Wood Prairie Seed Piece
             Organic News and Commentary
             Thursday, September 15th 2016
                       Volume 24 Issue 16


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

    Harvest is Here.

     Aroostook Potato Harvest, 1906.  One hundred ten years ago here’s what a successful potato harvest in nearby Houlton, Maine, looked like.  If we had to guess we’d say those spuds are likely to be the famous Green Mountain variety which had been introduced just twenty years prior.  Green Mountains are a tasty – albeit disease prone – variety with dry flakey flesh.  No longer commonly grown, it maintains a reputation for quality.  Today our Butte Russet would be closest in texture and flavor to the old Green Mountains.
    Today was the last day of school.  Tomorrow begins the three-week-long Potato Harvest Break, observed continuously in Aroostook County since just after World War II, allowing local students the opportunity to help area farmers get their crop safely harvested and under cover.
     So it is by no sheer coincidence that this edition of the Wood Prairie Seed Piece is being sent out tonight.  For tomorrow, with clear weather ahead, we’re ready for dirt, dust and digging that is potato harvest.

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

.Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Growing Potatoes - And Then Some.

     Twenty years ago, Chris Blanchard and his family farmed in Maine and back in those years we became fast friends.  They were good farmers.  Their two boys and our two boys were about the same age.  In time they moved to farm out in the Midwest.

      Nowadays, Chris helps to train and educate farmers in a business he calls the Purple Pitchfork.  In the organic farmer sub-culture, Purple Pitchfork is most famous for a wildly popular series of weekly Farmer-to-Farmer Podcasts in which notable farmers are interviewed.  If you should happen to drive by an organic farm and see a farmer doing tractor work – and that farmer has headphones on - she may well be listening to Chris’ latest podcast.

       Jim was recently interviewed by Chris for his Farmer-to-Farmer podcast series.  That recorded interview became Episode 83: Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Family Farm Takes Us to Potato School (1:45:16). 

      Here’s what you can expect to hear:

After an orientation to the history of Wood Prairie Family Farm and the potato culture of Aroostook County, we dig into the whys and the hows of growing a great crop of from seed warming and green sprouting through weed control to harvest. We also discuss the ins and outs of producing Maine-certified potato seed. Jim is an observant and specific farmer and marketer, and really brings out the details of what goes into bumper yields and high quality spuds.
Named by the editors of the Utne Reader to the magazine’s 2011 list of 25 “People Who Are Changing the World,” Jim is also one of those organic farmers who spends a large part of his time serving the community. Jim is the president of the “Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association,” and has served for more than twenty years on the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) certification committee, along with about a dozen other roles that he has played in the organic farming movement.

      We live and farm in potato country and there are a lot of stories and potato lore to share.  Listen in and we think you might just learn something.

Jim & Megan

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

Special Offer: FREE Organic September Potato Sampler of the Month.

     Tomorrow we start to dig this year’s crop of potatoes.  The next rainy day after that we’ll start to ship the September offering of our popular Organic Potato Sampler of the Month Club.  This month’s Potato Sampler varieties are all short season favorites: Yukon Gold, Dark Red Norland and Caribe’
    Here’s your chance to get a FREE  8 lbs. Organic September Potato Sampler (Value $39.95) – for your own family or as a gift - when you order a new Eight-Month Club (or extend by Eight-Months, a current Potato Sampler Club membership). FREE Organic September Potato Sampler - offer ends Midnight on Monday, September 19, 2016, so please hurry and order today!

     Please use Promo Code WPF495. Your order will ship as soon as possible this month.  Offer may not be combined with other offers.  Limit: 7 Potato Club Memberships including home and gift orders.
 Please call or click today!

Click Here for our Wood Prairie Specialty Kitchen Potato Section.

Wood Prairie Organic Potato Sampler.
Enjoy the gift of eating our good organic Maine potatoes.

MOFGA's Common Ground Country Fair. Threee days and 60,000 attendees..

 Don't Miss Maine's Common Ground Country Fair!

     Maine’s most famous and fascinating fair, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) Common Ground Country Fair  - an annual celebration of rural living - is right around the corner. 

       2016 will mark the 40th consecutive year for MOFGA’s Common Ground Fair.  The three-day event is always held the first Friday-Saturday-Sunday following the Autumnal Equinox.  This year, the dates will be September 23-24-25.

       Purposely styled after old-time country agricultural fairs, you won’t find midway roller coaster rides and junk food at the Common Ground Fair.  Instead, what you will find are a dizzying array of booths and presentations aimed to educate and entertain people of all ages interested in living – and succeeding at - the good life. 

