Wood Prairie Farm Seed Piece Newsletter
November 2007


This has been a whirlwind year at Wood Prairie Farm. While many areas of the country suffered from severe drought and catastropic rains the growing season in northern Maine was excellent. Our Fall has gone very well, topped off by a month of warm dry weather, perfect for Harvest and Fall projects. The long Fall allowed Peter and Jim extended opportunity to mechanically pick rocks from the fields ( a record 122 loads @ 2.5 cubic yards from 11 acres ). The rocks then became the foundation for a new cow barm which we are only just now buttoning up for winter. We've had snow and cold weather for the past ten days, so it's high time.

The fall months are all about potatoes in our part of Maine but in central Maine much is centered around the apple harvest. This month's 'Conversations with ...' interview is with John Bunker, former president of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, founder of the Maine Pomological Society and all-around heirloom apple guru.

With Harvest behind us and the holidays approaching, our work turns inside. We look forward to sending out this year's bounty to you our co-producers and hope that you will share in the bounty of this 2007 Harvest by sharing our organic goods with friends and family. - Jim & Megan


November Potato of the Month--Red Cloud   Originally developed in 1977 by researchers at the University of Nebraska, Red Cloud was named after the Oglala Sioux Chief and was officially released in 1992 after extensive testing. Red Cloud is a handsome round tuber with deep, dark red skin and white flesh. It has the driest texture of any red potato with excellent taste and great storage ability.


Q. and A. "What do you mean by curing the potatoes after harvest?"We kill the vines about 3 weeks before we dig the potatoes that we are going to store through the winter. That allows the skins to "set" (thicken) so there is less damage to the tubers during the harvesting process. We don't let the potatoes sit out in the sun any longer than necessary after we dig - only about 0 to 2 hours; we get them right into wooden boxes and into the storage. Then Jim warms the storage to 50 or 60 degrees for 2 weeks. This helps the wounds heal - "suberization." Then he cools it to 38 for the rest of the winter and keeps the humidity way up.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is urging the international community to adopt a plan of action against the alarming rate of livestock breed extinctions. Alexander Muller, FAO assistant director-general, addressed attendees at the Animal Genetic Resource conference in Switzerland in Sept. and stressed that, "Climate change and the emergence of new and virulent livestock diseases highlight the importance of retaining the capacity to adapt our agricultural production systems." Farm animal diversity provides unique characteristics that may be useful in resistance to disease or adaptation to climatic extremes. Mr. Muller also pointed out the danger of within-breed genetic diversity by the use of a few highly popular sires for breeding.

According to FAO's State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources report, at least one livestock breed each month has become extinct over the past seven years with 20% of the world's breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry currently at risk of extinction. Source: Heritage Foods, www.heritagefoodsusa.com
To learn more about heritage breeds in the USA, go to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy website at www.albc-usa.org.

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Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini made the words "Good, Clean and Fair" a focal point of the 2006 Terra Madre conference in Italy. "Good" is the quality that comes with taste, "Clean" means producing and consuming food in a sustainable manner and in a way that respects animals, the environment and biodiversity, and "Fair" is the guarantee that production and commercialization should dignify the livelihoods of those who do the work, respecting cultures, regions and ensuring a fair price.

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Attendees at the first International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) International Conference on the Marketing of Organic and Regional Values held in Germany, unanimously issued the Schwaebisch Hall Declaration, which concludes that as rural communities are threatened by corporate monopolies and genetic engineering, regional development must be strengthened by all means. Below are a few of the Declaration's pronouncements:

Organic farming has to be developed as the social and economical perspectives for prosperity in rural areas;

Viable rural development has to be based on diversity and not monoculture, be it in agricultural or economic systems;

Local and regional values stemming from local and diverse cultures like traditional food, local knowledge, biodiversity can add value to specific products or product groups especially in a globalized world;

We are what we eat. Through our food we express our connection to our localities;

To read the declaration in full, go to https://ifoam.org/ and click on the news link.

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The Maine potato industry could become a leading producer of bio-based plastics made from potatoes according to a report by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. The report shows there are enough waste potatoes left over from every harvest to supply the potatoes needed by such companies as Interface, a manufacturer of fabrics for commercial interiors which has three plants in Maine. The company already uses products made of corn starch and are interested in using resources located closer to home.

