Wood Prairie Seed Piece
             Organic News and Commentary
              Thursday, September 1st 2016
                       Volume 24 Issue 15


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

    The Work of Individuals.

     September Means Fall is Here and Potato Harvest is Not Far Away.  All of a sudden it’s September and we’re now looking towards “Digging” – Aroostook County’s unpretentious term for Potato Harvest.  We’re one of the last areas in the United States where our seventy-year-old tradition of closing schools down in the Fall continues.  This practice allows students to help get the Maine potato crop harvested and safely under cover.
      Two weeks from today schools will begin their Harvest Recess and that’s when – because our two daughters are still in school - we’ll have our full crew and we’ll begin to dig. 
     Our Spring crop of Organic Hull-less Oats has matured and is almost dry enough to harvest.  We do that job with our Massey –Ferguson 300 combine.
     Unlike southern Maine and southern New England - which have been hurt this Summer by a blistering drought - Northern Maine has received plenty of rain: 8.5” in August, 5” in July and 3” in June.  We hope that our rainy Summer means our weather will shift to dry harvest conditions.  From our perspective, a drought at Digging means good harvesting conditions.
     In this issue of the Seed Piece we have a story of potato harvest Idaho-style.  Plus, we include stories of two people whose actions have had a lasting impact on the place we call Maine. Do have a look!

Please keep an eye out for our new Harvest Catalog to arrive soon in your mailbox.

 Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
 Wood Prairie Family Farm
 Bridgewater, Maine
Click here for the Wood Prairie Family Farm Home Page.

Capital Intensive Potato Harvest. Consolidation and industrialization has been the direction in recent decades.
Extraordinary Potato Harvest Video.

     There has been a lot of talk in recent decades about the unrelenting scaling-up going on in American agriculture.  There is more and more evidence of major harm this is causing to the fabric of rural America. This increase is scale is at least as pertinent to potato production as it is to other crops like corn and soybeans.

    Potatoes are a heavy weight crop (15-45 tons/acre) and capable of mechanization so there has always been an incentive to go big.  American ag has proven time and again that once the increase in mechanization begins, scale can go hog wild and the sky’s the limit.

    In that vain, we recently came across this remarkable You Tube video of the huge Taylor Farms potato operation in Idaho Falls, Idaho (4:28).  The aerial photography is pretty stunning.  So must be Mr. Taylor’s monthly equipment payments.

     In the Taylor Farms’ operation they “dig” sixteen rows of potatoes at a time.  This industrialized feat is accomplished with twelve John Deere tractors: eight hooked up to six-row windrowers and four more pulling Spudnik four-row harvesters.

     Here on Wood Prairie Family Farm, we’re content with our one-row Finnish Juko Potato Harvester.   This Fall will be our ninth year using it.  I think this is what’s called appropriate technology for our family-scale farm.

     For the Mr. Taylors out there, you’ll be relieved to know Idaho-based Spudnik’s eastern headquarters is at the old air base in Presque Isle, Maine.  In fact, one of the Bridgewater boys who worked for us back during high school fifteen or twenty years ago is now one of the mechanics at Spudnik in Presque Isle.  Eric’s become an expert and in his work he’s traveled as far as Saudi Arabia to help some big farmers there get their Spudniks to fly right.


Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.
Special Offer: FREE Organic Tillage Radish Cover Crop Seed.

     Just this past week we planted some Organic Tillage Radish Cover Crop on Wood Prairie Family Farm. That means there's plenty of time left to do the same and plant your tillage radish if you are south of our location here in Northern Maine.

     Organic Tillage Radish is an excellent cover crop known as a "bio-fumigant". It produces natural glucosinolates (GSLs) which reduce soil-borne pests such as pathogenic nematodes and funguses as well as inhibits weed seed germination. This will help your garden grow healthy and vigorous crops next year!

     Here's a great chance to try out Organic Tillage Radish. Earn a FREE 4 oz. Sack of our Organic Tillage Radish Cover Crop Seed (Value $5.95) - Enough to plant over 500 Square Feet - when the goods in your next order total $39 or more. FREE Organic Tillage Radish Cover Crop Seed - offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday, Labor Day September 5, 2016, so better hurry!

     Please use Promo Code WPF494. Your order and FREE Organic Tilllage Radish Cover Crop Seed must ship by 5/4/17. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please call or click today!

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

Organic Tillage Radish.
Exceptional cover crop for your garden or fields.

Our Country's Newest National Monument. Looking westward across KWWNP. Katahdin is in abutting Baxter State Park.
Maine Gets America's Newest National Monument.

     This year, our nation is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service.  Last week, on Tuesday, former Bert’s Bees magnate Roxanne Quimby donated to the people of the United States 87,600 acres of land located just east of Maine’s 200,000-acre Baxter State Park which contains iconic Katahdin.  The very next day, on Wednesday, with the stroke of a pen, President Obama created America’s newest addition to the National Park system:  Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

     Katahdin is located in Northern Maine and is 70 miles southwest of Wood Prairie Family Farm.  Much of the new KWWNM abuts Baxter State Park.   An article in the Portland Press Herald provides good background on the National Monument and its expected impact to the Katahdin region.

     Downeast magazine has posted a beautiful video (4:23) taken in the area which has now become Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.  Do take a few minutes to watch the excellent video and then we suggest you add Baxter Park and KWWNM to your travel plans for when you next visit Maine.

