October 02 2015
22 Issue 20
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Issue of The Seed Piece:
Maine Certified Potatoes on Wood Prairie
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
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.
Megan Gerritsen & Family
Click here for the
Wood Prairie Farm Home Page.
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.
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
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
Lends a Hand: Aroostook County Potatoes (4:28)
which aired for the first time on the WCSH News program at 5:15 am
Jim & Megan
for Our Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.
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
Here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Vegetables Section.
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.
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
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea
3 tsp baking
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
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
Good with milk or tea.
Photo by Angela Wotton.
World's Biggest Bully, Strong Correction Warranted, Fighting
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 &
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
|Wood Prairie Farm Quick
& Megan Gerritsen
Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm