Wood Prairie Farm                            In This Issue of The Seed Piece: 
 Seed Piece Newsletter              Betting the Farm
      Organic News and Commentary
                           Join Wood Prairie in NYC
          Friday October 12, 2012                                         Biotech Disinformation Ad Blitz Steals CA Prop 37 Support.
                                                                                                         Recipe: Zucchini and Potato Gratin
                                                                                                         Special Offer: FREE Hull-less Oat Seed
                                                                                                         Mailbox: Harvest Battles Rocks Rocks and Truth
        Maine Premiers 'Betting the Farm' Film
       Vaughn Chase. Aroostook County, Maine organic dairy farmer..

Richard Lary. Washington County, Maine organic dairy farmer.
Betting the Farm, First in Maine, Then to Nation.

Betting the Farm is an incredibly powerful and beautifully photographed documentary film by talented Maine filmmakers Cecily Pingree (daughter of US Congresswoman Chellie Pingree) & Jason Mann, which follows three courageous and dedicated farm families in northern and eastern Maine as they risk everything to launch their new milk company-Maine's Own Organic Milk.

  This week Cecily and three of the Aroostook County dairy farmers hosted a premier screening at the local Braden Theater in Presque Isle which we attended. It was standing room only.  The film has been winning notable awards and is now being shown at theaters across Maine. What follows is the film’s storyline and a listing of future scheduled screenings in the State of Maine.  This is a moving film about family farmers in an epic struggle. Here’s the trailer (3:06). Don’t miss it!  Beginning in early 2013 Betting the Farm will be available for viewing on NetFlix.

MOO Milk is available through Maine and northern Massachusetts. Please support local organic family farmers and where you are able please buy MOO Milk.

Jim & Megan

In 2009, organic dairy farmers Vaughn Chase, Richard Lary, and Aaron Bell receive identically worded letters from H. P. Hood, the national conglomerate that purchases their milk: Their contracts will not be renewed. Suddenly, with no other company willing to send a truck to northern and eastern Maine to buy their milk, their farms—and their livelihoods—are in jeopardy.

Along with six other farmers in the same predicament, they seize on a crazy idea. They hire a retired businessman as their CEO, and, with no experience and virtually no capital, they start their own milk company: Maine’s Own Organic Milk, or MOO Milk.

MOO Milk is unlike other milk companies in one important way: it is a low-profit limited liability corporation, or L3C. Written into the operating agreement of the company is a guarantee that MOO Milk will pay 90% of all profits back to its farmers. Several states have passed legislation allowing for this new business structure, which can accept both traditional equity and foundation grants if the company fulfills a “social mission.”

In MOO Milk’s case, the mission is the preservation of small dairy farms in rural Maine. The company bases its contract price on the actual cost of production for these farms, not on the lower prices paid by its industrial competition. It’s a model that prioritizes the financial well being of small farmers over the profit margin of the company itself, and one that many believe could help small farmers and local food producers throughout the country compete with industrial agriculture. (It’s also an idea that draws the ire of nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh.) But will it work?

Problems arise immediately: the launch of the milk is delayed by difficulties with the machine that fills the cartons. When MOO Milk arrives on supermarket shelves in Maine, consumers begin to complain that the cartons leak. Hiccups in the distribution of the milk mean that shelves are frequently empty, even as crates of milk are going to waste in the warehouse. Thousands of gallons of milk are being sold to a conventional dairy at a loss every week, due to lack of demand. Meanwhile, the company is hemorrhaging cash. They’re simply not selling enough milk.

Within a few months, MOO Milk has fallen behind on payments to its farmers. And because dairy farming requires huge amounts of weekly cash flow for diesel, grain, and labor, several of the farmers are plunged into severe financial distress. The company, created to save the farmers, could leave them worse off than when they were dropped by Hood.

Aaron Bell and his wife, Carly, are raising three young kids on their farm, and they’ve just learned that a fourth is on the way. Perched on the rocky coast of Whiting Bay, Tide Mill Farm is a gorgeous swath of forest and pasture that has been in the family since 1765. On the surface, it is idyllic.

But Aaron’s perpetual optimism is giving way to a strained silence. After months of late or missed payments from MOO Milk, the Bells are fielding phone calls from bill collectors. Companies won’t sell them grain for their cows or diesel for their tractors without cash up front. And Carly has had enough. Aaron’s commitment to making MOO Milk work is driving a wedge between them. Every conversation seems to turn to money, and there isn’t enough of it to go around.

“My kids are like ‘Stop fighting! And stop talking about money!’” Carly says. “That wasn’t how I wanted them to grow up.”

