Wood Prairie Farm

Wood Prairie Farm.
Chopping and plowing down Rapeseed cover crop. Year four in our crop rotation. See article in this Seed Piece's Mailbox section.

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    Thursday, December 30, 2010

    Wood Prairie Farm Seed Piece Newsletter
                          Organic News and Commentary

     This Issue:

Planning Begins Now.
     Now that winter is here to stay in northern Maine, our last   thoughts of Summer are yanking out and replacing weak 'summer batteries' from machines that are cold and understandably reluctant to turn over.
     But this is the beginning of the planning season and mailboxes are now full of garden catalogs to help us along. In tune with the season, this Seed Piece features an article on Organic Crop Rotations and provides access to a great accompanying downloadable manual on the subject. If you're ready to place your order you can earn yourself a FREE bag of organic cover crop seed. And be sure to try the Leek and Potato Soup recipe - it's one of our family's favorites. Stay warm!
Jim & Megan


Recipe: Leek and Potato Soup.

Makes 2 Quarts
Trim off the root end and the tough upper greens from:
2lbs Leeks

Cut the trimmed leeks in half lengthwise and slice thin. Rinse in a bowl of cold water.
Lift out to drain.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the leeks along with 2 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf and salt. cook until soft, about 10 minutes.

1 pound waxy potatoes
(I used Prairie Blush), peeled, halved or quartered, and sliced. Cook the potatoes for 4 minutes and then add 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer. Cook until the leeks and potatoes are tender, but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.

When done, remove the bay leaf and thyme and puree the soup if desired. Stir in 1/3 c heavy cream. Do not boil once the cream is added. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.

This is a delicious soup for a cold winter's day.

Modified from "The Art of Simple Food" by Alice Waters.

Homemade Onion Rings
                     Leek and Potato Soup
                     Photo by Angela Wotton

    Click here for
    Wood Prairie Organic Whole Wheat Bread Mixes

Special Offer: FREE Organic Cover Crop Seed.                                                                                                                                              
      Fast growing grain cover crops are a great inexpensive way to nurture the garden soil that feeds you and your family. And building your soil is the best investment you can make. We like having on hand bags of different grains that can be quickly and easily sown by hand as soon as a garden crop is harvested. Here's your chance to start building your supply with this special offer for FREE organic cover crop seed - enough to plant 500-1000sq feet.
     Earn a FREE 2 1/2lbs bag of Buckwheat or Hull-less Oat organic cover crop seed ($9.95 value) - Your choice of variety - with your next purchase of $45 or more.
     Please use Promo Code WPF 1016. FREE Organic Cover Crop Seed order must ship by May 13, 2011. Offer ends Monday 1/3/11. Please call or click today!

Click here for Wood Prairie Farm Organic Cover Crop Seed

Lush Buckwheat.
Jim chopping down Buckwheat plowdown crop, seven-eight weeks after planting.  This step is followed by plowing under the residue, and then replanting another plowdown crop of Rapeseed, a member of the Brassica family.


Our Mailbox: Organic Crop Rotation.

Q.    My wife and I had a great time being first time customers of your farm. We are now enjoying several varieties of potato that we could not have otherwise.
    We are starting to plan our garden for next year and have read a little about crop rotation regarding potatoes. Could you offer any advice or guidelines regarding potato planting rotations? Thank you,
Sykesville MD

A.    Crop rotation is absolutely one of the most important practices for an organic gardener or farmer.  A good rotation helps break up insect and disease cycles, facilitates nutrient cycling and protects the soil.
    In simplest concept, an organic crop rotation means crop relocation: not planting the same crop (for example, potatoes) or family (nightshades which include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant) in the same spot for two years in a row.
    Among the crops that can precede potatoes are squash, corn or the members of the Brassica family.  If your land base is sufficient to allow the soil to rest, sod or other soil-building cover crops can build fertility, soil tilth and organic matter and are highly recommended. But even the simple sowing of a fast growing grass (like Annual Rye) or grain (like Oats or Wheat or Winter Rye or Buckwheat, or Winter Triticale) on a plot as soon as it is harvested will minimize erosion, catch nutrients for succeeding crops, and add organic matter.
    Going back more than one hundred years the traditional potato rotation here in Aroostook County was a five year potato rotation: two years of potatoes, followed by a year of oats and two years of clover and timothy sod. We created our four year Wood Prairie Farm organic rotation by modifying the traditional: Year one: Seed Potatoes; Year two: Spring Grain (wheat or oats) nurse crop over clover-timothy underseeding; Year three: Clover and Timothy sod; Year four: plowdown Buckwheat cover crop followed by plowdown biofumigant crop Dwarf Essex Rapeseed; Year five back to seed potatoes. So, each of our fields sees potatoes just once every four years. By rotating our fields, in any given year, we have one quarter of our cropland planted to potatoes, another quarter planted to Spring grains and the last half in sod and cover crops that build the soil up for the next seed potato crop. A well-designed crop rotation on organic farms will often have half of the cropland in soil building cover crops. We believe that our relatively long rotation is a significant factor in the high quality of the organic seed potatoes we grow.
    There are excellent books out there that delve into good explanations of organic crop rotation considerations. Two of the best are Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower and John Jeavon's How To Grow More Vegetables and Fruits.
And here’s another great in-depth book entitled Crop Rotation on Organic Farms – A Planning Manual (NRAES Publication 177). The effort behind this recently published book began about ten years ago when experienced organic vegetable farmers from Maine to Maryland were brought together by a USDA funded project called Northeast Organic Network (NEON). Our mission was to discuss, formulate, critique and catalog important organic crop rotation details and document working examples. You’ll find our Wood Prairie Farm rotation included on page 52.
    When it comes to subject depth we've found that single topic farm books (‘Potatoes’, ‘Blueberries’) hit the mark. You won’t be disappointed with this landmark 158 page manual. It is a book you’ll want to add to your farm library. By going to this link you may either purchase the printed book for $24 or review and/or download the entire book for FREE. Now that’s a deal! 


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