Wood Prairie Farm Seed Piece Newsletter
December 2006

 Special: FREE Organic Feta Cheese and Season's Greetings from 'Way Up North'
SPECIAL OFFER – Add to this month’s holiday festivities with a FREE 8 oz. brick of our new Organic Cow Milk Feta Cheese ($8.95 value) with your next order of $70 or more. Perfect for a family treat or to share on a cheese and cracker tray at a holiday party. Offer expires Tuesday, December 12th and must ship by Monday, December 18th. Please use coupon code XXXXX.

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The main topic of conversation for the last month, as happens every year at this time, is about how much snow we'll be getting. Fresh on everyone's mind is last winter's mild weather and half-hearted snowfall that was substantially less than our normal 100 inches. Here at Wood Prairie Farm the snow plow is on the pickup and Caleb, our twelve year old, becomes highly motivated at getting his homework done when his reward is being able to plow snow - a job he loves to do. In the meantime, December is a busy month for us and we look forward to easing up your shopping list with our unique gifts such as our Potato Sampler or Bread Mix of the Month Clubs or our popular Chef's Potato Sampler. We believe that you, our co-producer, is as dedicated to fresh organic goods grown in a sustainable manner as we are and we are proud to have you as part of the Wood Prairie Farm community. We believe this can translate into a world-wide cooperative support system that benefits the producer, the purchaser and the community at large.

Along with this month’s special of Feta Cheese, we’ve also provided a recipe for carrot pie that guests will swear is squash and information on this month’s potato highlight, Caribé, a variety that can be found in this month's December Potato Sampler of the Month. Continuing with Slow Food’s Terra Madre conference theme for our ‘Conversations With…’ section, don’t miss this month's interview with Georgian (the country) Tamaz Dundua. Tamaz is part of a young, energetic movement in Georgia that is working to restore traditional sustainable agriculture in a country that once lived under Soviet rule.

On behalf of the Gerritsen family, we wish you all a wonderful holiday season and thank you for choosing to be part of the Wood Prairie Farm community. – Jim and Megan

        winter is here

  Deck the Halls
We've always noted that Caribé (Spanish for "Carribean") should be in every garden. It's true - it is a top performer almost everywhere it is grown this side of the tropics. Caribé is a striking potato with its lustrous purple skin, shallow eyes and snow white flesh. As a new potato fresh out of the garden, its taste is unexcelled. It is also an early variety with high yields. In the kitchen, it's waxy, mid-dry texture makes it suitable for boiling, baking or frying. The dry heat of baking will hold the color of the skin while moist heat from boiling or steaming will wash some color out. Try a bag and try them out - you'll be sure to be a fan yourself.


  Q & A - White Grubs and Potatoes
Q: Almost 60% of our potato crop this year had at least one large bite taken out of it What could be eating them? We have a rabbit problem, but a lot of the potatoes that were chewed on were under ground until we dug them up. They even have what looks like teeth marks on them. - DC, Anderson IN

A: Your problem is the White grub (Phyllophaga species) which is the larval stage of the June Beetle aka May Beetle or Daw Bug. They are the diameter of a pencil and about one inch long, white, ugly and short legged. They live in sod and can be found in newly turned soddy garden soil. We’ve never had a big problem with them and their occurrence lessens significantly as the soil is worked and the time interval away from sod increases. They can cause very impressive damage, often localized in one or two adjacent hills. They can consume one-third to two-thirds of an entire tuber and leave behind distinctive “tooth” marks that do look remarkably similar to damage caused by a hungry mouse or rabbit. - Jim


  The Potato Bin
Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, recently shared his thoughts with the Sierra Club on modern day U.S. agriculture and why food can be too cheap. The summation below shows how any one person can make a difference. To read the article in its entirety, go to https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200611/cheapfood.asp

“It would be wonderful if our government cared more about public safety and environmental health than about the profits of a handful of corporations. Meaningful change, however, isn't going to come from the top. It's going to come from people who realize that there's a direct link between the food they eat and the society they inhabit. Changing your eating habits can send ripples far and wide in support of agricultural practices that are humane, diverse, and sustainable." "The condition of the passive consumer of food is not a democratic condition," Wendell Berry writes. "One reason to eat responsibly is to live free."

