Wood Prairie Farm                                               In This Issue of The Seed Piece: 
 Seed Piece Newsletter                               Maine Tales: Spudmen Invade Bangor
      Organic News and Commentary
                                                 Oral Argument Scheduled in OSGATA v. Monsanto
          Friday December 30, 2011                                                          Recipe: Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
                                                                                                                               Special Offer: Free Organic Potting Soil
                                                                                                                               Mailbox: Letters From the 99% & Losing Altitude

     Butte. Say BEAUT-iful. Butte is our favorite russet and one of the best varieties to grow organically. Bred by Joe Pavek of University of Idaho and released in 1977, Butte is named after neighboring Butte, Montana. It is an outstanding late season variety that is high yielding and has high specific gravity and great taste.  Butte is packed with nutrition and in tests comparing it against standard Russet Burbank Butte was found to have 58% higher vitamin C and 20% higher protein. 
     Butte became nearly extinct overnight after number one french fry buyer McDonald's declared that it would no longer purchase french fries made from Butte. McDonald's had concerns that french fries might fry up less than lily white because of caramelized sugars when fries were made from Buttes that had been in long term storage. Because of this near death experience Butte has become a rare variety.  For many years our Wood Prairie Farm organic seed has been virtually the only certified Butte seed grown in the United States.
     Despite rejection by Big Ag, Butte is an outstanding variety and this year we grew a beautiful full crop of excellent organic seed Butte to meet everyone's needs this winter.

Maine Tales.                    Spudmen Invade Bangor.                                          Bangor, Maine.                 Circa 1995.

      It was a near record dry Summer that 1995.  Maine soil was powdery dry – hard now to remember after almost eight or ten wet years running. We irrigated our organic seed potato crop until we pumped our irrigation pond dry in early August.  The portion of the crop we irrigated gave us a near normal crop.  The portion we didn’t have enough water to help had yields that were off by 35%.

     We were using the bone dry conditions to advantage by popping out stumps left behind the previous Spring by loggers who we had hired to cut the trees off an 'overgrown' ten-acre field which we now call ‘Shaw North #33.’ We were using our 1964 Cat D-6 bulldozer to pop out the stumps.  With this upcoming job in mind we had got a good buy and bought the dozer from a French logger up in Fort Kent. Wood prices had been at record highs that year and with optimism he had bought a newer Cat D-7 for his woods road building work. Then, as wood prices tend to do, they dropped mightily, and he had to sell one machine in a hurry.  Despite his newly gained education in which he learned the surprising fact that our old D-6 had more power than his new D-7, thinking like a farmer, he decided to sell the older machine, since as time went by it would be easier to find replacement parts for a newer machine.

      Well, we had never driven a bulldozer before.  Our thinking was that it couldn’t be that much different from driving a farm tractor and time proved us right on that one.  We also figured a good way to learn this new skill of maneuvering a 16-ton Cat dozer with an eleven-foot blade was to plop it down in the center of a ten-acre field of stumps and go to work. That proved right too. If you have never driven a bulldozer, let us tell you straight out that this is what them fellers invented the word ‘fun’ for.  That Summer both of us learned to drive the D-6.  Some years later Peter and Caleb were the next to master it.  And in a few years it will be Sarah and Amy’s turn and they say they are already looking forward to it.

Machines do break down and right about the time we pumped our last drop from the pond there was a need to drive 150 miles south ‘down to Bangor’ to pick up the parts at the Cat dealer.  Fortuitously and coincidentally, the Potato Association of America was having its Summer meeting during breakdown time in, of all places, Bangor, Maine. One reason is rarely good enough to make a trip. But now there emerged two good reasons to head down to Bangor.  Over the years we had dealt with several American and Canadian potato breeders over the phone and here lay a rare chance to meet them in person. Among them, Hielke de Jong (Canadian breeder of Caribe), Chuck Brown (USDA-ARS rescuer of Rose Finn Apple) and Joe Pavek (University of Idaho breeder of Butte).

     A long day started at daylight with the drive south.  First secured were the parts to make the Cat dozer whole again and the parts were loaded onto the pickup. Next the conference site was scouted out where the PAA meeting was being held. The PAA includes potato researchers from all corners of the North American potato world and beyond. The PAA conferences by witness and reputation are most akin to family reunions where potatoes are the never tiresome main guest. The day was spent meeting one after the other dedicated scientists who had committed their careers to developing the potato, hearing their stand up potato presentations, and then hearing their sit down potato stories and camaraderie at meal time. A more genuine, devoted, caring and welcoming crowd one would be hard pressed to find. The drive home that evening went fast and thoughts were full of appreciation that the PAA demonstrated with clarity that science together as community beats scientific endeavor in isolation.

