Wood Prairie Farm
 The Seed Piece Newsletter
             Organic News and Commentary
             Wednesday September 03, 2014

 In This Issue of The Seed Piece:

    FREE Shipping Harvest Help Offer - Limited Time!

     Aroostook Harvest Slowly Getting Underway.  Our potato harvest is just around the corner and set to begin the week of September 15 when the local schools close for Potato Harvest Break. Above, son Caleb and Jim discussing how to keep harvesting on muddy ground.

     This morning, as Jim was headed to Presque Isle for repair parts, he saw one neighbor with a bulk body truck parked in the door yard, half-full of round-white potatoes - no doubt the town’s first potatoes dug this year with a potato harvester.  North another few miles - across from Whited Bible Camp - a gaggle of pickup trucks were parked by the side of US Route 1, their recent occupants forming a cluster of interested observers, likely down from the local French Fry plant.  They were watching the beginnings of one farmer’s first attempt at large-scale harvesting of potatoes - with the potato tops still green and growing - by two big green four-row Lockwood windrowers.  No doubt hopes were high these potatoes would be ready and able to provide anxious plant workers with the ability to turn fresh Bridgewater spuds into seasoned curly fries.

     Soil conditions here are dry, especially in and around Bridgewater. We’d say “very dry” except out of hesitation that our droughty friends in California who, should they read such an entry, would conclude our complaining about two little months worth of sub-par precipitation qualifies us as light weight softies.

     August brought us just 1.9” of rain.  When you subtract out that 6” we received in one early July day from Tropical Storm Arthur on July 5, that near record July rain total of 8.8” trickles down to creating the beginnings of our current dusty ground.  Fields accessible to our ponds have been irrigated.  All-in-all things here look pretty good. We finished combining Oats and Spring Wheat last week and we can’t remember better (dry) harvest conditions for grain.

     Our FREE Shipping Harvest Help Offer! is now here.  Each Fall at this time, you can help us when you place your orders NOW to aid us with our harvest expenses.   To express our appreciation for your timely order we have created our Harvest Help FREE Shipping offer.  The FREE Shipping is a limited-time offer so please act NOW in order to save big.

     We are taking orders now for our organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes and organic Specialty Potatoes for your kitchen.  We are able to ship potatoes to you as soon as each variety is dug and cleaned.  If you want to place your order now and have us store your potatoes here until you need them, yes we can ship later - just let us know.  FREE Shipping Harvest Help Offer (Coupon Code WPF 1185) applies to all of our goods and includes seed potatoes shipped out in the Spring. Yes your savings can be SIGNIFICANT!

Please order online or call and let us know how we can help you.   


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

Click here for the Wood Prairie Farm Home Page.

World Leader Vandana Shiva Attacked and Defended.

     The Watergate scandal taught us all to “follow the money.”  Do keep this wise admonition in mind as you consider the 
harsh attack in The New Yorker aimed at legendary global leader and anti-genetic engineering (GE) activist Dr. Vandana Shiva. As Jim said in a Facebook posting and during a recent New York City Heritage Radio interview, this vicious attack has all the markings of yet another in a long line of Biotech-orchestrated character assassination campaigns against those who speak the truth in opposition to GE crops.

   Following publication of the attack piece, Dr. Shiva quickly issued a detailed and articulate written response to the article which effectively negated the assertions contained in the mean-spirited New Yorker article written by Michael Specter. If you are not familiar with her work you will want to watch this excellent interview of Dr. Shiva on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp).

     So why in the world would The New Yorker attack Vandana Shiva? It seems the answer comes from following the money and reviewing the fact that The New Yorker is part of the Conde’ Nast publishing empire.  Conde’ Nast it turns out has financial relations with notorious biotech bad actor, Monsanto.