Bioplastic products are better for the environment, decomposing in only a few weeks in an industrial compost setting. Benefits to local farmers include increased profits, added jobs and a more environmentally friendly system of production, reducing the use of fossil fuels. Source: Portland Press Herald, June 6, 2007


Ginger Carrot Flan. This recipe was passed on to us at a recent Slow Food gathering. We tried it and loved it not only for the taste, but for the easy preparation. This flan is an elegant yet simple way to add something new to your holiday table.

1 pound Chantenay carrots peeled, sliced and steamed al dente
1 small onion chopped
1 T fresh grated ginger (or one tsp ginger powder)
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch each of nutmeg, cloves and salt
1 c heavy cream
3 eggs

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. Pour liguid into baking dish. Place filled baking dish in a larger dish and fill the larger dish with water until water comes about halfway up side.

Bake for one hour until firm. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6 - 8


  Conversations With...John Bunker
John Bunker moved to Maine in 1968 and has lived in Palermo on Super Chilly Farm for the past 35 years. His passion is tracking down heirloom fruit varieties. From September to November he is usually off ‘fruit exploring’ throughout the state, searching old farms and abandoned orchards. When not exploring, he works for Fedco, the co-op seed and nursery company in Clinton where he coordinates nursery sales. John established the Maine Heirloom Apple Orchard at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association's (MOFGA) Common Ground in Unity. The orchard houses the only collection of apple varieties originating in Maine. He currently serves on the MOFGA board of directors.

Wood Prairie Farm: Last year, you attended the Slow Food Terra Madre meeting in Turin, Italy as a member of the delegation from Maine. Now that you've had some time to ruminate about your experiences, what are your thoughts about the Slow Food movement and its potential for reconnecting food and the people who produce it and enjoy it?

John Bunker: The Terre Madre Slow Food conference was inspiring. The opening ceremony was reminiscent of the Olympics. Delegates with flags of each country proceeded in with bands blaring. People stood and cheered. It was a bit silly, but also rather moving. It was a "UN" of local culture. It was nice to see people concerning themselves with something other than killing each other. The president of Italy spoke as well as countless other dignitaries, all championing local food. It was actually almost surreal. Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, was the best of all. If Slow Food has a reputation of being for rich foodies, it’s not because of him. He spoke powerfully about food justice, local economies and local community. I was very impressed.

Of course the largest number of delegates came from the US and the most of them from California. Most other states were represented and I had some interesting talks with people from all over the country. It was such a treat to be able to talk to anyone and have the focus be agriculture.

In retrospect I am very impressed with Slow Food and with Terre Madre. I see the value of the organization as largely two-fold: first as an organizational tool; second as a source of inspiration. The work that needs to be done to connect food with consumers and producers must be done on a local level. Some would say it can only be done on a local level. It is too big for any one group to do. It requires thousands of little local efforts. It was reassuring and inspirational to attend Terra Madre and to see that all around the world groups are doing the local work in their own communities that we are doing here in Maine. We are part of a world wide movement. As an organizational tool, Terra Madre and Slow Food provide a valuable way to communicate with other groups around the world. While we work locally, we can learn from one another world wide through ongoing communication and by attending local, regional and global meetings.

WPF: You've completed your 2 year term serving as the president of MOFGA. From your perspective, what are the big issues facing agriculture and beyond?

JB: As we approach the new year we find ourselves living in a world in deep, severe and some would say irreversible crisis. We did not create this mess, nor did we ask for it. We certainly do not deserve it. It has been in the making for many years. It is ours only in that we inherited that which others created. Perhaps they were reckless; perhaps malicious; perhaps ignorant. Most likely they were simply doing the best they could do. In any event, we have no choice other than to accept the present as it is.

We would like the powerful international business community to act responsibly on behalf of humanity and the earth itself. But they have not, they are not, and most likely they will not. We would like state and federal government to act responsibly on behalf of humanity and the earth itself. Sadly, they have not done so, they are not doing so, and most likely they will not do so in the future.

But while the past is set, the future is not. The future does not yet exist. It is up for grabs. We will determine the future by our behavior today. Call it our responsibility, our opportunity, our privilege, or perhaps our curse. None the less, we are faced with this prospect.

As we take up this task, we need not accept a vision of the future with which we do not agree. We can create a different kind of vision of the future than others offer. We can create that vision, articulate that vision and implement that vision. Some might like us to give up. It would be convenient if all of us would simply capitulate, and allow others to determine what is yet to be.

I have heard MOFGA minimized by others as a niche organization. If government had been doing its job, if businesses had been acting responsibly, perhaps MOFGA would be a niche organization and joyfully so. I have heard us minimized as being naïve. Is it naïve to want our grandchildren to have clean soil, air and water? Is it naïve to want our grandchildren to have access to clean healthy food? Is it naïve to want our grandchildren to live in an inhabitable world? I think not.

