Wood Prairie Farm Seed Piece Newsletter
January 2007

 Special: FREE COOKBOOK! and New Year Wishes
SPECIAL OFFER – Curl up by the fire and expand your Kitchen library and cookery knowledge by getting a FREE copy of the wonderful cookbook “The Roasted Vegetable” by Andrea Chesman ($14.95 value) with your next purchase of $50 or more. Roasting is a delicious and newly rediscovered 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 happy.

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

        winter is here

You 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 them in.

        Island Sunshine

  Q & 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 – unusually wet. The potatoes are not rotting, they are just small – no scars or bumps, 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. Potatoes 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 itself.

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


  The Potato Bin

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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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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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 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 https://slowfoodusa.org/change/take_action.html

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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 ingredients, and 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 https://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations%5F%26%5Fpolicies/

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Here's an opportunity worth considering. The Heart of Maine RC&D 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 https://www.heartofmaine.org/soil-quality.shtml.

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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

        The Potato Bin

Recipe:  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 finely chopped
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 aside.

4. Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly oil and flour a 14'' round pizza 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.


  Conversations With...Paola Vanzo
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 Plateau?

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 school.

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 centuries-old way 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 use the yaks’ skin and hair to make tents, ropes and clothing. So it is really a close connection – so much so that they call the yak the treasure of 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, flowers 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 establishing 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 and the 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.

        Conversations With

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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