     Recently, in August, in a MUST READ article, Mother Jones reporter Tom Philpott  exposed Conde’ Nast for having engaged in a secret and unethical strategic alliance with Monsanto.  In a near comic hapless scheme, Conde’ Nast attempted to trick respected good food advocates – including Michael Pollan - into becoming unwitting promoters. It was Monsanto money that was behind this effort at trickery.  Reported Philpott, "...I've learned that Condé Nast's Strategic Partnerships division dangled cash before several high-profile food politics writers, in an unsuccessful attempt to convince them to participate."

     Following the money is always a good idea.

Jim & Megan

 Click Here For Our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Cover Crop Seed.

Another Character Assasination. Biotech sticks to its playbook and enlists The New Yorker.

One of The Best Potato Varieties. Do find room in your garden for a patch of  Caribe'.

Variety Corner: Spotlight on Caribe'. 

 The One Variety That For Over 25 Years We Have Said Deserves to Be in EVERY Garden.

   We closely observed Caribe’ (pronounced (“Ka-REE-bay”) prior to its official naming and release in 1984 while it was being grown as an experimental numbered variety (“F55066”) by organic farmer friends across the line in Canada.  Caribe’ – Spanish for “Caribbean” – was early on recognized as a truly extraordinary potato variety. 

 Designs on Cuba.

    Caribe’ had been bred by our friend, Dr. Hielke De Jong, the Agriculture Canada potato breeder in neighboring Fredericton, New Brunswick (and author, along with his Cornell potato breeder son, Walter, of the excellent The Complete Book of Potatoes).  The intention back in the 1970s was to fill the niche  for a purple-skinned, white-fleshed export variety for Cuba.  Among other appealing qualities, local Cuban lore credits such purple potatoes with powers as an aphrodisiac.  Sadly, the Caribe’s minor susceptibility to the fungal pathogen fusarium was a mismatch for the tropical climate of Cuba – as well as the tropical southern half of Florida – so Caribe’ never came to flourish there. 

     However, Caribe’s extraordinary qualities – including earliness, very high yield, great taste and stunning beauty – and excellent performance in northern Florida and the other forty-nine States has made it a top performer virtually everywhere away from the tropics.

 Attractive & Exceptional.

     Caribe’ is a striking potato in many ways.  It is an attractive oblong potato with lustrous purple skin, fairly shallow eyes, and a delicious snow-white flesh.  Caribe’ is unexcelled as a new potato fresh out of the garden.  It’s incredible earliness and very rapid tuber bulking allow high -yielding impressive harvests beginning in as few as 60-65 days after planting when seed potatoes have been fully green-sprouted.  Caribe’ is a consistently high yielding variety.  University of Rhode Island researchers considered the early, high yielding nature of Caribe’ to be so exceptional that URI came to recommend simply growing Caribe’ as a stand-alone effective strategy for combating economic loss due to potato nemesis Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB).

    Tubers of Caribe’ exhibit medium dormancy and should be considered a preferential choice for Fall planting where winters are mild and where Fall planting is practiced.  Yet with proper storage conditions (soil-like conditions: dark, moist and 38ºF) Caribe’ actually stores very well and will keep all winter, though the purple color typically begins to fade after about three months in storage.  Cool and moist soil conditions during the growing season result in the best coloration for Caribe’; in hotter and drier conditions, the beautiful purple color will be more muted.

Performance in the Kitchen and Field.

   In the kitchen, Caribe’ is a versatile, good tasting variety.  It’s waxy, mid-dry texture makes it suitable for boiling, baking or frying.  The dry heat of baking will preserve best the purple skin color; boiling or steaming will tend to wash out some color.

   In the field, Caribe has proved itself to be a reliable, easy-to-grow potato.  Plants are medium-sized and spreading.  Tops flop over as plants reach maturity.  Caribe’ is widely adapted and has only moderate nitrogen requirements.  It is highly resistant to hollow heart and is somewhat resistant to potato scab.

   Year in, year out, Caribe sets a good number of tubers per hill and is reliably one of our highest yielding varieties.  For over twenty years it has been one of our best selling varieties.  Caribe has a fiercely loyal following and we witness a great number of farmers and gardeners who unfailingly order it year after year after year.  We know from experience that they are onto something. Yes, Caribe’ deserves to be in your garden, too.

