Prairie Farm Seed Piece Newsletter
FREE Seed Potatoes and Headed to the Fields
SPECIAL OFFER - Two FREE 1 lb. bags of Wood Prairie Farm Organic Seed
Potatoes (one each of the Butte Russett and the tasty Red Cloud -
$13.95 value) when you place an order of $35 or more by Wednesday, May
24. Order must ship by May 26. We still have seed potatoes available
and this is a great chance to fill in some empty corners in your
garden. Please refer to Code XXXXX.
* * * * *
Driving the roads like the local road runner (see 'Maine Speak' at the
end of this newsletter for our northern Maine version of a road runner)
finds oneself slowing down behind a tractor hauling a potato planter or
grain drill to sow the oats, wheat and barley grown up here. The
equipment that has been brought out in the dooryards to 'get ready' is
now headed to the fields.
Here at Wood Prairie Farm between the rains we've begun the springtime
farming rituals also. The grain is planted in the fields, the cows are
out on pasture, and the all-important planting of our 16 varieties of
organic potatoes has begun. We pause during the slow progess in
planting a row to admire the various greens of the many trees and
bushes that provide the backdrop against which we work and feel
thankful to be outside again after the long winter.
We hope that you experience that same springtime awakening and have
your own traditions in celebrating this wonderful season. Read this
month's 'Potato Bin' to learn how as a co-producer - "farmer-partner"
you are important in sustaining organic and family-scale farms. During
the coming summer months we'll keep you updated on life here at the
farm and as always share Wood Prairie Specials, Recipes, and farm
Interviews with you. - Jim and Megan
CLICK HERE TO GO TO WOOD PRAIRIE FARM'S HOME PAGE
- Potato Yields
Q: What kind of a yield can I expect from my potatoes? KC, Raleigh, NC
A: There can be great variation in the yields of potatoes based on
three big factors:
1) The fertility of the soil
2) The steady availability of moisture
3) The success in keeping insect and disease pests at bay
Assuming you’re starting with good certified seed, are
planting in good
fertile soil, are doing a good job in supplying moisture including
irrigation if it turns dry, and are doing a good job keeping disease
and insects away you can plan on getting an increase of 7 - 10x. In
other words, for every pound of seed you plant you would expect to get
back 7 – 10 pounds at harvest. If you have a green thumb and
conditions are excellent you may get a 12 - 15x increase. Some of our
customers have reported to us yields of 20 - 30x and more, even 50x in
the case of fingerlings. These are blue ribbon yields from skilled
gardeners and farmers. - Jim
FOR MORE SEED RELATED QUESTIONS, CLICK HERE
The Potato Bin
*NATIONAL ID SYSTEM UPDATE
The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) "National Animal
Identification System Implementation Plan"
(http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/index.shtml) calls for an
aggressive effort to register all premises that have livestock. The
push for a mandatory identification system is moving faster and there
are grassroot efforts to organize opposition to the proposed mandatory
system. For more information on this far-reaching and controversial
issue, check out www.stopanimalid.org and www.noNAIS.org.
* * * * *
*POTATO CYST NEMATODE FOUND IN IDAHO
Two Potato Cyst Nematodes were found in a tare dirt sample during a
routine testing program in Idaho. While posing no health risks, the
nematode pest can reduce potato yields by up to 80% and there are
currently no commercial potato varieties resistant. Until the discovery
of the pest in February, the only place in North America where the
Potato Cyst Nematode was known to exist was Newfoundland. The two Idaho
fields where the tare dirt sample were taken have been quarantined and
are undergoing extensive testing. The Idaho State Department of
Agriculture is also working on tracing the origin of the seed used in
the two suspect fields. Source: North American Potato Market News,
* * * * *
*COMMUNITY SUPPORTED COWS
You've heard of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for fruits and
vegetables. Now, in many states where the sale of raw milk is legal,
consumers are buying shares of dairy cows and contracting with the
farmers to milk and care for them. The shareholders receive fresh, raw
milk and dairy products and help small family farms stay in business.
Find a local dairy and learn if your state permits raw milk sales from
"A Campaign for Real Milk", 202-363-4394. Source: ATTRA News, May-June
* * * * *
*GENETICALLY MODIFIED COTTON KILLS SHEEP IN INDIA
In the Andhra Pradeshregion of India, civil society organizations
conducted investigations after nearly 1,820 sheep died after grazing on
post-harvest Bt cotton crops. The deaths came after the sheep had been
grazing the Bt cotton fields for 5-7 days. Interviews with farmers in
different villages throughout the region found that they all had
identical grazing histories, symptoms and death of their herds. The
deaths of the sheep also reaffirm the findings of an earlier
investigation into illnesses in farm workers handling genetically
modified cotton crops in another part of India. To read the article in
full, go to The Institute of Science in Society's website,
CLICK HERE FOR THE WOOD PRAIRIE FARM WEBSITE
Grilled Pizza with Potato and Rosemary
Memorial Day weekend will soon be here. Get the grill out for this easy
and great pizza recipe. For added zest, sprinkle Parmesan to mild fresh
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
6 T warm (110 F) water
6 T milk
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T fine cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 T rye flour
1 3/4 c unbleached white flour
1 to 3 T additional flour for rolling the dough
Dissolve yeast in the warm water and set aside in a warm place for 3 to
4 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the milk, oil, and cornmeal in a 1 qt.
bowl. Add the yeast mixture, then the salt and rye flour; mix well.
