Wood Prairie Farm Seed Piece Newsletter
November 2006

 Special: FREE Frost Sweet Parsnips and Celebrating a World-Wide Movement
SPECIAL OFFER - This year's crop of parsnips are particularly delicious. To celebrate we are offering you a FREE 2 pound bag ($9.95 value) with your next order of $50 or more. Offer expires Wednesday, 11/22/06 and order must ship by Thursday, 12/7/06. Please use coupon code XXXXX.

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"Food has become the protagonist again," so stated Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini at the final session of Terra Madre, the international gathering of farmers, chefs and academics from 148 countries around the world. Oldest son Peter and Jim traveled to Turin as Maine delegates to the event and came away with a renewed sense of the importance of a sustainable community; of which farming is a major part. It was inspiring to be a part of the work being done by small producers all around the world - work that benefits farm families, the environment and, ultimately, the community at large. You can read more about Terra Madre in the 'Potato Bin' section of this newsletter and click on the link to view photos and read essays from this year's gathering.

We've come back refreshed and geared up for the holiday season. The new Wood Prairie Farm Holiday Catalog will be arriving in your mailboxes soon and we hope that you will use it to complete some of your gift-giving list. We've added new items such as organic herb, sweet pepper and sweet corn seed, King Harry Potatoes and organic feta cheese as well as keeping our co-producers' favorites like the Potato Sampler of the Month Club, and our wholesome, fresh ground Wood Prairie Farm grains. Let us know how we can help. We look forward to hearing from you. - Jim and Megan


  Striking Gold with Yukons
You probably know it by name and in an age where most potatoes are identified by their appearance like round whites, reds, and bakers, Yukon Gold is a near stand-alone. Developed in Canada and released in 1980, this yellow-fleshed potato is renowned for outstanding flavor, dry texture and an extra good storage keeper. Perfect as a baked potato, mashed or fried. Highlighted in this month’s Potato Sampler of the Month, Yukon Gold is the perfect accompaniment for that heritage bird gracing your Thanksgiving table.


  Q&A - The Rainy Year
Q: We’ve always enjoyed your Wood Prairie potatoes. Last week we ordered a bag of Yukon Golds and two potatoes had holes in the center. We were able to use those potatoes but I thought you’d like to know. - BA, Revere MA

A: Thanks for writing. The cavity is an internal defect in potatoes called “Hollow Heart” and it is attributable to the wet growing conditions common in the East this year. At harvest and for some months after the walls of this cavity are light brown, dry and odd but not unpleasant. As the storage season progresses some of the cells in the cavity lining will start to turn gray. That portion can simply be cut out and discarded. The balance of the potato can be used as normal with no lessening of the quality.

The bugaboo for potato farmers is that Hollow Heart is invisible from the outside so some defective potatoes will slip through the grading procedure. Of course, we stand behind our products and we’re always happy to replace whatever portion was unusable – just let us know.

My big picture view is that this whole natural foods arena is all about living and real food subject to the wonderful diversity, variance and foibles of nature. Having flexibility and understanding as the cornerstone of our food choices gives us the best of all worlds: a wide variety of delicious healthy seasonal foods produced in safe conditions which are in tune with nature. Contrast this with industrial goods produced with toxic chemical inputs applied to create at high environmental cost cosmetically perfect, superficially “blemish-free” goods lacking in flavor, nutrition and genuine value. In organic, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. - Jim


  The Potato Bin
The Cornucopia Institute has filed legal documents with the USDA requesting that they conduct an investigation on alleged incidents of Wal-Mart stores fraudulently selling non-organic goods as organic. In-store signage that misrepresented conventional product as organic was first observed by Cornucopia staff at Wal-Mart’s high end market test store in Plano TX, and later in other Wal-mart locations.

A mid-September letter from Cornucopia to Walmart CEO Lee Scott advised of the irregularities and requested immediate correction. But as recently as late October Cornucopia documented misrepresentation of organic product at other Wal-Mart stores in other states.