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The biotech industry has officially celebrated the planting of the billionth acre of genetically modified (GMO) crops with 75% of those GMO crops grown in the U.S. and Argentina. More than 90% of the world's GMO seeds were developed and sold by the Monsanto Corporation (planted predominantly with Monsanto's genetically modified corn, cotton, soybean and canola seeds). Monsanto's GMO seed sales alone brought the company over $4 billion last year.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Outside of GMO seeds, Monsanto's past and present product-line has included Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs, rBGH and aspartame. Source: organicconsumers.org

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Maine Women's Agricultural Network (WAgN) will hold its annual conference in Bangor, Maine this Saturday and Sunday. Among the attendees will be Megan Gerritsen and Angie Wotton of Wood Prairie Farm. Angie will participate in a workshop looking at the relationship of reverence for the land from a Slow Food perspective.

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One of the largest sustainable agriculture conferences in the USA, the Pennsylvania Assocation for Sustainable Agriculture's (PASA) Farming for the Future, will be held at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel at State College. Jim Gerritsen will give a presentation on growing organic seed potatoes in the seedsaving session at the pre-conference on Thursday, February 1. Jim and Caleb from Wood Prairie Farm will be manning our booth so come by and say hello.

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The Nov-Dec 2006 issue of ATTRA News (www.attra.org) published a helpful chart which dispels the myths against converting to organic production. The chart was constructed by National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) staff member Ann Baier.
Myth - Yields will be miserable.
Reality - Yields are comparable under well managed systems.
Myth - Pests will eat you up.
Reality - Most pest problems can be prevented using integrated approaches.
Myth - Weeds will take over your farm.
Reality - Weed management requires constant attention.
Myth - Transitioning is impossible.
Reality - Transition can be challenging: plan cash flow with budget projections.
Myth - The paperwork will kill you.
Reality - Recordkeeping can help your operation in many ways in addition to organic compliance.
Myth - You'll never make any money.
Reality - Organic certification expands your market options and often gives premium prices.
Myth - It can't be done.
Reality - It can be done if you plan, persist, and ask for help when you need it.

        The Potato Bin

  Recipe: Carrot Pie
This carrot pie recipe comes from my much-used Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. Once you bake this, carrot pie will become a wintertime favorite, I'm sure! - Megan

2 c cooked Wood Prairie Farm Chantenay Carrots, pureed
2/3 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 slightly beaten eggs
1 5 oz can (2/3 cup) evaporated milk (or cream)
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a pastry crust for a single crust pie and line a 9 inch pie plate with it.

In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients and blend well.
Place the pastry lined pan in the preheated oven. Carefully pour filling into pastry shell. To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of the pie with foil. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake another 25 minutes or so until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.


  Conversations With...Tamaz Dundua
Tamaz Dundua is the Program Manager for the organization Biological Farming Association based in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. The organization works in the field of sustainable agriculture development within their country. Founded in 1994 – just three years after Georgia gained independence from the Soviet Union, Tamaz has been involved since 1997.

Wood Prairie Farm: Can you explain what traditional agriculture there was in Georgia and why the founders of the Biological Farming Association felt the need to begin an organization to promote sustainable agriculture?

Tamaz Dundua: Traditional agriculture in Georgia was the production of crops without the use of chemicals and pesticides. When Georgia was a republic of the Soviet Union, Georgian farmers lost their knowledge of traditional farming because of the rules under communism. Farmers no longer owned their own farms. This is why it is necessary to have this type of organization that can teach and train farmers how to manage their farms. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and Georgia’s subsequent independence, there was privatization of land and now, although there are farms again, many of the farmers have little knowledge on how to traditionally manage the land. We work with them and try to change their mentality, which can be a difficult task.