Gradually add the white flour, making a soft, workable dough. Turn out
onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes,
sprinkling in a little flour as necessary to keep the dough from
sticking to the surface. Put the dough into an oiled bowl and turn it
once so the surface is coated with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen
towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until it
has doubled in bulk, about 35 to 40 minutes.
To shape the pizza, first form the dough into 1 round ball or 2 equal
size smaller balls. Roll out on a floured surface, turning it regularly
to keep a round shape. It should be about 1/8 inch thick, slightly
thicker at the edges.
Chill dough until firm, about 2 to 4 hours or overnight.
2 lb red potatoes
3 T olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp table salt
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp black pepper
8 oz fresh mozzarella, grated (2 cups)
Garnish: fresh rosemary leaves and coarse sea salt
Make potato topping while dough is chilling: Preheat oven to
Thinly slice potatoes (1/8 inch thick) using a mandoline or other
manual slicer, then toss with oil, garlic, salt, rosemary, and pepper
in a large bowl until lightly coated.
Spread potatoes in 1 layer on 2 lightly oiled baking sheets. Bake in
upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway
through baking, until tender, about 15 minutes total. Cool potatoes on
sheets on racks.
Grill pizza: Prepare grill for cooking.
Remove plastic from dough (if grill is not large, work with
individual-sized pizzas) and form into rounds. Lightly brush both sides
of dough with olive oil. When the fire is medium-hot (you can hold your
hand 5 inches above rack 3 to 4 seconds), carefully transfer dough,
trying not to stretch it, oiled side down, with your hands to grill
Grill oiled rounds until undersides are browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip
over with tongs, then, working quickly, sprinkle each crust with 1/3
cup mozzarella and cover with potato slices, overlapping them and
leaving a 1/4-inch border around edge.
Grill, covered, until undersides are golden and cheese is melted, about
Sources: Pizza Crust: Fields of Greens Cookbook
Potato Topping: Epicurious.com
FOR MORE RECIPES, CLICK HERE
Editorial at Ten Years Later: Organic at Risk
In lieu of an Interview this month we thought we would step back and
reprint from our archives an Editorial from a decade ago in our Wood
Prairie Seed Piece newsletter. The editorial covereded a watershed
forum in the history of biotechnology and agriculture. While bruised at
the forum when its concepts did not hold up well to the light of
scientific scrutiny, the big money behind biotech has nonetheless
pushed its agenda forward in the last decade.
Ten years later the good news in potato country is that the legitimate
use of non-transgenic Bt on potatoes was saved. Perception of consumer
unease eating gene-spliced Bt-potatoes surfaced and forced Monsanto to
voluntarily withdraw their gene-spliced "New Leaf" potatoes from the
market before they had enough time to create Bt resistance.
WOOD PRAIRIE EDITORIAL - ORGANIC AT RISK: TRANSGENIC-INDUCED Bt
by: Jim Gerritsen
"Bacillus thuringiensis", commonly known as Bt, is a biological insect
control. Bt bacteria produce toxic proteins (endotoxins) which when
ingested attack the digestive system of insect larva causing death
within a few days. Bt occurs in nature and its non-transgenic
application in agriculture is a great success. Different species of Bt
control different insects. Bt subsp. tenebrionsis kills Colorado Potato
In April 1996 I traveled to Bethesda, MD as an invited guest to the
USDA "National Forum on Insect Resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis
(Bt)". In an unprecendented move the USDA sought the participation of
stakeholders from the environmental and organic communities. My
background is as an organic seed potato farmer and user of Bt. These
observations relate primarily to the Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB) and
Nature Mark / Monsanto, the developer of the transgenic Bt/Potato
though transgenic corn and cotton were also covered. Transgenics is the
transference of genetic material from one life form to another, (i.e.
gene splicing). Monsanto has gene-spliced the Bt bacteria to potatoes.
1) At the National Forum there was consensus that the transgenic use of
Bt will result in resistance by the targeted insect. Despite the
posturing of the Biotech industry it is not a question of whether, it
is a question of when.