Earlier this year Wal-Mart make headlines with its plan to expand organic offerings and to lower prices for organic goods. But they have received stiff organic industry criticism for sourcing product from factory farms and low wage countries like China. Mark Kestral of Cornucopia said “At this point it seems they are attracted by the profits generated from the booming organic food sector but are not fully invested in organic integrity. Given their size, market power, and market clout, this is very troubling.” For more information go to https://cornucopia.org/

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It’s been a wild year for some of the world’s potato farmers. After Europe’s July heat wave many areas received excessive rains in August and early September. Over 75% of the European Union’s potato crop is produced in Belgium, France, Germany, Holland and the United Kingdom. Some areas of Belgium, for example, received over 10” of rain in August, and as a result 30% of their potato crop may be unusable. The overall effect is a European potato crop with off yields, low tuber solids content and both external and internal defects. The dramatic weather has potato folks recalling the European potato crop failure of 1976 when Maine and other states exported seed and process stock to Europe to shore up the short potato supply.

Meanwhile, excessive rains in eastern North America have caused major headaches for potato producers with varying quality, internal defects and abandoned acres. Wet harvest conditions have caused potato growers in New York, Maine, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to abandon many acres of potatoes.

Here on Wood Prairie Farm months of excessive rains have led to a good quality modest-sized crop with occasional tuber hollow heart, a cosmetic internal defect not visible during the grading process. Some varieties are short and we have put in place purchase limitations to spread out availability to as many of our customers as possible. One extraordinary example is our Butte russet. We are believed to be the only Certified Seed Butte producer in the United States and our short supply has led us to take the unprecedented step of pulling its availability as a tablestock variety for this year in order to provide maximum seed stocks for our home and market gardeners - thus assuring the broadest possible planting of this endangered variety.

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We have received word that Wood Prairie Farm will be awarded the Mailorder Gardening Assn’s 2007 Green Thumb Award for our new potato variety “King Harry.” King Harry is a new release from Cornell which naturally repels insects – no gene-splicing here! - because of the presence of glandular trichomes or hairs on the leaves. We have been test growing King Harry for four years and find it to be superior in terms of culinary quality, earliness and appearance to Prince Hairy which it replaces. We have King Harry available for immediate shipment and it will be featured in our March Potato Sampler of the Month.

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There is a place in the Oval of Terra Madre where smells, colors and forms meet, where parts of villages from Africa, Asia and the Caucus are recreated. It is called Agorà, an open central area where Terra Madre delegates can freely bring their own products to exhibit them on rugs or tables.

The Tammer Henna family community from Egypt is showcasing small bottles of oil, produced thanks to a sustainable development project centered on the conservation of natural resources through the planting of olive groves. From South America, an Argentine community exhibits girgolas mushrooms packed in sweet and sour syrup next to amaranth seeds, bottles of wine and small terra cotta statues alongside producers from Peru, Chile and Brazil.

This was a taste of the Slow Food Terra Madre gathering in Turin, Italy in October. To view photos and read more descriptions like this, go to https://www.terramadre2006.org/terramadre/welcome.html

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The new livestock label verifies humane treatment on family farms and is a way for famers to market their product by showing they take care of each individual animal’s comfort and well-being by displaying the “Animal Welfare Approved” label, sponsored by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) of Washington, D.C.

The label criteria include only independent family farms that include 100 percent of their production under the label, which requires a rich environment where animals can socialize naturally and have no fear or stress-induced inclination to harm each other. It prohibits debeaking for chickens and tail docking for hogs.

The first farms to earn the AWA seal were those that supply pork to Niman Ranch. Scientists, veterinarians and farmers were consulted during the drafting of the Animal Welfare Approved standards, and AWI and its agents inspect farms for compliance before awarding the seal, and on a continuing basis. Source: newfarm.org

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In another Biotech display of recklessness, unapproved genetically engineered (GE) grass has been found growing in the wild. Ecologists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the grass plants growing in central Oregon near the site of field tests taken years ago. The grass, called creeping bentgrass, is being developed by the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company and Monsanto for use on golf courses. One concern raised by critics of agricultural biotechnology is that genes that make crops resistant to herbicides or pests may escape and create "superweeds" that would be hard to eradicate. To read the full article, go to https://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/16/science/16grass.html?

        The Potato Bin

  Recipe: Fleutters
This Alsatian recipe was sent to us by a long-time Wood Prairie Farm customer from Tennessee. This is a favorite way for her family to enjoy left-over mashed potatoes. This recipe would be perfect using the Yukon Golds in this month's Potato Sampler.

Cook and mash 2 lbs. potatoes
Beat in 2 T flour
salt and pepper to taste
2T finely chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
2 large eggs

Beat ingredients together until smooth. Form into 10-12 balls and place in a well-buttered baking dish. Brush lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned.


