Prairie Farm Seed Piece Newsletter
FREE COOKBOOK! and New Year Wishes
SPECIAL OFFER – Curl up by the fire and expand your Kitchen
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way to enjoy fresh vegetables and this excellent book tells you how.
Offer expires Tuesday January 16. Please use coupon code XXXXX``.
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Although we had a green Christmas we did get some snow in time to ring
in the New Year. Remains to be seen how this northern Maine winter
shapes up. So far we've had lots of ice which makes Maine ice skaters
Our newsletter this month brings you an Italian recipe of potatoes and
swiss chard, an introduction on our potato variety Island Sunshine and
agricultural news to read about and opportunities to act upon those
items you feel important. We are also highlighting this first
newsletter of 2007 with an interview with Paola Vanzo of Trace
Foundation. We met Paola at Slow Food's Terra Madre world gathering in
Italy in October and witnessed her presentation, with the Tibetan
cheesemakers, of the foundation's collaboration with the nomadic
communities of the Tibetan Plateau. Wonderful work has been
accomplished with the nomads that has enabled them to retain their
centuries-old way of life and we invite you to read what Paola has to
say about the work of the collaboration.
We wish you warmth during this hunker down month of January and we look
forward to hearing from you as you dream of warmer weather and the
planting of your Wood Prairie Farm potato varieties and organic
vegetable seeds. From our family farm - Happy New Year. - Jim and Megan
CLICK HERE TO GO TO WOOD PRAIRIE FARM'S HOME PAGE
are my Sunshine...
Who doesn't need a little sun in January? Part of this month's Potato
Sampler of the Month, Island Sunshine is a creamy, golden-fleshed
potato originating from Prince Edward Island in Canada. It has
wonderful flavor and great as a multi-purpose cooking potato. Try it as
part of this newsletter's recipe and taste for yourself why we like to
grow and enjoy Island Sunshine ourselves. I find it is the best potato
for the pressure cooker. Cook medium sized potatoes whole on 10 lbs
pressure for about 4 minutes and they are ready for any recipe you need
CLICK HERE TO READ INFORMATION ON WOOD PRAIRIE'S OTHER SEED VARIETIES
& A - Problem with Potatoes Sizing Up
Q: Although I sheepishly admit to not purchasing my seed potatoes from
you, I do have a question which I hope you can help me with. I grew Red
Norlands and Buttes this year. We have begun harvesting them and we
notice that they are all – Norlands and Buttes –
very, very small. The
largest is no bigger than a large kiwi, with a great majority being the
size of a large marble.
I’ve grown these varieties before – stock from you
and other suppliers.
They all grew well and as expected.
INFO: This is the first year on this property that we are growing
potatoes. This is the second year for this garden space. Previously it
was sod/hayfield. We also had a very, very wet Spring –
The potatoes are not rotting, they are just small – no scars
just small. I have just sent a soil sample to Cornell and I hope to
receive information soon. But I wonder if you might give me some clues.
- RL, Oxford NY
A: If it’s a new garden the fertility issue is a good guess.
are gluttons and to the extent you supply their needs they will reward
you accordingly. New gardens most especially benefit from supplemental
organic fertilizer (such as our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Potato
fertilizer) in order to bridge the gap while you are building long-term
fertility through organic management.
Excessive rains such as we had in the East this last year can leach
fertility plus limit root and plant growth by filling up the air pores
in the soil with water. Another possibility is the quality of the seed.
We have long observed dramatic and unmistakable differences in crop
yield and quality attributable to seed quality. Seed of all types, not
just potatoes, are a relatively inexpensive input when looking at the
big picture of garden or crop production. Exceptional seed pays for
The rule we live by is to get our hands on the very best quality seed
we can find, do an uncompromising job growing our crop and let the high
quality of the harvest be the means of paying for that exceptional
seed. In the end this is the most economical strategy and leads to
predictable success year after year. - Jim
FOR MORE SEED RELATED QUESTIONS, CLICK HERE
The Potato Bin
*THA'R SHE BLOWS!