2) The linch pin of resistance management strategy is that of
"refugia", or refuges geographically adjacent to transgenic fields
where populations of targeted insects unexposed to Bt can theoretically
multiply and interbreed with Bt-resistant survivors migrating out of
the transgenic plots thereby diluting the level of resistance in their
offspring. At best, the refugia concept is seriously flawed and at
worst it is intellectually dishonest. For example CPB have only
moderate mobility and it's unknown just how close refugia should be to
transgenic plots (adjacent fields or alternating sections of rows
within a field?). Additionally, it is common for CPBs to mate in the
field before out-migration. So much for crossbreeding with CPBs from
refugia. Finally and incredibly enough, Monsanto is instructing its
transgenic growers to "control" (spray insecticide) CPBs in the
refugia. So much for managing a population to dilute Bt resistant CPB.
3) Organic farmers and gardeners who conscientiously use Bt in a true
IPM (Integrated Pest Management: The practice of monitoring pest levels
and responding to economic threats with varied preventative and control
techniques) program have earned the moral right to use Bt. On Wood
Prairie Farm we have controlled CPB for the past eight years through
the integrated use of foliar sprayed Bt along with cultural practices
such as crop rotation, trench-traps and flame control. In 1996 for
example we relied upon geographical rotation and flame control and
avoided Bt in a strategy designed to extend its useful life. Under such
responsible use we would expect Bt to maintain effectiveness for the
On the other hand Bt resistance brought about by Monsanto's transgenic
potatoes will ruin and render Bt useless for anyone else. Given the
likelihood of resistance one can only conclude that Monsanto has a
short term cut-and-run approach: recapture R&D costs, take a
profit and let Bt crash and burn.
4) Many speakers including high level federal officials referred to the
naturally occuring Bt as a "Public Good" or a national treasure akin to
fresh air and clean water which belongs to all people: farmers,
gardeners, and consumers alike, not just to one chemical company which
bought the use rights from another chemical company. A logical
extension would be that if a corporation ruins a "Public Good" in the
pursuit of profit they should be held accountable to the "owners" of
that public good.
5) EPA and FDA must be under incredible pressure from the gene-splicing
industry to rush through approval of these transgenic products. This
alone can explain the irrationality and seat-of-the-pants behavior
coming from those agencies. There is clearly insufficient data
available for the EPA to have given its hasty registration approval of
transgenic potatoes. In true cart-before-the-horse fashion, industry,
researchers, and government view 1996, the first year of wide spread
commercialization with child-like giddiness as a colossal large-scale
(10,000 acre) "experiment".
Given the likelihood of the development of Bt-resistance by
transgenics, EPA should review all transgenic registrations annually
and have a back-out plan in place which includes immediate revocation
of transgenic registration at the first hint of resistance.
6) The failure of FDA to require labeling of transgenic potatoes at the
retail level was a stunning dereliction of duty. Gene-spliced potatoes
are no longer potatoes: they are almost potatoes, genetically altered
tubers which at the cellular level contain the Bt toxin. Given
corporate behavior and logic it is predictable, albeit incorrect, for
Monsanto to argue that its pesticide-laced product does not merit
differentiation from other potatoes. For the FDA to concur was
paternalistic and ill-advised.
In a free society we cast our vote daily by where we spend our dollars.
Not requiring labeling restricts the flow of information and disables
this citizen responsibility. This is unacceptable. The FDA action needs
to be reversed.
7) To those opposed to transgenics there are glimmers of hope. Monsanto
is experiencing numerous quality problems with its potatoes. Farmers
are not yet convinced that they can't live without Monsanto's product.
There is corporate and consumer unease with the concept of
Monsanto is spending countless millions in development and promotion
and clearing the regulatory logjams. While Monsanto pockets may run
very deep, the patience of corporate chiefs and stockholders, hungry
for recapture of those millions invested, may be wearing thin. And who
among them wouldn't be jittery at the growing list of Biotech blunders
coming to light including (1) Monsanto's transgenic Bt cotton which in
fields from Texas to Georgia failed to control cotton bollworms, a
targeted insect. (2) Monsanto's recombinant bovine growth hormone
(rBGH) for dairy cattle that is finding shrinking market acceptance,
(3) Calgene's tasteless "Flavr Savr" tomato and (4) Pioneer's ill-fated
soybean spliced with a gene from the Brazil nut that carries with it
the quality that causes a sometimes fatal allergic reaction. There is a
loud and widespread consumer opposition in Europe to the import of
unlabeled American genetically engineered products.
8) The destruction of Bt by transgenics is a clear, defining issue for
the organic community and for society at large. Our seed potato company
has joined "Organic Gardening" magazine's call to neither grow nor sell
transgenic potatoes and we encourage other companies to do likewise.
Purchasing the products of certified organic producers who are
appropriately prohibited from using genetically-engineered technology
assures you freedom from gene-spliced food that is now in the American
WORDS: MAINE SPEAK - Road Runner
Road Runner: One who runs the roads or drives around aimlessly because
they clearly have way too much time on their hands
Usage: "Get that planter off the road, here comes another road runner."
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(c) Jim and Megan Gerritsen, Wood Prairie Farm, 49 Kinney Road,
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
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