Prairie Farm Seed Piece Newsletter
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
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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
CLICK HERE TO GO TO WOOD PRAIRIE FARM'S HOME PAGE
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
the Month, Yukon Gold is the perfect accompaniment for that heritage
bird gracing your Thanksgiving table.
CLICK HERE TO READ INFORMATION ON WOOD PRAIRIE'S OTHER SEED VARIETIES
Q&A - The Rainy Year
Q: We’ve always enjoyed your Wood Prairie potatoes. Last week
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
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
happy to replace whatever portion was unusable – just let us
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
goods lacking in flavor, nutrition and genuine value. In organic,
beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. - Jim
FOR MORE SEED RELATED QUESTIONS, CLICK HERE
*WAL-MART ACCUSED OF SELLING NONORGANIC FOOD AS ORGANIC
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
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
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
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*FARMERS ON THE FRONTLINES OF GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
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
and early September. Over 75% of the European Union’s potato
produced in Belgium, France, Germany, Holland and the United Kingdom.
Some areas of Belgium, for example, received over 10” of rain
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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*KING HARRY WINS MGA’S GREEN THUMB AWARD
We have received word that Wood Prairie Farm will be awarded the
Mailorder Gardening Assn’s 2007 Green Thumb Award for our new
variety “King Harry.” King Harry is a new release
from Cornell which
naturally repels insects – no gene-splicing here! - because
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.
* * * * *
*6,500 FARMERS, CHEFS AND ACADEMICS GATHER AT TERRA MADRE
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
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
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*NEW ANIMAL WELFARE APPROVED LABELING PROGRAM
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
“Animal Welfare Approved” label, sponsored by the
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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*MONSANTO GRASS DISCOVERED IN THE WILD
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 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/16/science/16grass.html?
CLICK HERE FOR THE WOOD PRAIRIE FARM WEBSITE
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.
FOR MORE RECIPES, CLICK HERE
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
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
The Chilean province of Chiloé is actually made up of the
de Chiloé and many small islands with 150,000 inhabitants.
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
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
with assistance from CET’s own seed bank and the several
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.
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
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
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
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
are not in favor. Currently, in an area near Chiloé there is
project dealing with genetically modified potatoes. A movement is being
built to stop this project in this area of Chiloé since it
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.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE GIAHS PROGRAM, CLICK HERE
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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