As you can hopefully tell in the photo at the beginning of this
newsletter, the crest of a mountain ridge in a small potato growing
town in nearby Mars Hill, Maine has become New England's biggest
wind-power development. A total of 28 turbines, each 262-foot high,
rise against the sky with immense 115-foot long windmill blades.
The project will not only stand out in Aroostook County, but also in
New England, home to the highest recorded wind speeds in the mainland
United States, and, according to the US Department of Energy, the
birthplace of wind power in America.
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*CLONED ANIMALS ON AMERICA'S DINNER TABLES?
After years of delay, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has
tentatively concluded that milk and meat from cloned farm animals are
safe to eat. The Dec. 28,2006 New York Times article also states that
the FDA finding could make the U.S. the first country to allow products
from cloned livestock to be sold in grocery stores. Industry officials
estimate there are now about 500 to 600 cloned cows and 200 cloned pigs
in the U.S. Presently, farmers and breeders typically clone prized
livestock so they can be used for breeding.
Consumer groups criticized the FDA's draft policy by arguing that the
science backing the decision is shaky and that consumer surveys show
that most people are opposed to cloning animals, let alone eating them.
Many favor requiring cloned product labeling. Opponents on the policy
hope to derail it before it is made final with help through
congressional pressure. Source: www.nytimes.com
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*FEDERAL ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM WON'T BE MANDATORY
Thanks to public pressure, the Bush administration is abandoning plans
to make owners of farm animals register in a nation-wide database
intended to help limit disease outbreaks. Because of the widespread
public opposition, the Agriculture Department has announced that the
animal tracking program would remain voluntary. Animal registration
costs, privacy of farm information and database information were issues
with both small and large farms and helped turn around the mandatory
ruling. Source: Bangor Daily News .
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*CONGRESS PASSES OVERHAUL OF RULES FOR FISHERIES
Congress yesterday passed the broadest overhaul of the rules that
govern the U.S. fishing industry in a decade, with provisions
instructing fishery managers to adhere strictly to scientific advice so
as not to deplete the ocean.
The final language of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which has passed both
the House and Senate, was a compromise between environmentalists and
fishing interests. The measure mandates an end to overfishing of
depleted species within 2 1/2 years and allows the selling and trading
of shares in a fishery to promote conservation.
"This clearly acknowledges the problems we face and reflects a
realization by lawmakers that we can't continue to postpone dealing
with overfishing and the destruction of marine habitat," said Josh
Reichert, head of the Pew Charitable Trust's environmental program.
Source: Washington Post.
To read the article in full or to respond to this issue, go to
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*NEW RULES ON 'NATURAL' FOR MEATS AND POULTRY TO BE DECIDED
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting public opinion
on the implementation of new rules on the definition of the term
‘natural’, after receiving a petition stating that
the claim on meat
and poultry products is misleading to consumers.
The agency said it had decided to initiate rulemaking because it
recognizes the discrepancy in certain cases where the claim is
presently permitted. The definition currently in use dates back to
1982, when policy guidance stated that products can be labeled
‘natural' if they contain no artificial or synthetic
if they are minimally processed. However, there are loopholes and the
policy allows for certain exceptions to this general rule, and in
August last year it was modified by acknowledging that sugar, sodium
lactate (from a corn source) and natural flavorings from oleoresins or
extractives could be acceptable.
To learn more of this petition go to
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*TWO DAY SOILS CONFERENCE WITH DR DAN SKOW IN BANGOR, MAINE
Here's an opportunity worth considering. The Heart of Maine
will hold their 6th Annual Soil Quality Conference with featured
speaker Dr Dan Skow at the Bangor Motor Inn, February 14 and 15, 2007.
Please visit their website for more information on his two day
presentation, which includes a special evening presentation on human
nutrition. Dr Skow is a renowned lecturer from the Acres USA Circuit.
He is a farmer, veterinarian and founder of International Ag Labs in
Minnesota. You won't want to miss this exceptional in-depth soils
class, for a very modest fee. See you there. - Jim
For more information go to
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YES - IT'S A FACT! - OVER ACHIEVER SPUD
In 1974, an Englishman named Eric Jenkins grew 370 pounds of potatoes
from one plant. That's more than one for every day of the year.