WPF: Pre-Soviet times, what crops were grown in Georgia? When your country became part of the Soviet Union, how did those types of crops change?

TD: Before the Soviet Union, we had different varieties of local wheat, beans, many local varieties of fruits and wine. During Soviet times, they tried to cultivate more monocultures of corn and tea plantations. Non-local varieties of wheat were also planted with seed from Russia. We started to lose our cultural heritage because of this. This was terrible for many reasons, an important one being that our country is known as the cradle of wine making. Scientifically, Georgia is the area where wine was first made. We have many special local varieties of wine, once totaling 600. Many of those are now lost. Wine and Georgia are similar. It is impossible to understand Georgia without wine because we have a deep, tradition to the wine making system that we once employed. Wine was always a big piece of life for Georgians. It’s very important to keep these traditions. Now, we work to try and replicate them.

WPF: Can you talk about a couple of the projects that the Biological Farming Association is working on now?

TD: Our organization is now quite large. We have several projects going on and our main goal is to improve social economic situations in Georgia with development of organic agriculture and community mobilization. There are some other components such as developing marketing for farmers, agricultural biodiversity projects, rural tourism development and a training system. This is quite a large program and we have been quite successful in implementing the different projects. In our organization there are about 450 member farmers and we work closely with them. Just recently, we developed a draft law regarding organic agriculture and organic certification in Georgia and after a lot of work with the Ministry of Agriculture, this law was adopted by Parliament. Beginning in 2007, this law will be implemented.

WPF: What stance does your organization have on genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and does the government of Georgia support your position?

TD: Personally, I believe, as does the Biological Farming Association, that Georgia should be free of GMO’s. This is a very difficult process and I think it is necessary to give consumers the choice. Food should be labeled if it contains GMO ingredients. As consumers, people have the right to make a choice for themselves. We will fight for that. We’ve had experience with that before when Monsanto tried to introduce GMO potatoes to Georgia. It was not simple to fight against them but nature helped us. It appeared that the Colorado Potato Beetle wouldn’t eat the GMO potatoes but a fungal disease destroyed a large percentage of the potato plants instead. The farmers blamed the GMO potato and they refused to plant them again. I’m sure Monsanto will try to come to the country again with other GMO plants and we will do our best to intervene.

We do have fairly good cooperation with our Ministry of Agriculture. There is a new, young team and the minister has an open personality and is open to cooperation with us as an organization. I think that they support the idea, along with the Ministry of the Environment, that GMO’s should be regulated. They believe that it is necessary to develop a law to regulate any GMO’s in Georgia. I hope that such a law develops soon and that Parliament will adopt it.

WPF: Is there an organization in your country that has a seed bank that will help promote some traditional seed varieties?

TD: There are some institutes working in the seed saving field. They have some seed banks but they are in bad shape. We have started our own small seed bank and we want to distribute the traditional varieties among farmers as part of our biodiversity project. The most important focus is what kind of impact we will have once the farmers get the seeds, grow them out, successfully market them and in turn provide themselves an income. Even now, we try to help with the marketing by organizing at one market where one section is solely for the selling of heirloom varieties of different Georgian crops.

Editor’s note: Tamaz is the tall fellow in the center of the photo at the right. Other Georgian delegates to Terra Madre included a beekeeper, chef, winemaker, cheesemaker and vegetable producer.

        Conversations With
ARTING WORDS: MAINE SPEAK - PARTING WORDS: Muckle: v., to grab onto something

Usage: “Muckle” is used when you really need some strength to get something moved

Example. Muckle: Persistence
Orman: “I’m having an awful hard time getting this old rusty tooth off’n this cultivator.”
Bucky: “Well, muckle on to her and get her off!"

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(c) Jim and Megan Gerritsen, Wood Prairie Farm, 49 Kinney Road, Bridgewater, Maine 04735

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