Wood Prairie Farm
 The Seed Piece Newsletter
             Organic News and Commentary
                 Friday, October 02 2015
                     Volume 22 Issue 20

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 In This Issue of The Seed Piece:

    Potato Harvest Tales.

     Harvesting Organic Reddale Maine Certified Potatoes on Wood Prairie Farm.  Small amounts of ‘hand-harvesting’ (rows of potatoes dug with a tractor-dawn John Deere Potato Digger, then tubers gathered up in buckets) must still be done even though we harvest virtually all of our crop with our eight-year-old Finnish Juko Potato Harvester.  For example, entering a new field requires elbow room for our wide Juko to fit in to begin its work.  Typically, that means digging four rows of potatoes on the edge of a field to get started.  Above, early one recent morning we’re in the "Seed Field #8” ‘punching a hole’ by hand-digging Reddale.
     This year, all of our potatoes have been grown on the home farm near our house in a patchwork of five small fields averaging 2 ½ acres in size.  Harvest conditions started out excellent with dry soil and cooler days after early September hot weather.  Conditions radically changed two days ago on Wednesday when Northern Maine received heavy rains – complete with flood warnings – totaling 4.5” in twenty-four hours. 
     The soil in that Seed Field has been mapped for over sixty years as a Mapleton Shaly Silt Loam – just like all of our potato fields, and like the majority of the local potato fields in our town of Bridgewater.  Ten years ago we learned from the lead USDA soil scientist - mapping the woodland soils of Aroostook County for the very first time - that what had always been mapped as ‘Mapleton’ they determined is actually a group of three closely related soils.  This revelation immediately made sense to us because since we cleared the Seed Field thirty years ago, our observation has been it was noticeably slower to dry after a rain than our other Mapleton fields.  The fact is the Seed Field has a bit more clay and silt than our other Mapleton fields.   This wetter soil reality about the Seed Field is always in our minds.
     When early this week the forecast for rain became consistent and serious, we opted to jump off from our harvesting of Elm Field #7 so we could finish digging potatoes in the Seed Field.  By shortly after noon on Tuesday we got that Seed Field potato harvest job done, then for the rest of the day set to harvest dry beans and Dakota Ivory Flour Corn Seed.  We finished harvesting the corn with headlights and flashlights after 7 pm as the rains were just beginning.
     Now we have more seed corn to harvest today and we will try to dig potatoes in the morning. 
     Our four year rotation means our memories are collected in four-year increments. It was four years ago during harvest that 93-year-old local potato farmer elder Eldon Bradbury passed.  Jim worked for Eldon thirty-nine years ago. Four years ago we wrote up our recollections in a Maine Tales as a tribute to Eldon Bradbury.


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

Wood Prairie Potato Harvest Crew. From L to R: Mickelle, Hallie (9 month old puppy), Chelsea, daughter Amy (12), Jim, Megan, daughter Sarah (16), WCSH TV-Portland Reporter Kelsey Fabian.
TV Journalism Descends Upon Wood Prairie Potato Harvest.

     Harvesting potatoes has been a long and proud tradition in Aroostook County, going back two hundred years.  As recently as the early 1950s, Maine held rank as the Number One potato producing region in the entire United States.   Back in that era, nearly a quarter million acres of spuds were grown and harvested annually, most of them here in Aroostook County.  It was then that Aroostook County received the moniker as the Potato Empire.

     In recent decades, challenged by changing consumer diets, western states with a longer growing season and the benefits of federally subsidized irrigation projects, Maine’s potato acreage has been in decline.  Forty years ago, Maine potato acreage was down to 147,000 acres – most of it destined for the tablestock market (grocery stores and restaurants).  Today the acreage of Maine potatoes has stabilized at around 52,000 acres.  About a fifth of those potatoes are grown as the highly sought after Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

     Aroostook County is one of the last areas in the United States to maintain its tradition - going back to World War II - of closing schools for Potato Harvest break.  In the 1940s, Maine adopted its statewide standard 175-day school year and began the process of closing one-room rural schoolhouses.  Up until that edict, the Aroostook school year would commence in early November at the close of the farming season and run until mud season in April, when farming was soon to start up once again.   Adept Aroostook farming towns immediately began complying with the 175-school-day mandate from the State Capitol in Augusta by starting up classes in August and then shutting the schools down come harvest-time in late September.  Now, generations later, the well-established tradition continues in many towns.

     So, in this context of potatoes-as-Maine-culture, it should come as no surprise that Maine media outlets love to do stories about the Aroostook County Potato Harvest.  This Fall we were visited twice by journalists eager to visually capture Aroostook’s potato harvest tradition for their audiences. 

     Enterprising twenty-five- year-old ace reporter and one-woman-marching-band Katie Zarilli from WAGM-TV Channel 8 in nearby Presque Isle visited us twice and produced one news story about the organic potato harvest on Wood Prairie Farm (2:57).   We became Episode 6 in Katie’s Potato Harvest series.

     Aroostook County respects hard work.  Our crew was impressed when Kelsey Fabian WCSH-TV Channel 6 in Portland arrived right on time at 8 o’clock one morning when were digging, having left her southern Maine studio at 3:30 am to drive up here.  The result of her visit was a new edition to her series, Kelsey Lends a Hand: Aroostook County Potatoes (4:28) which aired for the first time on the WCSH News program at 5:15 am yesterday morning.