     Here’s the link for a free downloadable copy of the excellent updated version of the ninety-page PAA handbook “Commercial Potato Production in North America.”

Wood Prairie Caterpillar D-6 Bulldozer Winter Work. Helping a potato truck get home.

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

New Development:
Oral Argument Scheduled in
OSGATA v. Monsanto                                               

NEW YORK – December 29, 2011 –In a development heralded by the organic plaintiffs, Judge Naomi Buchwald announced yesterday that oral argument on Monsanto’s motion to dismiss in OSTATA et al v. Monsanto will be heard Tuesday January 31, 2012 at 10am in federal district court in Manhattan.

The eighty-three family farmers, small and family owned seed businesses, and agricultural organizations which comprise the organic plaintiff group represent over 300,000 individuals. The landmark organic community lawsuit, filed in March 2011, challenges the validity of Monsanto’s transgenic/GMO patents and seeks court protection for innocent family farmers who may become contaminated by Monsanto seed.

“We are grateful that Judge Buchwald has agreed to our request to hear oral argument on the motion,” said Jim Gerritsen, President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association based in Montrose, Colorado. “Last August we submitted our written rebuttal and it made clear that Monsanto’s motion was without merit. Our legal team, from the Public Patent Foundation, is looking forward to orally presenting our position. The family farmers deserve their day in court. We are anxious that this case go to trial as soon as possible so that our innocent farmers may receive Court protection.”

Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is the organic seed industry membership trade organization established to develop and protect the organic seed industry and its mission to provide excellent organic seed for the needs of local organic agriculture. Paypal donations to OSGATA’s “Farmer Travel Fund” (www.osgata.org) are encouraged in an effort to raise funds to enable family farmers in the plaintiff group to attend the court proceedings and related events.

Background information on the OSGATA v. Monsanto lawsuit may be found at www.osgata.org and www.woodprairiefarm.com.

Butternut Squash and Carmelized Onion Galette

Photo by Angela Wotton

Recipe: Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion

For the filling:

1 small butternut squash, about 1 lb, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 medium Carola or similar , peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
2 T olive oil
1 to 2 T butter 
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
1 tsp salt
Pinch of sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
3/4 c fontina cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces), grated or cut into small bits
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves

Prepare squash and potatoes: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on baking sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender. Set aside to cool slightly.
Caramelize onions: While squash is roasting, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.
Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese and herbs together in a bowl.
 Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash, onions, cheese and herb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.
Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.

For the pastry:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

     Make pastry: In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.


Source: www.saveur.com

Click here for our Wood Prairie Kitchen Potatoes

Special Offer: FREE Organic Potting Soil

   We received four seed catalogs in today's mail so if there was any doubt anywhere, it should now clear to all that with the long nights we are in the thick of seed catalog season. Before long it will be time to start early starter crops like onions and tomatoes and peppers. So now is a good time to stock up on good organic potting soils.  We make that job easy for you by carrying compost-based living soil mixes commercially made by our friends, the experts at Vermont Compost Company. We carry three excellent organic potting mixes which we have been using on Wood Prairie Farm for years.

   Here's your chance to earn a FREE 6 quart sack ($12.95 value) of Fort Vee Potting Soil, Fort Light Potting Soil, or Compost Plus Transplant and Booster Mix. Earn a FREE sack - Your Choice of Type - with your next purchase of $60 or more.

   Please use Promo Code WPF 1109. FREE Soil Mix must ship with order and entire order must ship by May 15, 2012.  Offer may not be combined with other specials.  Offer ends Tuesday 1/3/12.  That's right after the Holiday so better call or click today!

Our Vermont Compost Company Potting Soil Mix.

Our Mailbox: Letters From the 99% & Losing Altitude

Dear WPF.
     I saw the video of the Occupy Wall Street Farmers March in NYC and your call for justice to farmers and everyone who benefits from what they produce-all of us. I respect and applaud the work you are doing. As a person who has deep roots in Maine and a photographer, I believe Maine to be one of the most beautiful states in our country. I'm deeply affected not only by it's vast coastal beauty but by the land itself which yields a rich and varied country, and also by the work of farmers like yourself, and fishermen, that enable this to be.