Jim & Megan

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Certified Organic Vegetable Seed.
Aroostook History: The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery.

     The largest bank robbery in Maine history – over $110,000 stolen - occurred forty-five years ago this Fall, at a local Mars Hill bank, just twelve miles from Wood Prairie Family Farm.  Now, a newly published hard-to-put-it-down book has been published, The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery, written by Ron Chase a Registered Maine Guide and published by Downeast Books.  The story is a real one of Mayberry-like rural Americana.

    In Aroostook County, beginning that fateful November day, this crime has taken on legendary proportions.  No doubt our fascination is in large part because of intricate community connections, due to the fact that the bank robber was one intelligent-yet-complicated local backwoods boy who had grown up in Central Aroostook and worked on local potato farms.  After his return from several tours of duty in Vietnam - where he had served as a brave “tunnel rat’ - Bernard (Aroostook pronunciation: “Burn-nerd’) Patterson hatched his stunning plan to get himself a grubstake.

     As examples of local connections, two of the three bank customers inside the bank when the robbery took place were well connected to the Gerritsen family.  Burwell Donovan was a wonderfully kind local farmer who moonlighted as an artificial insemination technician and for years came out to our farm to breed our family milk cow.  That Friday evening, at the time of the bank heist, Burwell had been accompanied by his then teenage daughter Launa – aunt to our longtime employee Jon Donovan –  and had some banking business to complete.

     Then many years later, Bernard would periodically drive out to Wood Prairie - in a sleek sports car - to talk with Jim about getting into growing organic potatoes.

     As detailed in Chase’s book, the reality of the bank robbery – and the amazing escapades which followed – are much more colorful and unexpected than could have ever been believed in any mere work of fiction.  One wonders if one day a feature film might be made.

     Recently a Maine television station produced a news story – and twin five-minute videos- about the bank robbery and interviewed author Ron Chase.  Watch the videos and if that whets your appetite, then go out and get the book.  We think you will enjoy reading it.  Right now Caleb is halfway though our copy.

Jim & Megan

Click here for our Wood Prairie Tool & Organic Farm Supplies Section 

Aroostook County Heist. Twelve miles from Wood Prairie Family Farm was Maine's biggest bank robbery ever.
Abraham Lincoln on Corruption.

Recipe: Potato Pepper Spanish Tortilla.

1 T olive oil, plus more for serving
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
1 pepper, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 large eggs
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp hot sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add potatoes, pepper, and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are crisp-tender, 14-16 minutes. Uncover, and cook off excess liquid, about one minute.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, parsley, hot sauce, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Pour mixture over vegetables in skillet, and gently stir to distribute evenly. With the back of a spatula, press down on vegetables so they lay flat and are submerged.

Bake in oven until set, about 15 minutes. To unmold, run a rubber spatula around edge of skillet to release tortilla; invert onto a serving plate. Drizzle with oil. Serve hot or room temperature.


A Delicious and Healthy Meal.
Photo by Angela Wotton.

Mailbox: Handling Colorados and Now It's Aphids.

Handling Colorados.

We are seeing a pretty heavy wave of Colorado Potato Beetles in southern Maine already this season (making up for last time last year I guess). What have you been seeing and hearing from others?

Buxton, ME

CPB populations have been building for the last five years. The mild winter we just went through means less winter mortality so it's a good bet that they will be a force to be reckoned with this year. Entrust is very effective. However, it's best to alter control strategies and rotate control materials in an effort to counter resistance. There are reports of Entrust beginning to fail - including southern Maine - due to resistance issues. Crop rotation is a must. Hand picking is still the best plan for smalll potato patches.


Now It's Aphids.

Dear Jim and Megan,
We have never had aphids on our potatoes before and were unaware of the damage they could do.

I'll assume your diagnosis is correct and you are not dealing with Potato Leafhoppers (PLH) which have been a problem this year in Maine. https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/potato-leafhopper.

Our plants are on the way out. I tried hosing them off, but they returned. Also, I assume the disease they brought is throughout the plants anyway at this point.

Some aphids get blown in and already have potato virus in their systems. Other aphids blow in and must feed on a sick plant before they can transmit virus to a healthy plant.

The potato tubers are fine but are still on the small side. Can we wait until the plants officially die before harvesting?

Yes. Boosting them with a spray of liquid seaweed (and liquid fish if available) could only help them reduce stress and loss of potato leaf area.

Any potential damage to the potatoes?

Should be no tuber damage for eating purposes beyond the possibility of some tuber deformity. There would be an increased risk of virus content if the tubers were saved for seed so would be advisable to start with fresh Certified Seed next Spring.

Were the aphids in the soil?

No, they blew in.

Will this be a problem next year?


Anything we can do to prevent infestation next year, and what is the best way to handle the problem if it does occur again?

Buy some predatory Ladybugs ahead of time. Store them in the refrigerator until needed. Distribute Ladybugs after you see aphids (Ladybugs need a food source), preferably on a drizzly evening (to minimize flight). https://www.arbico-organics.com/product/ladybird-beetle-ladybugs-hippodamia-convergens/beneficial-insects-predators-parasites

Good Luck!

Thanks for your help!

Farmington, ME

 Jim & Megan Gerritsen
 Wood Prairie Family Farm
 49 Kinney Road
 Bridgewater, Maine 04735
 (207) 429 - 9765 Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm