Wood Prairie Farm
 The Seed Piece Newsletter
             Organic News and Commentary
              Thursday September 18, 2014

 In This Issue of The Seed Piece:

    Harvest Begins

          Harvested Organic Onions on Wood Prairie Farm. One of two wagonloads of onions that have so far been picked.
          We always like to get as many of the miscellaneous crops harvested ahead of potato harvest -  organic wheat, oats, onions, seed squash and seed pumpkin are in - because once we are into potatoes we become very single-minded.  Potato harvest is by its very nature all-consuming.
          Today local schools closed at noontime for the beginning of the three-week Potato Harvest break.  Northern Maine is one of the last areas in the United States where schools are closed so that students can help with the potato harvest. 
          We’re getting equipment ready and will start digging our main crop today. We’ve already been digging our seed plots – very early generation seed potatoes which we ourselves will plant back and multiply up next Spring.
          Wherever you are, we wish you a good and safe harvest.
 Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
 Wood Prairie Farm
 Bridgewater, Maine

Click here for the Wood Prairie Farm Home Page.

Video: Traditional Harvesting of Jersey Royal Potatoes.

        Our thanks to Tom Kumpf, our organic farmer friend in North Carolina for letting us know about this excellent 2005 BBC video production, Gardeners World - The Vegetable Kingdom,  which is all about the gardening of vegetables.  The show is hosted by Sarah Raven.

   The entire gardening episode (59:10) is well worth viewing.  However, if you are limited in time, you MUST watch at least the four minutes beginning 23:00.  This segment revolves around farmer Peter Le Maistre whose family has grown Jersey Royal potatoes for generations on the island of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy, France.

  “Jersey Royal” has received official protected status and only on the island of Jersey may these renowned, tender new potatoes be called by that protected name.  Grown elsewhere, this same potato variety is known simply as “International Kidney”, owing to its kidney-like shape.

    Reference is made to “the steeply sloping fields” upon which Jersey Royals are grown. That phrase alone barely describes where – and how - this remarkable and unique traditional potato production takes place.  You must not miss watching this segment about Jersey Royal!

Jim & Megan

Click Here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

Steep Harvest. The traditional way to dig Jersey Royals.

Canadian Rose Gold. Top of the pecking order for eating.

Spot Light on Rose Gold. 

     Ask Megan what her favorite potato variety is and she will tell you it is probably  Yukon Gold.  Jim prefers a slightly moister texture and would offer a three way tie between Prairie Blush, Carola, and Rose Gold.  After having grown over a hundred varieties of potatoes, we can both say with some authority there are very few that surpass the Canadian variety Rose Gold in flavor or quality.  The word is out and Rose Gold is one of our best selling varieties.

     Rose Gold  (Abnaki x G6521-4RY) is a pinkish-red skinned, golden fleshed variety bred by the University of Guelph and released by Agriculture Canada in 1987.  Rose Gold is a superior cultivar to its half-sister Red Gold (one common parent) which was publicly released at the same time and derived from the same breeding program.  Rose Gold is round to slightly oblong, has shallow eyes and is a beautiful potato.  Plants emerge early, are medium in size and potato blossoms are dark pink.

     Rose Gold’s mid-range specific gravity or solids content in combination with its higher amylose (“straight starch”) content is responsible for its fine, creamy texture.  In the kitchen it is very versatile and equally good boiled, fried or baked.

     In the field Rose Gold performs well, particularly where temperatures are moderate and it doesn’t get real hot.  It is a mid-season variety and has medium dormancy.  It stores well under good storage conditions (38ºF, dark and moist).  Rose Gold can be coaxed into early sprouting and so is a good choice for Fall plantings.  The skin is delicate and the tubers respond well to careful handling.

     Rose Gold sets a good number of tubers per hill.  Yields are very respectable and Rose Gold is reliable. Spacing, largely determined by expected tuber set, we generally recommended at 10-12” in-row.

     If you have not yet given Rose Gold a try in your garden - or in the kitchen - it is time to do so now.  Rose Gold’s flavor is outstanding and it will quickly remind you how bland and ho hum common grocery store potato choices are by comparison.

Jim & Megan

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Specialty Potatoes for the Kitchen.

Mathieu Asselin's Photo Essay on Monsanto's Dark Legacy.

     We first met talented photographer and filmmaker Mathieu Asselin in the Spring of 2013 when he came up to Maine from New York to film us planting our potatoes and to interview Jim about the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto lawsuit.  Generated from that visit is Mathieu’s wonderful short film (5:50) which intersperses footage of our Wood Prairie Farm potato planting along with Jim’s explanation of why family farmers were forced to go to Federal court to defend ourselves from aggressive patent bully Monsanto.

   Now comes a powerful photographic work by Mathieu that has been five years in the making. This brilliant collection graphically depicts Monsanto’s abominable 110 year history as a notorious chemical manufacturer and their greed-driven business pattern of reckless disregard for people and the environment.  By any measure, that Monsanto is still in business is shocking.

   Here is what Mathieu had to say about the motivation behind his dedicated work exposing Monsanto.  “This photographic investigation is the result of an outrage that became an idea, an idea that became long hours of travel and sincere encounters. It doesn’t pretend to present scientific proof, it is rather the recollection of visual testimonies from people and landscapes deeply affected by this company. And this project is the translation of these testimonies and the translation of my outrage.”

   This stunning photographic essay is MUST VIEW for everyone.  If not clear before, one will come away with an understanding that Monsanto’s word holds no value.

Jim & Megan

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Vegetable Seed.

Heather Bowser. A child of Monsanto's Agent Orange.

Notable Quotes: Dr. Alan Kapuler on Seed.

Farmer's Market Minestrone.
Photo by Angela Wotton
Recipe: Farmer's Market Minestrone.