Jim & Megan

Click Here for Our Maine Organic Certified Seed Potatoes.

Fascinating 'Social History of Food in Logging Camps.'

     Maine has a long and hard fought history associated with logging.  Generations ago many local Northern Maine farmers would take to the woods after the close of the farming season in November and spend the cold snowy winter as a wage earner ‘cutting wood’ and living in isolated logging camps.  Our Wood Prairie Farm, located on the edge of Maine’s North Woods, at one time years ago, housed thirty teams of horses who were used to twitch logs out of the nearby forest.

   So with logging a big part of our local lore, we were grateful to have come across this gem.  The engaging 1979 article by Joseph Conlin, “Old Boy, Did You Get Enough of Pie?” was printed in the Journal of Forest History.  It recounts - in fascinating detail - “A Social History of Food in Logging Camps,” replete with historical photographs, direct logger quotes, and even sample authentic “Logging Camp Menus.”

   We think you’ll be glad you took the time to read this snapshot about a remarkable era in American history.  “In Maine, where American commercial logging was born, living conditions were brutish. ‘Comforts for the drivers didn't mean much to the employers,’ wrote Marsh Underwood. The men cowered by night in rude shanties, the warming fire in the center of the hut doubling as and oven. The first lumberjacks ate standing or off their laps from the ‘deacon seat’…Out of this tricky requirement emerged the curious and universal loggers' custom of silence at meals or, more precisely, the rule against talking at meals. It was one of the laws ‘everyone lived by,’ Louie Blanchard remembered, ‘even if they had never been passed by the state legislature.... When you was eating, no talking was allowed, except to say 'Pass the meat' or 'Shoot the beans' when the things didn't come around fast enough... If we'd ever had any stylish visitors, they would of thought a logging camp crew the most polite people who ever broke bread together. Seeing all this politeness, they might of thought it was the Last Supper.’”

Jim & Megan

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Grains & Flours Section.

Loggers at Mealtime, Circa 1900.  Quietly attending to big apeitites.

Notable Quotes: Abbey on Patriots.

Spiced Tomato and Potato Gratin.
Photo by Angela Wotton
Recipe: Spiced Tomato and Potato Gratin

In a small bowl, mix together:
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

In a frying pan, heat 2 T olive oil and 1 T butter over medium heat. Add:
6 c thinly sliced onions (about 2 lbs)
Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until onions are deeply golden, about 20 minutes. A minute before the onions are done, mix in the spices. Remove from heat and set aside.

While the onions are cooking, thinly slice into a bowl:
1 1/4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, 1/8" thick

Toss potatoes with:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp sea salt

Cut into 1/4-inch thick slices:
2 lbs ripe tomatoes

Cut into ribbons:
Handful of basil

Heat oven to 350F. Smear half of the caramelized onions across the bottom of a 10x10" baking dish. Take half of the potatoes and half of the tomatoes and arrange on top of the onions. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of cream from the potatoes and a tablespoon on olive oil. Season the layer a pinch of salt and half the basil.

Scatter the remaining onions across the potatoes and tomatoes already in the pan. Arrange another layer of tomatoes and potatoes on top. Pour the remaining cream, and tablespoon of olive oil across the top. Season with another pinch of salt and the remaining basil. Gently press down on the vegetables so the cream comes up through the layers of vegetables evenly.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 2 hours, or until potatoes are completely tender throughout. Increase the oven temperature to 450F, carefully uncover the gratin, and cook another 30 minutes, or until top takes on a nice golden color.

Makes 10 sides.

- Megan
Special Offer: Harvest Help FREE Shipping!  On All Orders. Hurry! Limited Time!

     Farmers need help during harvest and that’s a fact everyone understands.  If you will help us by placing your order NOW we’ll return the favor by offering you FREE Shipping on your next order!

     Special Harvest Help FREE Shipping! Offer is our way of thanking you for your business and encouraging you to order right now.

