Wood Prairie Farm
 The Seed Piece Newsletter
             Organic News and Commentary
                  Thursday August 29, 2013

 In This Issue of The Seed Piece:

    Harvest & Fall Upon Us.

     Working and Dodging Showers. We mailed our Harvest Catalog this week. So keep an eye out because it will soon be in your mailbox.
     Amid sad tales of winter wheat crop failures in Vermont due to just too much rain this Summer, we are getting our Roblin Spring Wheat successfully harvested in between days of rain or showers. You'll find in the first article following this letter, a YouTube video of our grain combining taken earlier this week - before yesterday's rain.
     Despite the hot weather of early July, statistically it has been a cool Summer. In terms of growing degree-days, this year we've been 10% behind both the 5-Year and 10-Year average for Northern Maine. So we're finding the heat-loving crops like corn are a tad behind. Our first Fall frost typically comes later than it did back in the 1970s and 1980s so we expect we'll be OK and our organic seed corn crops and organic squash seed should mature and dry down just fine.
     We began flame-killing early potatoes this week as the first step in getting ready for Harvest ("Digging") next month. We have equipment yet to get ready for harvest including putting a new clutch in one farm truck. Last week our 1973 Massey Ferguson 300 grain combine had its turn and we installed a new clutch. Good equipment, well-designed and well-maintained can peform admirably for a very long time. Detroit, are you listening?

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

Click here for the Wood Prairie Farm Home Page.

Jim in the field. Combining our Roblin HRS Wheat.
Combining Wheat on Wood Prairie Farm.

     This short (1:25) You Tube video of Jim combining our Roblin Hard Red Spring (HRS) Wheat was taken this week prior to yesterday’s rain.  The crop was planted on time this Spring on May 8.  Roblin is the shortest season high quality HRS milling wheat that we know of and we have been growing it for many years.
     Ground into fresh flour Roblin makes a high-rising bread with excellent taste.  We use it as a basic ingredient in our various Organic Bread Mixes and Organic Pancake Mixes.  Roblin can also be used as a fast-growing cover crop anytime during the growing season.  Unlike hardy Organic Winter Rye or Organic Winter Triticale ( a rye/wheat cross),  Organic Roblin Spring Wheat cover crop will die out where winters are severe.

Click Here for our Organic Seed Cover Crop Collection
Hundred Year Hailstorm Devastates Half of Montana Seed Potato Crop.

     A massive hailstorm on August 1 plowed through the heart of Montana’s seed potato growing area and caused widespread destruction of much of that state’s certified seed potato crop. Estimates are that 5000 acres – nearly half of Montana’s seed potato crop – were impacted.  Crop insurance adjusters rate this crop damage in southwestern Montana as the worst seen in over 100 years.
     Maine and Montana are generally recognized as the source of the highest quality certified seed potatoes in North America.  It is expected this hail storm will impact seed potato supplies for up to three years. The toll on individual farms will be significant.
     Reports indicate much of the damaged Montana crop has greened back up and, if the weather cooperates, farmers are hoping to achieve an overall yield 60-70% of normal. They are planning on letting the crop grow as long as they dare into September to allow the tubers to size up.  Growers also plan on retooling the harvesting chains on their potato harvesting equipment – reducing the gaps to accommodate the predictably smaller sized tubers.
     Our central Aroostook County, Maine was hit with a similar – though much smaller in geographic size - intense hailstorm twenty years ago. That year, around August 10, a vicious wind-and-hail-storm-swath 1/2 mile-wide came out of the North Maine woods just a few hundred yards north of Wood Prairie Farm.  That storm cell proceeded ENE across farmland and forest for six miles until it dissipated somewhere past the Canadian border.  Grain was flattened, potato plants were entirely stripped clean of leaves, and west-facing windows and windshields of homes and trucks at the truck stop in Blaine and beyond were shattered.  Days later, the accumulated hail could still be seen in the shoulders of area roads.
     Early potato varieties, like ‘Superior,’ were suddenly finished growing for the year and never came back.  Late varieties, like ‘Russet Burbank,’ eventually leafed back out and grew again but yields were seriously impaired. Crop hail damage amounted to $5.5 million.  We remember this because a Federal Disaster Declaration could only be declared if the damage exceeded $6 million. Our neighbors took it on the chin. Hopefully our friends in Montana will make out better this time around.