The rest of the farmers are in similar positions. Richard Lary, the hot-tempered, foul-mouthed enfant terrible of MOO Milk, owes $50,000 for grain alone. He is forced to buy diesel for his tractors in five-gallon increments, for fear of overdrawing the checking account.

Vaughn and Laura Chase, lifelong residents of Mapleton, a northern Maine farming town, are stoic and cautious. Vaughn’s always been wary of borrowing money, all too aware of the risks. But as MOO Milk has limped along, the Chases have spent their savings.

“We’ve managed not to go behind up to this point,” Vaughn says. “But from this point on, we’re going to go behind at an accelerated rate.”

Through the rocky first year of the company, tension mounts between the farmers and Bill Eldridge, MOO Milk’s CEO, and amongst the farmers themselves. Finally, after weeks without pay, Richard quits and begins selling milk to a conventional dairy, though he remains on the company’s board.

But just when the company seems about to collapse, a group of investors offers MOO Milk’s farmers a deal: an operating loan to allow the company to advertise. The farmers must choose whether to take the deal—forgoing money they’re owed in order to keep the company running—or give up on the company.

The farmers choose once again to sacrifice their own well being to keep MOO afloat. And it looks like their gamble will pay off.

With money to market their milk for the first time, MOO expands into Massachusetts, and as 2011 ends, the company seems on track to bring on more small farmers in 2012.

Though exhausted and nursing a chronically sore shoulder, Vaughn is still milking his cows and turning them out into the gorgeous hillside pastures where his father taught him to farm. Aaron and Carly, despite the pressure of their debt and breakneck schedule, have carved out a tiny bit of peace and quiet for their newest project, their baby daughter, Ruth.

And the farmers are proud of their gamble. With a little luck, MOO Milk will offer a sustainable future for small dairy farmers and local agriculture long into the future—and a model for other farmers across the country.

Upcoming Screening Dates

October 13th Reel Pizza Cinerama, Bar Harbor-2pm  

October 13th Narrow Gauge Cinemas, Farmington-2pm, 4pm, 7pm

October 16th Colonial Theatre, Belfast-7pm  

October 16th Temple Theatre, Houlton-7pm

October 18th The Strand Theatre, Rockland-7pm
October 19th Center Theatre, Dover-Foxcroft-7pm

October 20th Unity College Center for the Performing Arts, Unity-7pm
October 24th Smith Hokanson Memorial Hall, Vinalhaven-6pm
October 25th & 26th Frontier Cafe Cinema, Brunswick-5pm & 7pm

October 26th First Parish UU Church Kennebunk -7pm

October 27th University of Maine-Machias Performing Arts Center-7pm

October 28th Eastport Arts Center, Eastport-7pm

November 2nd The Grand, Ellsworth-7pm
November 3rd University of Southern Maine, Hannaford Hall, Portland-7pm
Join Wood Prairie in NYC.

Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Farm is the President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), lead plaintiff in OSGATA et al v. Monsanto, the landmark lawsuit which challenges Monsanto’s genetically engineered seed patents and seeks preemptive protection for organic farmers from claims of patent infringement should they become contaminated by Monsanto seed.  Jim will be host to four presentations in New York City on October 22-23.  He will be discussing the lawsuit as an element of the larger family farmer struggle for the right to farm, and how the farmer-fight impacts urban residents who want their right of access to good food for their families.

Gerritsen will be accompanied by nature writer Richard Horan, whose book Harvest – An Adventure into the Heart of America’s Family Farms was recently released by HarperCollins.  A chapter of Horan’s book was devoted to capturing the potato harvest on the Gerritsen’s farm in northern Maine. Horan will perform a reading from the book at Jimmy’s No.43 and do book signings at Jimmy’s and the Brooklyn Grange.

“We are thrilled that Richard Horan is able to join us in New York City,” said Jim Gerritsen.  “His book Harvest wonderfully captures the essence of the thriving family farm renaissance. His depth of experience is sure to provide all of us with great insight into the struggle family farmers face on a daily basis.”

Tickets are still available but they are going fast, so please hurry to avoid disappointment. All events are open to the public.  Organic potatoes and organic products from Wood Prairie Farm will be featured at the evening dinners. Proceeds from events will go toward Wood Prairie Farm's outreach programs. Descriptions of the four events are listed below.

Jim & Megan

DINNER AT JIMMY'S NO. 43 (Two Events)
Monday, October 22
Talk: 6:30 to 8:00PM
Dinner: 8:30 to 10:00PM
Jimmy's No. 43, 43 East 7th Street
Following Jim's presentation, participants are invited to stay for dinner. There is a $10 suggested donation for
the talk, and dinner is $25, drinks and gratuity not included. Advance reservation is requested, please email
foodkarma@gmail.comor call 212-982-3006.