Meet Carlos Venegas, director of the Center for Education and Technology (CET) in Chonchi, Chile and delegate to Slow Food's Terra Madre international gathering in Turin, Italy. CET implements sustainable projects with the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) program, Globally Important Ingenious Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS). GIAHS Chiloé aims to rescue and encourage the livelihood strategies of rural communities that preserve traditional knowledge and management systems which are typical of the chilotean culture. In order to achieve this objective, three rural areas have been selected as pilot sites to develop working plans with the communities in order to foster their social, economic and environmental sustainability, to promote their values, and to diffuse their traditional knowledge.

The Chilean province of Chiloé is actually made up of the Isla de Chiloé and many small islands with 150,000 inhabitants. The local ethnic groups and culture play an important role in day to day life. The strong farming communities on the islands grow vegetables, cereal grains, and, most importantly, potatoes. The use of traditional techniques and systems have, up to now, been supported and safeguarded.

Wood Prairie Farm: During your presentation at the “Roots and Tubers” workshop at Terra Madre, you mentioned that there were once 1,000 varieties of potatoes on the island of Chiloé.

Carlos Venegas: In ancient times, when the Spanish came, there were more than 1,000 varieties. Today, there are about 250 varieties grown in the communities. Thirty years ago, there were only 30 or 40 varieties grown and we’ve focused on recovery of additional varieties with assistance from CET’s own seed bank and the several other seed banks controlled by different communities.

WPF: In one of the photos of a potato plot shown during your workshop presentation, the potatoes were planted in individual hills with something growing between the hills and in the rows. Is this a cover crop of some kind?

CV: The individual hills is a traditional way of growing potatoes in Chiloé. The process is called “melgas”. Because the potato farmers are organic farmers, they are not worried about the grass that grows around the potato hills.

WPF: The theme of Terra Madre this year seems to be community and how a strong community is linked to sustainability. Based on your presentation, Chiloé seems to have that strong sense of community. Has the island always had that sense of being a sustainable community and can you talk a bit about why you think that is?

CV: It has always been like that in a way. The communities of Chiloé have always used the seaside, the land, plants, the forest, the whole environment to work with and use as a way of providing and strengthening the community. Now, however, we are seeing a growing industrialization, especially in the south of Chile, and many people in our communities are choosing to work, for example, in the large salmon industry. Chile is the second biggest producer of salmon in the world. With that global force, people are giving up the building up of their own communities to work for an unsustainable industry of fish farming. The Center feels that it is important to work to preserve sustainability and the idea of working with the environment as a whole and that’s why events like Terra Madre are so important. Along that same line, teaming up with GIAHS Chiloé recognizes that our traditional knowledge and management experiences could be an important contribution for the transmission and exchange of knowledge for other communities.

We have also begun working with the university to train students in local techniques. There used to be a separation between farmers and academics and now there is a collaboration.

WPF: During your speech, you stated, “Even in Chile, there are no GMO’s.” It sounds like the people of Chiloé are behind that statement but what about Chile’s minister of agriculture and Chile as a country?

CV: The Ministry of Agriculture plays a double position. They do not state that they are in favor of GMO’s but nor do they state that they are not in favor. Currently, in an area near Chiloé there is a project dealing with genetically modified potatoes. A movement is being built to stop this project in this area of Chiloé since it is the most important producer of potatoes. With this again, the Ministry of Agriculture plays the double position and has not really taken a stand against the proposed project. That is why, in order to preserve our native potato farming culture and traditional ways, we need the participation of community.

        Conversations With
PARTING WORDS: MAINE SPEAK - PARTING WORDS: Davenport: n., couch or sofa

Usage: "Davenport" is a term used generally by older people who grew up with a "parlor" that was used only on special occasions or when visitors came by. The following examples convey Maine traditional values

Example 1. Contempt of sloth.
Great Aunt: "Here he is 26 years old and all he does is lay on the davenport all day."

Example 2. Contempt of avarice.
Great Aunt #2: "You should see their place down there on the lake. They've got a davenport with a table that folds out of the middle so that you can play games on it." (shakes head in disbelief)

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(c) Jim and Megan Gerritsen, Wood Prairie Farm, 49 Kinney Road, Bridgewater, Maine 04735

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