and somewhat miraculously drove around the course until the very end of the Final round.

     First Place Saturday night paid $1000.  The boys received $50 for their Fourth place finish – enough to pay for gas.  Plus they’ll get a couple of hundred bucks for scrap metal  when they take the Lincoln to the local junk yard crusher.  Not bad for a memorable Saturday night during Fair time.

For Sale: 1989 Lincoln Town Car. Runs but needs repair. Radio works.
Special Offer: FREE Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed.

     Cover crops are good for your soil!  Organic Buckwheat is a fast-growing work-horse cover crop which we grow extensively every year on Wood Prairie Farm.  Organic Buckwheat thrives on poor soils, smoothers competing weeds and its roots reach deep bringing Phosphorus to the soil surface where your next crop will reap benefits from the freed-up available P.
      Here’s your chance to get a FREE 2.5 lbs Sack of Wood Prairie Farm Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed (Value $9.95) on your next order where the goods total $35 or more.  Please use Promo Code WPF468.  Your order and FREE Wood Prairie Farm Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed must ship by 8/31/15. Offer Expires 11:59p.m., Monday, August 10, so better hurry!

Click Here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Cover Crop Section.

Give Your Soil A Boost. Buckwheat is great for your soil.

Organic Jersey Cows Grazing on Misty Brook Farm. A severe microburst last week shattered the serenity.
  Maine's Certified Organic Misty Brook Farm Needs Our Help to Recover From Weather Disaster.

    Eight days ago a severe microburst storm raised havoc with Misty Brook Farm, a MOFGA-Certified Organic farm in the Central Maine town of Albion.

     A powerful thunderstorm with torrential rains, 70 MPH winds and ping-pong-ball-sized hail, caused extensive damage to crops, livestock and buildings.  Read the story here along with details on how we all can help.

     Monetary donations are needed immediately.  These are good organic farmers with a young family.  Please join us and help if you can, by making a donation via credit card, Paypal or snail mail. Find details for donating here.

Jim & Megan

Update On Monsanto's Dark Act.

     In the last Wood Prairie Farm Seed Piece we reported on the imminent vote in the U.S House of Representatives over H.R. 1599 ‘DARK’ (Deny Americans the Right to-Know) Act.  The Orwellian-sounding and falsely-named “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act’ would pre-empt States from passing their own mandatory GMO Labeling Laws and instead establish a “voluntary” system for corporations.  We could expect a voluntary GMO labeling system to work every bit as well as a voluntary income tax.

The dreaded DARK Act was passed by the House, 275-150.  Both of Maine’s members of Congress – Chellie Pingree (D-ME)and Bruce Poloquin (R-ME) – voted the correct way - against the bill.  Check out this link to see how your Congressman voted on H.R. 1599.

The DARK Act – or a Senate facsimile - is expected to see action in the U.S. Senate in September, after the August break.  Proponents of the DARK Act admit they do not have the sixty votes needed for passage in the Senate.  But we'll need to fight in order to win. Now is the time to contact your two Senators and let them know that like 93% of Americans we want our right-to-know when it comes to GMO Labeling and we oppose the DARK Act.


Click Here for our Wood Prairie Farm Certified Organic Vegetable Seed.

Onto the U.S. Senate. If we work hard we can defeat the DARK Act in the Senate.
Recipe: Potato Salad.

Use waxy potatoes or Yukon Gold, etc for this salad.

Cook in salted boiling water until tender:
    1 1/2 lbs waxy potatoes
Drain, cool, peel, and cut into bite-size pieces. Place in a mixing bowl.

Cook in simmering water for 9 minutes:
    2 Eggs, at room temperature
Cool in cold water and peel.

Mix together:
    1 T wine, cider, or rice wine vinegar
    Fresh-ground black pepper
Pour over the potatoes, stir gently, and let sit for 7 minutes or so to allow the potatoes to absorb the vinegar.

    1/2 Rossa di Milano Onion, cut into small dice or very thinly sliced
    1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
Mix carefully. Taste for salt and vinegar, and add more as needed. Chop the eggs and gently stir into the potatoes with:
    1 T chopped chives

Serves 4


Fresh Potato Salad.
Photo by Angela Wotton.

Our Mailbox: Organic Stamp and When to Harvest Potatoes.

Organic Stamp.

Dear WPF.

     Does it cost a business $25,000 to get an organic stamp on their product?


WPF Replies.

     We've been a certified organic farm in Maine for 33 years. In addition to growing organic crops and livestock we have a small on-farm mill and we manufacture organic products like wheat flour, rolled oats and pancake mix. We are charged $1,800 a year by MOFGA to go through the organic certification process for our operation. Like most organic farmers we get cost-share help from the USDA for this mandatory program which cuts down our out-of-pocket costs.
     I can imagine large businesses might pay $25,000 but not smaller ones and family farms.


When to Harvest Potatoes.

Dear WPF.

    Your potato growing guide says to wait for the foliage to die down before harvesting but I have read in other books you should wait 2 weeks after they die down for the best storage - what do you think?
     Thanks for the great potatoes! I hope the Adirondack Blue seed potatoes do well this year. They are hands down my favorite blue potato!


WPF Replies.

     Our advice and that of the book are trying to say the same thing. The skins on the tubers thicken (lose moisture) as the tops die. In our Maine soils, when typical early Fall conditions of both soil moisture and soil temperature, the skins are 'set' and the tubers ready to harvest by the time the tops become completely dead: dry and totally free of living green material. If the soil is cooler or drier than the skin set will take a bit longer. You will know the tubers are ready for harvest if the tuber skin is undamaged by the harvest process. On the other hand, if the skin is being roughed up - a condition called 'feathering' - you will know that you should postpone harvest for a few days or a week in order for the skins to more fully set.


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