1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

3 medium celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

2 T minced fresh flat-leaf parsley.

1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 large red potato, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kernels from 1 ear fresh corn

6 c vegetable broth

1 c dried tubetti or small pasta shells

1/2 oz. (1/2 c) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving

1/4 c thinly sliced fresh basil

Warm the oil in a heavy-duty pot over medium-low heat. When it’s warm—not hot—add the celery, carrots, garlic, onion, and parsley. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the carrots have begun to soften, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the eggplant, potato, yellow squash, zucchini, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring often (the potato tends to stick to the bottom of the pot), until the vegetables are tender but still hold their shape, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the corn and 6 cups of the broth; bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, partially cover, and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Return to a boil and stir in the pasta. Simmer, stirring once or twice, until the pasta is al dente; cooking time will depend on the shape and brand of pasta you use. Add more broth to thin the soup, if you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano and basil. Let it cool down to warm before serving; the soup will thicken as it cools. Serve with additional grated Parmigiano at the table.


Special Offer: Earn a FREE $10 Harvest Gift Card on Your Next Wood Prairie Farm Order!

        Yes! Earn a $10 Wood Prairie Farm Gift Card - for you or a friend – when the goods on your next order from Wood Prairie Farm total $50 or more. 

   But Hurry! Because this offer won’t last long…

     Please use Promo Code WPF1186.  The Order generating the Special Harvest Gift Card Offer must ship by 5/8/15.  Order may not be combined with other offers or deals.  Special Harvest Gift Card Offer applies to all orders $50 or more.  Special Harvest Gift Card Offer ends Monday September 22, 2014 at Midnight.
Questions? Call (800)829-9765!  Please call or click today!

Click here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Cover Crop Seeds Section

Our Mailbox: Character Assasinations, Hot in Texas, Parts for Diggers.

Character Assasinations.

Dear WPF.

Thanks folks for your excellent update on the Vandana Shiva attack. I was shocked recently to hear a GMO tree researcher and forestry professor here at Oregon State University level a verbal attack on Vandana Shiva. It was astonishing because he was pretending ot defend the concept of GMO food in crops and forestry, but he launched into an all-out verbal attack on her that sounded like he was running through Monsanto's sound bites. It is no secret that land grant universities recieve millions in funding from chemical companies that have morphed into seed companies - but it was shocking none the less. His comments followed the same line of attack in the New Yorker.

     Thanks for your great work and your great potatoes! We didn't order any this year, because we have so many local purveyors of organic potatoes that we decided not to grow them this year. But we probably will next year. Meanwhile, we give your name to plenty of other folks.

Corvallis OR

WPF Replies.

     Thanks for writing. Yes the character assasinations are concocted by Biotech and they have hollow talking points aplenty for those with the mob mentality. Sadly the level of what boils down to collusion and intellectual dishonesty in our universities is jaw dropping. Plus the amount of financial conflict of interest is breath-taking. Still, it is our job to battle on and resist their efforts.
     The article from counterpunch "Gunning for Vandana Shiva" exposes the orchestrated character assasination of Dr. Shiva.


Hot in Texas.

Dear WPF.

Good day,
     I was delighted to receive a dozen seed potatoes in a fabulous carton with lots of information. I believe I followed it all carefully BUT despite very healthy plants only a few tiny potatoes grew and even fewer were edible.
     I live in Cypress, Texas and wonder if it is just too hot here or did I plant too late. I think it was April?
     The person who sent them to me also got some seed potatoes.  He lives in Denver CO. He had an amazing crop.
     Where did I go wrong?
     I am so impressed with the presentation carton.  You do an excellent job.


Cypress, TX

WPF Replies.

     Yes, I think you hit the nail on the head.  Likely your potatoes were planted too late and they probably failed to size up their tubers before the on set of hot weather. Potatoes are a cool season crop and in hot areas like Texas they must be planted in the off-season and early enough for the tubers to size up before it gets hot (90ºF+).
     I looked up Cypress on the map and given its proximity to Houston I would say early to mid-February would be the best time for you to plant.  To add extra likelihood of success I would also shy away from late varieties and focus on short and mid-season ones instead.
Good luck!


Parts for Diggers.

Dear WPF.

      We have an old McCormick two-row potato digger.  We've burned out a bearing in the front roller that the lags spin around on.  Where can we buy parts?


WPF Replies.

     What you need is called a "nose cone" and I suggest you buy two because the other one of the pair will likely be next to go.  These old diggers used "digger lags" also known as "hook chain."  Hook chain - and nose cones and the matched sprockets to drive the lag bed are still available.

     However, hook chain apparatus are much less common nowadays since "belted lags" were invented over twenty years ago. Belted lags provide superior performance on a potato harvester's primary and secondary beds and most every manufacturer has switched to belted lags.

     Happily, modern lag-style rock pickers still use hook chain (because hook chain can be shaken more vigorously by mechanical "shakers" than belted lags to shake the dirt through) the legs so the gear for hook chain will be available.

     In fact, if you wanted to, you could modify your digger and switch it over the belted lags.  Some years ago we did this switchover on one of our John Deere #30 long-bed potato diggers.  If one does this changeover, plan on adding a hydraulic-motor-powered eccentric shaker (same as designed for large potato harvesters).  We found the old mechanical shakers were insufficient to shake the dirt though our narrow 1.25" pitch belted lags (pitch is the center of one lag to the center of the next lag) on the digger we use for harvesting fingerling potatoes. Compared to hook chain, belted lags are stiff and resist the dirt-freeing action of shakers.

     Here are two sources for getting your nose cone parts:
1. Farmer's Harvest in Delaware. Kevin Pinelli o. 302.734.7708
2. Lockwood Manufacturing in Presque Isle, Maine. o. 207.764.4196


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