     I'm attaching a link to an issue of the journal "The Right of Aesthetic Realism to be Known", titled "A Truly American Economy & Occupy Wall Street" because I feel it will encourage you. It explains what people need to know now in order for America to have a healthy economy and for people to get what they deserve.


New York NY

WPF Replies.

     We are grateful for your expression of support. The messages we've recieved from folks like you have been virtually unanimous in their support of our work speaking out on behalf of the people and family farmers. We are all part of the 99% and we are united with all those who want our democracy to work on behalf of the many over the narrow interests of the few.

     We found the piece that you linked to be very interesting as well as very uplifting. Articles and institutions which promote positive dialogue and citizen involvement are valuable tools for fixing our broken system. Thanks for writing.

Jim & Megan

Dear WPF.

     Hi, Folks: As a backyard gardener who is most conservative, I simply cannot believe that you support the movement called "Occupy"! If you look at what these people are suggesting and demanding they are not Americans as producers but takers --- "you've earned yours and now I want what you've earned!". This country was built on Capitalism as you well know since you are in business. How can you support a group that doesn't believe or support you?

Green Love Springs FL

WPF Replies.

     I know there is a lot of misinformation out there and I believe it is being manufactured to undermine the interests of the 99%. I do believe we have a broken system due to corporate-government collusion. I do believe that our current dysfunctional system of corporate dominated 'capitalism' and monopoly runs counter to our American ideal of free enterprise - that's the system that we want for our country and I'll bet you do too. What I witnessed in NYC - being immersed among the Occupy folks - are that they are authentic and sincere citizens. They demonstrate remarkable seriousness, caring and inclusiveness. They see our country headed in the wrong direction, and under the guidence of the Constitution they are addressing their government with legitimate grievances. I believe they are asking the right questions and beginning the discussions that are healthy for a true and active democracy. Occupy supports the interests of the people - the 99% - small business, family farmers and inclusive political dialogue. That's why we support them. Thanks for taking the time to write. Jim.

Dear WPF.

     I read your email. I was delighted to see your film. Although I am somewhat close to being in the 1% of Americans by income and assets, I could not agree more with what you say about the corporate takeover of the government, and how they have also taken over farming. Agri-business in the US is a scandal. It is so sad to listen to the Republican, and yes, Democrats on these issues. I wish your family a healthy happy and peaceful New Year.

Hartford CT

WPF Replies.

     The concept of the '1%' more than anything represents a selfish debased attitude. Sounds like you fail to qualify for the 1% crowd and you're stuck with us 99%ers. I think you have a very interesting and admirable perspective and we salute you for it. Thanks so much. Jim.

Dear WPF.

     We saw this new film on Food and Water Watch and I forwarded it to an activist friend who I've been trying to get to grasp the basics of what's going wrong with our food supply...been trying for yeras. Finally, with this little video, she got it. She even posted it on her Facebook page. Amazing! - and  one can only hope a lot more people see it too. Anyhow, the last Seedpiece newsletter you sent had information on the Monsanto court case and NOW I can send her that too, if you will send it to me again as I no longer have it. Thanks so much for ALL you do.

Carthage ME

WPF Replies.

     Appreciate your support and thanks for sharing your friend's story.
     We're thinking the link below to an article by Kathryn Olmstead in the Bangor Daily News is the one that you were after. It does a good job explaining our OSGATA v. Monsanto lawsuit.

Jim & Megan

Dear WPF.

Jim and Megan,

I'm moved by your voice as farmers, as people, as eaters...and as representatives of the Maine farming community. Thank you for sharing this Occupy food news. Thank you for your work.

Washingotn ME

WPF Replies.

     Thank you. You are kind. Jim & Megan

Dear WPF.

Hi - I have been buying seed potatoes from you for a few years - growing them in Colorado at 7400 feet, in a very dry climate with a very short growing season. My wife and I are moving to some land we bought in Washington July 2012, going down to an altitude of 234 feet, and a much damper climate - on an island about an hour from Seattle.

What potato varieties would you recommend for a much longer and wetter growing season?

Estes Park CO

WPF Replies.

     You will be moving to a potato paradise. No longer will you be limited to short season varieites. Your long growing season will allow you to grow mid- and late- season varieties. The moist maritime climate may present new challenges in the form of fungal diseases. If I were you I would try Island Sunshine which while late has very strong horizontal resistance to stresses that you may encounter in your new home.
     Make sure your plants have adequate water. Ironically, I understand there are spots with odd microclimates nearby on the Olympic peninsula which do not get enough moisture for optimal growth during parts of the growing season. Good luck!


Wood Prairie Farm Quick Links

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