Source: USDA Farm Service Agency Online
CLICK HERE FOR THE WOOD PRAIRIE FARM WEBSITE
Swiss Chard and Potato Pie
In Triora, Italy, these savory pies were called pasta (pronounced
“pashta”)—in this case meaning
“meal”, because a torta was often all
there was for dinner. Mild feta such as our new Organic Cow Milk Feta
is a fine substitute for the homemade tuma fresca normally used for
this torta in its native italian region.
1 1/4 cups flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
8–10 large Swiss chard leaves, washed, stems removed, leaves
1 medium dry potato, such as Island Sunshine or Yukon Gold, boiled,
peeled, and diced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 T minced fresh parsley
1 1/4 cups crumbled Organic Cow Milk Feta
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
1. For dough: Mix together flour and salt in a large bowl. Drizzle oil
into flour, mixing with a fork, then sprinkle in up to 1/2 cup water, 1
T at a time, mixing until dough just holds together. Knead dough until
smooth and elastic, then shape into a ball, cover with a damp cloth,
and refrigerate for 2 hours.
2. For filling: Put chard in a colander, sprinkle with 1 1/2 T salt,
toss to mix, and set aside to drain for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, mix together potatoes, onions, parsley, and feta in a
bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Press chard against
colander with a wooden spoon to squeeze out juices. Discard juices and
add chard to potato mixture. Mix in eggs and 2 1/2 tbsp. oil and set
4. Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly oil and flour a 14'' round
pan. Divide dough into 2 balls, using two-thirds of dough for bottom
crust and one-third for top crust. Roll out dough for bottom crust on a
floured surface to about 15'' in diameter, then use pizza pan as a
template to trim crust to form a 14'' round. Place bottom crust in pan.
Evenly spread with filling, leaving 1'' of crust exposed around edge.
Roll out dough for top crust to 13'' and place atop filling, allowing
it to drape over edge of filling. Wet edge of bottom crust, fold in,
and crimp to seal. Using a fork, pierce surface of torta several times
to allow steam to escape during cooking. Then use your fingertips to
gently indent surface of pie and drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 tbsp.
oil. Bake until golden, about 35 minutes.
FOR MORE RECIPES, CLICK HERE
Paola Vanzo is the Director of Communications and Operations at Trace
Foundation in New York City, a private nonprofit organization dedicated
to promoting the cultural continuity and sustainable development of
Tibetan communities in China. Paola works closely with Jigme Gyaltsen,
a senior monk of Ragya monastery and founder of a private welfare
school for children of nomadic families. Its curriculum includes both
traditional and modern subjects and is the only school on the
Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau to incorporate the teaching and debating
methods used in Tibetan Buddhism for than a millennia as a tool to
study modern sciences. Trace Foundation and Jigme collaborated to
produce and market yak cheese, an animal the nomads have relied on for
centuries, to provide an income to sustain the school and benefit the
nomadic families of the area.
Wood Prairie Farm: How did Trace Foundation first meet Jigme Gyaltsen,
senior monk at the Ragya monastery in Golok Prefecture on the Tibetan
Paola Vanzo: Trace Foundation works in Tibetan areas in China on
different types of projects such as education, rural development, and
culture. Through a friend of a friend, we met Jigme Gyaltsen many years
ago when he started building a private school on the Tibetan plateau.
We began working with him because his private school was very
interesting since it was a Tibetan medium education. His intention was
to give free education through a Tibetan medium to nomad children. We
started collaborating with him first by financially supporting his
WPF: Does Jigme also come from a nomadic family? Was this his interest
in beginning a school for the children of nomadic families and did his
early education, if any, provide an impetus for this?
PV: Yes, Jigme comes from a family of nomads and actually some of the
cheesemakers are his relatives and some of the nomads that provide milk
to the cheese factory are related to him as well. He had all of his
education at the Ragya monastery, which is the monastery that the
private school and cheese factory belongs to. He was born with great
ideas and hope for the Tibetan people and he believes it is very
important for children to have the opportunity to go to school and to
learn different things.