Jim & Megan

Click Here for Our Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

Special Offer: FREE Organic Rossa di Milano Onions for the Kitchen.

     It’s been a great year for growing onions in Northern Maine!  We have harvested a beautiful and delicious crop of the Italian heirloom, Rossa di Milano Onions  This is our best crop ever and the Rossa are now in the process of drying down in the sun for long term winter storage. A life without onions would be dreary, indeed!

      Here’s your chance to improve your quality of life! Receive a FREE 2 lbs Sack of Wood Prairie Farm Organic Rossa di Milano Onions (Value $12.95) on your next order where the goods total $50 or more.  Please use Promo Code WPF472.  Your order and FREE 2 lbs Sack of Wood Prairie Farm Organic Rossa di Milano Onions must ship by 12/7/15. Offer Expires 11:59p.m., Monday, October 5, so please hurry!

Click Here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Vegetables Section.

Wood Prairie Farm Crop of Rossa di Milano Onions.

Digging Swedish Peanut Fingerlings with Finnish Juko Potato Harvester. Early on we had excellent dry soil conditions.
  Harvesting Organic Swedish Peanut Fingerling on Wood Prairie Farm.

     It’s not every year that soil conditions are as perfect as they were this year – early on – when we harvested our organic Swedish Peanut Fingerling Maine Certified Seed potatoes with our Juko Potato Harvester from Finland.

    Megan seized the opportunity and recorded our excellent Fingerling potato harvest.  We then turned that film into a new You Tube Video.

    We are now up to almost 50 different videos on the You Tube Wood Prairie Channel.  This single most popular video (12,082 views) shows Megan’s remarkable tireless and strong hands-at-work as she Milks a Wood Prairie Irish Dexter Cow.  Other Wood Prairie Channel videos show such farm activities as Machines Picking Rocks, People Picking Rocks, Grain Combines Working, Baby Piglets Playing and much more!

Jim & Megan

Click Here for Our Certified Organic Potatoes for the Kitchen.

Recipe: Traditional Potato Doughnuts.
3 T shortening or lard
3/4 c sugar
3 egg yolks
1 egg white
1 c cooked, mashed potatoes
1/2 c milk
1 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp mace
1/2 tsp nutmeg
shortening or cooking oil for deep frying

Combine shortening or lard and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Add egg yolks and egg white and beat until thick, about 1 minute. Add mashed potato and mix to combine. Sift together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, mace and nutmeg. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to batter, beating after each addition until combined.

Cover dough and chill for 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough until 1/2 inch thick. Cut dough with a floured 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter. Reroll as necessary.

Fry doughnuts, 2 or 3 at a time, in deep, hot fat, (365 F), about 1 minute on each side or until golden, turning once with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining doughnut and doughnut holes.

Good with milk or tea.

Traditional Potato Doughnuts.
Photo by Angela Wotton.

Our Mailbox: World's Biggest Bully, Strong Correction Warranted, Fighting Tooth-and-Nail.

World's Biggest Bully.

Dear WPF. 

     How many of the Maine people are aware of what Jim Gerritsen & his farm & Family do and are doing for us in regards to the organics & challenging Monsatan for us all in this great United States of America? Please read this article & support him & all others going to bat for us not only at the personal level, but also on the legal fronts. I would also think much has been out of their own pockets just because of their belief in stopping Monsatan from destroying the Maine Organic Farmers & all of our lifelines actually. Thank you Jim Gerritsen & Family.


WPF Replies.

     Thanks for your kind support.
     This is the important point: While yes, Monsanto did not believe their own vacuous reassurances (nor did the farmers in our lawsuit), Monsanto has been ORDERED in a binding judicial estoppal issued in 'OSGATA et al v. Monsanto' by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington D.C. to NOT sue American farmers for patent infringement who through no fault of their own end up in possession of Monsanto's patented material at levels of 1% or less. While not the full legal outcome we desired, for the first time in U.S. history, the judicial estoppal stands. It provides farmers some level of protection from Monsanto, perhaps the most aggressive patent bully in the history of the world.


Strong Correction Warranted.

Dear WPF.

    The label on a bag of GMO seed is a legal contract you are bound to by opening the bag, but we can't label the products created from that seed.


WPF Replies.

     I know that increasingly Big Industrial Seed is asserting the claim that by the act of opening a certain bag of seed one is agreeing to the terms (of an often missing) licensing agreement of their making. I dissent from this failure of due process and the blatant taking of purchaser rights. I believe this situation warrants corrective legislation or civil litigation.


Fighting Tooth-and-Nail.

Dear WPF.

    Jim, a farmer told me the other day that sweet corn is not GMO. Is that true? Is it only horse corn that is GMO?

Bridgewater, NJ

WPF Replies.

     That farmer is wrong. A few years ago Monsanto introduced GE Sweet Corn into the market. Monsanto bragged in short order they expected to have greater than 50% market share. As we all know, Monsanto has been fighting tooth-and-nail against our Right-to-Know about GMOs by spending tends of millions of dollars in an unethical scorched-earth campaign against GMO labeling.
     So from here on out, the very best way to satisfy your desires is to buy only Certified Organic sweet corn. This is because GE is specifically designated a "prohibited method" in USDA organic regulations. Therefore, if you want to avoid GE, always buy certified organic.

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