Jim & Megan

Click here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Certified Seed Potatoes


Montana's Monsterous Hail Storm. Destruction on farms and forest.


Wheat Chart. Click to see larger version.
Understanding Wheat and Traditional Uses

     We came across this chart and found it helpful for understanding uses of different types of wheat.
     Spring Wheat is what we grow on Wood Prairie Farm.  Spring Wheat is best suited in our potato-centered four-year crop rotation.  Hard Red Spring wheat generally provides a higher level of gluten or protein than Winter Wheat and has a better and more robust flavor than bland White Wheats. Of course, since it is the only wheat we grow, we use our Roblin Wheat Flour in our kitchen as our ‘all-purpose’ flour in everything from breads and pies to cakes, cookies and even pasta. It does just fine for us for all these varied uses.

Jim & Megan

Click here for Our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Grains Section.
Notable Quotes: American Patriot Thomas Paine.

      "There are the times that try mens souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value."

- Thomas Paine.
1737 - 1809

Sunshine Patriots. Sad Specimens.

Lemon Zucchini Cookies. A delicious and healthy treat.
Photo by Angela Wotton.
Recipe: Lemon Zucchini Cookies

1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp packed finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 c fine cornmeal
1 medium zucchini, grated (about 1 c)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until pale and fluffy. Stir in vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Add flour and cornmeal and mix until mixture is crumbly. Add zucchini and stir until a thick dough forms.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are light golden brown at edges, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Cool on wire racks.


Special Offer: FREE The Organic Seed Grower Book.

Praise has rolled in for Dr John Navazio’s recent encyclopedic work, The Organic Seed Grower.

“John Navazio has made a keystone contribution to the future of the grassroots organic seed movement.  The Organic Seed Grower is a fundamental resource for the preservation and improvement of agricultural biodiversity.” – Jeff McCormack, founder, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

“John Navazio has written a fantastic guide for organic seed breeders and producers.  He has taken organic seed production to a higher level.” - Suzanne Ashworth, author of Seed to Seed.

“With The Organic Seed Grower, well-respected scientist and organic seed expert Dr John Navazio has written the definitive bible on organic seed production.  At once encyclopedic, well-written and approachable, Navazio's seminal work deserves a place in every grower's library.  The organic seed farmer wanting a comprehensive organic seed production reference book, the family farmer wanting to learn how to grow and guarantee his access to a favorite variety, and the serious seed saver committed to progress and consistent success will find this book an indispensable guide and Navazio a trusted partner in organic seed improvement.”  - Jim Gerritsen, owner, Wood Prairie Farm

     Here's your chance to earn a FREE The Organic Seed Grower (Value $49.95) when your next order totals $300 or more. Market Farmers: Yes this offer does apply to you!  FREE The Organic Seed Grower offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday, Labor Day September 2, 2013, so better hurry!

     Please use Promo Code WPF1153. Your FREE The Organic Seed Grower can ship immediately, independent of when we ship your order. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please call or click today!

Click Here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Certified Seed Potato Section.

The Organic Seed Grower. FREE new and complete resource.
Our Mailbox: Vigilant Battlers, Reading Tea Leaves, Farmers' Rights, Bright Enough?

Vigilant Battlers.

Dear WPF.

     Jim, I see much saying that certified organic can still contain up to 5% pesticide/gmo's/insecticides...and that the only true poison free is 100% certified organic. What do you say about that? I certainly go for certified organic, and I know that it is better than conventional, no matter what, but just wondering your thoughts.


World Wide Web

WPF Replies.