WPF: It is fascinating that as a foundation, you go in and work with
the community and empower the people by teaching them skills to succeed
– in this case skills that allow them to retain their
of life. How did the Tibetan nomads accept you when you first went in?
PV: It was very nice and easy to work with the Tibetan nomads. They
understood the foundation’s work and they had heard about our
foundation from other sources as well. They knew that we were really
trying to protect the Tibetan culture and working toward sustainable
development. We would not do anything that would go against their
values or principles or any of their traditions. On the contrary, that
is what we are trying to maintain ourselves.
WPF: How are the nomads connected to the yaks as part of their daily
life and survival?
PV: The community that we work with is a fully nomadic community and
they really rely on the yaks for the sustenance of their daily lives.
For example, they eat yak meat, make yogurt and
“chura”, (Tibetan yak
cheese) from the yaks’ milk, use dried dung for fuel and also
yaks’ skin and hair to make tents, ropes and clothing. So it
a close connection – so much so that they call the yak the
the plateau because it is the most important animal for them.
WPF: You made mention in your presentation at a Terra Madre workshop
that yak’s milk is two times richer than cow’s milk
but has a lower
yield. Can you explain why that is? From this milk, how many cheeses is
the Ragya monastery now producing and marketing?
PV: The yak produces milk that is 7% fat and it is only produced during
a short period in the summer when the yaks are grazing on summer
pasture – mid-June to mid-September. Because of the grasses,
and medicinal herbs they forage on the milk is dense and rich and the
flavor becomes very strong. We are now producing one type of cheese at
the present time. We are focusing production on a hard cheese that can
be exported. Each year we also make different cheeses for testing like
mozzarella and soft cheeses but I think it will take awhile for them to
become good at that kind of production and also that kind of packaging
is a bit complicated.
WPF: How did Slow Food benefit your foundation’s work with
Tibetan Yak Cheese as a Presidia?
PV: Just the mere establishment of a Presidia has helped us a lot. We
can protect the product better and it has given the cheese a visibility
that haven’t had before. The chance to come to Terra Madre
Salone del Gusto is a great opportunity for the cheesemakers. The first
year we came in 2004, we also went around to different cheese factories
in Piedmonte and that was of great importance to the Tibetan
cheesemakers because they had never seen any other cheese factory in
their whole lives or even met another cheese producer. By talking to
the Italian cheesemakers and exchanging views they realized that
although the Italian cheese may be more mass produced there was also a
similar reality to their own cheese factory on the Tibetan plateau,
especially those cheesemakers they visited in very small villages in
the mountains of Italy. They were very curious to see that it was not
so different than what they were making themselves.
WPF: With sales of the yak cheese providing an income for the school so
that it can sustain itself, Jigme Gyaltsen has now been able to begin a
school for girls. What further projects do you hope to achieve in the
future between Trace Foundation and Jigme Gyaltsen?
PV: As far as the Slow Food Presidium, Trace Foundation and Jigme
Gyaltsen, together we will keep working with the school, maintaining
the cheese factory and trying to continue to increase production and
quality. We do not want to do mass production ourselves. The hope is
really to be able to reach the European market and to have a better
path into the U.S. market, which is limited at the moment. In 2006, we
also began providing training in milk hygiene and herd management to
families in the valleys adjoining the cheese factory. The nomadic
families now sell yak milk which has the added benefit of increasing
the productivity and value of the yak herds.
TO VIEW A LIBRARY OF PHOTOS AND VIDEO ON THE TIBETAN CHEESE PROJECT
PARTING WORDS: MAINE SPEAK - "Walk it to Her"
Usage: “Walk it to...” is used when something is
done with particular
concentration or force
Example. 1. Excessive use
Orman: "By the way that tractor's smoking you wanna walk the STP to 'er
so she makes it through Digging."
Example. 2. Persistance, concentration
Father to son: "Walk the ol' axe right to that pile of wood and you'll
have the firewood split in no time."
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(c) Jim and Megan Gerritsen, Wood Prairie Farm, 49 Kinney Road,
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
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