     Your FREE Shipping savings can be huge!  We need the extra cash flow for the expense of Fall Potato Harvest and if you act now you can save hundreds of dollars with FREE Shipping!

     Place your order now for any item in our Catalog or on our Webstore and get FREE Shipping regardless of whether you want your order to ship now, later this Fall,  or in the Winter or Spring.

So, yes, this Special Harvest Help FREE Shipping! Offer does apply to our Organic Certified Seed Potatoes and includes seed for both home gardeners and Market Farmers.  But don’t worry: FREE Shipping also applies to our Organic Kitchen Potatoes, Organic Grain Goods, Organic Vegetables and Cover Crop Seed and more!.

     In short, get FREE Shipping on everything we offer!

     Please use Promo Code WPF1185.  Special Harvest Help FREE Shipping! Offer order will be processed now and order must ship by 5/8/15.  Order may not be combined with other offers or deals. Special Harvest Help FREE Shipping! Offer is for retail orders only and is limited to a maximum $250 shipping credit so you can SAVE BIG if you order NOW!  Please Note: Subzero transit temperatures may delay mid-winter shipping preferences. Questions? Call (800)829-9765! Special Harvest Help FREE Shipping! Offer ends Monday September 8, 2014 at Midnight.

Please call or click today!

Click here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Specialty Potato Section

Act Now! FREE shipping ends soon!
Our Mailbox: Making Barrels, New Jersey Fall Potatoes, More Young Farmers.

Making Barrels.

Dear WPF.

My son told me about the Photogrammar project at Yale that has archived WPA photos from across the country. The ones from Aroostook County include some great shots of potato farming in 1940. Thought you'd like to see these.

Tamworth, NH

WPF Replies.

     Thanks for sending the link. We have used some of Jack Delano's WPA (Work Progress Administration) photographs in our Wood Prairie Farm Seed Piece newsletter in the past but many of those photos in your link are new to us. I particularly like the photo of the new cedar Potato Barrels with the hand-split ash hoops.
     Back in the 1970s I worked winters as a cooper (barrel-maker) at Bridgewater Barrel Company, the last stave potato barrel manufacturer in Aroostook County. Each cooper would make 50 barrels a day and we were paid a piece rate of $0.80/barrel. I'd get up at 3:30 AM, milk the cow and be into work by 4:30 AM. If everything went right I'd be done by 2 PM and have an hour or two of daylight to get work done at home.
     When we arrived in the morning, the cooper house would be freezing and there would be ice on water in the concrete vats into which soaked the hand-shaved ash hoops. By midmorning the combination of one large pot belly wood stove and four wood-fired down-draft barrel stoves (dry heat "cooked' the curved bend in the staves permanent taking pressure off the hoops) would generate so much heat that it became like a sauna and the coopers would work shirtless as though it was haying season despite the below zero mid-winter world outside.


New Jersey Fall Potatoes.

Dear WPF.

     Can I plant potatoes NOW? (In NJ).



WPF Replies.

     Yes. Do consider that a Fall crop most everywhere is some sort of gamble - because of unpredictable Fall weather - but it is worth a try . We have one customer in Southern Michigan who has for many years successfully planted Fall potatoes (straw mulched over the winter) for-in-her-case-an early Spring harvest. If you have golf ball-sized tubers left from your spring crop planted from our Certified Seed, keep them at room temperature until they start to sprout and then plant them asap. In this way your crop will only be one generation away form high quality 'disease free' Certified Seed and should do fine.


More Young Farmers.

Dear WPF.

     Thought you'd like this story I just came across on Yahoo News: New Go-To Career For New England's Young: Farming.

Clayton NC

WPF Replies.

     Thanks for sharing the good article. New England has always been supportive of local farmers. This loyal support is very much welcome because everywhere family farmers are paddling against the tide of history which seems dedicated to increased concentration and the Earl Butz mantra of "Get Big or Get Out." We can't stress enough how our food dollars will to a large extent determine the kind of agriculture which feed our families into the future. Spending those food dollars with family farmers is a good investment.

Jim & Megan

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