     We grow organic oats and mill them here on our farm in our milling operation and sell rolled oats that are 100% organic. We also grow organic hard-red-spring wheat. We mill that into flour and sell that as 100% organic. According to USDA National Organic Program (NOP) regs, manufactured organic products may contain up to 5% APPROVED (listed) non-agricultural ingredients. For example, we make and sell Organic Whole Wheat Pancake mix by combining 98% organic WW flour, 1% sea salt and 1% baking powder (Baking powder is not available organic. We have sourced a baking powder which is corn-based and the corn is IP - identify preserved - nonGE). Obviously raw foods may be 100% organic. However unlike our organic rolled oats and organic whole wheat flour, most processed foods will contain small amounts (under 5%) of these approved 'processing aides.' Watchdog groups like Cornucopia are VIGILANT in battling outsider corporations who seek to weaken organic by adding self-serving bogus materials to the approved List of non-agricultural processing aids. While these matters quickly get complicated, this is OUR organic community, and we MUST fight for what's right and support our allies - like Cornucopia - who do the heavy lifting. They need more members and they need more donations to keep up their good work. https://www.cornucopia.org/


Reading the Tea Leaves.

Dear WPF.
     Could you say something about canola growing in The County? All I know is that there are a lot more yellow fields than there were even a few years ago. Not exactly in-depth knowledge. Thanks!


New Sweden, ME

WPF Replies.

     Connecticut passed its Right-to-Know GMO Labeling law in June. Governor LePage issued a written promise to the Legislature that he will sign Maine's GMO Label bill, LD 718, in January. Vermont's House has passed their GMO Label bill and the Senate will take up the House bill in January and pass it shortly thereafter. Similar GMO Label bill efforts are underway and have momentum in NH, MA, NY, PA, NJ and elsewhere. In November, Washington State voters will decide on the I-522 GMO Labeling referendum.
     What is clear is that citizens are demanding their Right-to-Know whether the food offered to them has been genetically engineered (GE, the same thing as GMO) or not. Transparency is essential to democracy and for the proper functioning of a free market. Consumers and retailers alike are looking for products free of GE. GMO Labeling will - for the first time - provide differentiation in the marketplace and the new demand for non-GE products and oils will be tremendous.
     Because of our isolation, farmers in Aroostook County have a unique opportunity to read these tea leaves now and act decisively on this HUGE developing market opporunity. Aroostook County growers would be well advised to cooperate with one another and secure a production and marketing unity. They will need to source clean (free of GE contamination) non-GE Canola seed - even if they have to source it from Europe. Aroostook has every chance to become known as the region which produces high quality non-GE Canola which can then be pressed to make non-GE Canola oil. There is no doubt the demand for non-GE grain and seed inputs is about ot explode. However, the big question remains, will Aroostook County farmers anticipate and respond to the developing unprecendented market demand for non-GE crops?


Rights of our Farmers.

Dear WPF.
     First, thank you for all you do, not only producing great food but all of your work and time fighting for the rights of our farmers.
     We have a tiny yard in a small city but with careful planning and quality seeds we have a wonderful garden. Only 140 square feet yielded salads all season, potatoes, and enough tomatoes to can salsa, sauce, and crushed tomatoes.
     If only more people knew that even with a small space that fresh vegetables can be theirs! From onion and radish to beans, cucumbers and even melons.
     I wish I had more room for potato plants but as I rotate this year, they will get the smaller plot in the front yard. Thanks again.


World Wide Web

WPF Replies.

     Appreciate the report. Thanks for your support.

Jim & Megan

Not Bright Enough?

Dear WPF.
     What do you  know about this? Is it true?

Farmers to Face Fines or Jail Time for Dealing Directly with Customers


Alberta, Canada

WPF Replies.

     The article contains many examples of the long simmering conflict between the government's perceived 'responsibility' to act in the public's behalf in the striving for 'food safety' and our right as citizens to make the food purchases we desire. Of course in this case - as in many others - the government activity operates in a haze of conflict of interest and includes often unquestioned bias in favor of unlabeled GE food, inadequately-tested chemical agriculture and concentrated corporate control by Big Ag and Big Food. Citizens want the right to decide for ourselves what to feed our families. The government is afraid we're not bright enough to make that determination. The battle continues.

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