Rather, I say it is naïve to think that we can endlessly poison our land, water and air and never have to pay the price. It is naïve to think that agriculture utterly dependent on non-renewable energy is sustainable. It is naïve to think that driving cars and building more and more and more roads is sustainable. It is naïve to act as though the oil will not run out. It is naïve to think that economic growth is sustainable. It is naïve to think we can protect our plant world from being poisoned by GMO’s.

I have also heard others say that it is not right to ask people to sacrifice our way of life for the good of the earth. But have we not already done so? I would say that we have sacrificed our air, our water, our soil, our health, our communities and perhaps even our future.

And I hear this question, “Who is going to pay to create this sustainable future? We can’t afford it. We need jobs.” To that I ask, who will pay to feed us when the oil runs out and we can no longer truck our sustenance from Chile and China and South Africa? Who will provide Vacationland’s jobs when it is no longer “Camden by the sea”, but rather “Camden in the sea”?

We can not afford not to act now. We can not afford not to deal with climate change now. We can not afford not to deal with loss of farmland and lack of food security now. As the MOFGA mission statement says, we must “protect the environment, recycle natural resources, increase local food production, support rural communities, and illuminate for consumers the connection between healthful food and environmentally sound farming practices.”

WPF: What are some of your ideas for Maine?

JB: 1. Let us create a Maine where all young children have the opportunity to plunge their hands into the soil, get dirty, learn how to grow vegetables and know where their food comes from.

2. Where our children drink milk from Maine cows, bottled in Maine dairies.

3. Where all our bread is made with Aroostook grain.

4. Where our meat is raised and slaughtered here in our state.

5. Where Maine canneries pack the products of a thousand small Maine producers.

6. Where young aspiring farmers can find the affordable land they need to grow food for Mainers.

7. Where all the hospitals, colleges and schools serve Maine food in their cafeterias. Where all Mainers have access to fresh, healthy food.

8. Where our crops are not threatened by GMO’s.

9. Where farmers can raise livestock without I.D. tags.

10. Where the food scraps in every Maine town are returned to the soil to feed Maine people again and again and again.

11. Where Mainers can see for themselves all the contents of the food in the grocery store by reading the label on the box or can.

12. Where farming becomes the most noble of professions and where farmers are among the highest paid workers, not among the lowest.

13. Where our food system is truly secure because it is, as we say, "made in Maine."

14. Where our food system is truly sustainable.

15. Where all Mainers can travel inexpensively from Aroostook to Kittery by real public transportation.

There now exists a world wide movement of local groups –like MOFGA- each in its own way, acting to create a different kind of future. A future based on fairness, justice, respect, kindness and sustainability. A future based on collaboration and cooperation.
This is a different kind of globalism: one where humans think together and communicate with one another on a global scale, while they act locally to create local sustainable communities, local sustainable economies and local sustainable food systems. MOFGA has been a leader in this movement for the past 35 years. Or, more accurately I should say that MOFGA has been creating this movement for the past 35 years and now finds itself among the leaders worldwide.

It is up to us to create, articulate and implement this vision of the future for Maine. The work we do will lead us towards a truly just, sustainable world. What we do well here in our state will effect the future of all Mainers for generations to come. We do not need to fix it for others around the world. Our work is here in Maine. What we do here will be noticed around the country and around the world by others. It will serve as a model for others as they seek to create their own future. It will also be noticed by the state and the federal government. It may even inspire their own courage to assist us in creating an inhabitable, prosperous, sustainable earth for future generations.

WPF: You've been working the land for a very long time. With the benefit of hindsight, what 3 things would you do differently now than when you started in 35 years ago?

JB: Spent more time with my next door neighbors. Found the oldest farmers in town and asked them to teach me everything they knew. Joined the Grange.

WPF: I know fruit trees and apples are a consuming interest for you. As Maine's modern day Johnny Appleseed, what is your vision of the place of extra-ordinary fruit varieties?

JB: Every locale in Maine has its own unique combination of community, personalities, soil and climate. As we work towards re-establishing local community, local economy and local agriculture, each area of Maine has the opportunity to cultivate its own mix of agricultural products – fruit, vegetables, dairy and livestock. I look forward to traveling around the state and being constantly surprised and delighted by what I find in the orchards, farm stands, restaurants and kitchens of Maine!

For more information on MOFGA, click here