      You’ll find a Farmers Market consistently solely of local Maine organic farmers selling the organic crops and products they have grown and made (from jams to sausage) on their farms.  You’ll be stunned at the Exhibition Hall’s vast display of ribboned-award-winning Maine grown crops.   And there’s the seemingly endless schedule of wholesome activities aimed at children.  This is truly a family-friendly country life extravaganza.

        Every year, 60,000 people make the pilgrimage to the central Maine town of Unity in order to attend the Common Ground Fair, making this far and away the largest organic event in North America.  Folks come to the Fair from all over Maine, New England and across the United States.

         It’s not possible to see everything at the Fair in a single day.  But if that’s all the time you have, do come anyway.  If you have never been, you must make the effort this year or next to attend the Common Ground Fair.  Once you do, you will want to come again and again.  We guarantee it.

Jim & Megan

Click Here for our Wood Prairie Organic Cover Crop Seed.

Aroostook County, Maine. Circa 1940.

     Photographers are artists and artists have the power to affect us as mind-altering agents.  They can transport us to new places and provide us with fresh insight.

    Jack Delano was a very talented documentary photographer, who in 1940, was working for the federal Farm Security Administration tasked with capturing images of rural America and Americans.  Recently, thousands of his photographs were posted on online including a collection of over 600 of his powerful photos taken in 1940 in Aroostook County.

     Mr. Delano was born Jacob Ovcharov in Ukraine in 1914.   His family immigrated to the United States in 1923.  In time, Mr. Delano chose to take on a new Americanized name.

     An article in the New York Times tells us about Jack’s life and offered this insight into the amazing man behind these priceless photographs which document what life was like in an earlier more innocentera.

Jack Delano’s touchstone as a documentary photographer was Paul Strand’s imperative that one had to have “a real respect for the thing in front of him.” Through his long career – photographing everything from coal miners, sharecroppers, railroad men and Puerto Rican canecutters – he conveyed a deep respect for not just the travails of Everyman, but a true appreciation of the dignity that lay within.

We have enjoyed and used some of Jack Delano’s photographs before in previous issues of the Wood Prairie Seed Piece.   We think you will enjoy this glimpse into the past.  Thank you, Jack.

Jim & Megan

Click Here for our Wood Prairie Organic Vegetable Seed.

Barrel Rolling Contest, Presque Isle, Maine, 1940. One of many Jack Delano photographs.
Albert Einstein on Genius.

Recipe: Blueberry Yogurt Drop Scones.

2 cups Wood Prairie Pancake Mix: Whole Wheat, Spelt or Oatmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp grated lemon peel
¼ cup butter, cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or fork until the texture of sand.
Mix together:
1 cup yogurt, plain or flavored, with:
1 egg.

Blend wet ingredients with dry, then fold in:
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 for 15 minutes until lightly browned. 

Add to the Blueberries: ¼ cup walnuts, ¼ cup flax seed; or substitute half and half chopped cranberries, finely chopped apple, or other fruit.

Top before baking with cinnamon sugar if you like.

Adapted from a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com.
These are moist and delicious – they remind me of huge muffin tops.


Blueberry Yogurt Drop Scones.
Photo by Angela Wotton.

Mailbox: No Patents on Organic Seed and Cool Potatoes.

No Patents on Organic Seed

A Monsanto representative told me not only is GMO seed patented but also organic seed. Is this true?


It shouldn't be true. However, I have been told at least one European seed company has patented at least some of their organic seed varieties. Such patenting of seed is not legitimate for organic seed systems, and would violate organic norms as expressed in the OSGATA Policy, Principles of Organic Plant Breeding.


Cool Potatoes.

Last year we had some wire-worm damage in our potatoes. We did not dig them until Sept 21 because we were busy on other jobs. An old research pamphlet on wire-worms says I should dig them earlier because the wire-worms really bore into potatoes once all the grass fiber is gone. It's now August and my root cellar is presently about 60ºF. How early can I put them in there (without those temperatures being detrimental to potato storage and quality before fall temperatures start cooling it down?


     One can be haphazard and careless without suffering negative consequences if the storage season for table potatoes is short - say two months or so.
     Success at long term storage requires attention to detail and rapid cooling of tubers to arrest physiological aging.
     We suberize our tubers (wound healing) at 58-60ºF / high humidity for two weeks after digging (ends Oct 20). Then we next quickly cool down the potato cellar to 38ºF asap (usually by Nov 5) by blowing in cold night time air. This quick cooling maintains maximum vigor in the tubers (for seed) and resistance to sprouting (for tablestock). Potatoes for seed kept and stored at 60ºF for many weeks will lose vigor and tubers will sprout earlier. Consider keeping them in the ground until your cellar cools.


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