Tuesday, October 23
10:00 to 11:00AM
Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm
Brooklyn Navy Yard, Building No. 3
Tour the farm and share a cup of coffee or tea with Jim and Ben Flanner of Brooklyn Grange. There is a $10
suggested donation and attendance is capped at 24. Please email info@brooklyngrangefarm.com or call
347-670-3660 to reserve your spot.

Tuesday, October 23
7:00 PM
Rucola, 190 Dean Street, Brooklyn
Join Jim for a presentation and a 5-course dinner with wine pairings, built around Wood Prairie Farm and
Brooklyn Grange harvest. Tickets are $90, excluding tax and gratuity. Please email julian@rucolabrooklyn.com
or call 718-576-3209 to reserve your spot.

Click Here for Our Essential Books Section on the Wood Prairie Farm Website.

Prop 37 Right-To-Know GMO Labeling initiative.
Yes on Prop 37 supports the people’s right-to-know.
Biotech Disinformation Steals Prop 37 Support

As the countdown continues for California to vote Nov 6 on the historic Prop 37 Right-To-Know GMO Labeling initiative, biotech is spending its $35 million war chest on a vast television ad campaign calculated to sway voters against Prop 37 by using lies and disinformation.

  If passed by California voters, Prop 37 would for the first time require labeling of GMO foods inside state borders.  Numerous national polls indicate that 90% of Americans favor labeling of GMO foods, with wide support by Republican, Democrat and independent voters.  Many analysts believe that passage of Prop 37 in California would have a major impact nationally.

 As a result of the biotech/Monsanto disinformation media blitz, in the last two weeks, support for Prop 37 has dropped from 66.9% to 48.3%.  At the same time opposition has jumped from 22.3% to 40.2%.  Read this breaking news story from Reuters here.

Yes on Prop 37 supporters have collected $5.5 million to counter Monsanto’s efforts to kill Prop 37.  Contributions are urgently needed to get the truth out about Prop 37 and the people’s Right-To-Know.  For your family’s future, if you are able, please dig deep and
contribute today to help our friends in California pass Prop 37. Thanks!

Jim & Megan

Recipe: Zucchini and Potato Gratin

1/2 lb waxy potatoes such as Prairie Blush, sliced transparently thin
3/4 lb summer squash or zucchini, cut into 1/16" slices
1/4 c fresh oregano leaves
1/4 fresh Italian parsley
1 large garlic clove, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c unsalted butter
2 c fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
3/4 c grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated on a box grater

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Rub a 9x9" baking dish with a bit olive oil.

Place the zucchini slices into a colander placed over a sink, toss with the sea salt and set aside for 10-15 minutes to let them drain a bit and go on to prepare the oregano sauce and bread crumbs.

Make the sauce by pureeing the oregano, parsley, garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a food processor or using a hand blender. Set aside.

Make the breadcrumbs by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until the butter is fragrant and has turned brown. Wait two minutes, then stir the breadcrumbs into the browned butter.

Transfer the squash to a large mixing bowl. Add the potatoes and two-thirds of the oregano sauce. Toss until everything is well coated. Add the cheese and half the bread crumbs and toss again. 

Transfer the squash and potatoes to the baking pan, top with the remaining bread crumbs, and bake for 40 - 50 minutes - it will depend on how thinly sliced the squash and potatoes are. Remove from oven and drizzle with the remaining oregano sauce.

Serves about 8 as a side. Megan.

Zucchini and Potato Gratin.
 Photo by Angela Wotton.

Organic Hull-less Oats. An outstanding cover crop.
Special Offer: FREE Hull-less Oat Seed

     Organic Hull-less Oats are an excellent fast-growing cover crop that can be sowed anytime throughout the growing year.  Either during the season - when a corner of your garden is harvested, or at the end of the season - when crops are completely harvested, quickly broadcast/sow at a rate of 7 lbs/1000 square feet and achieve quick protection of your garden's soil plus build the organic matter content.

     We sow an oat cover crop immediately after harvesting our organic potatoes. A mere 3” of green oat growth from oats planted at double rate (14 lbs/1000 square feet) will reduce by 90% the erosive velocity of raindrops which when they fall tend to make mobile the lightest and most valuable components of your soil.  In mild climates oats will grow and over-winter.  In harsh climates like Maine, oats will die down when temperatures drop to around 15oF (November here in northern Maine) leaving a nice protective mat that is easily incorporated the next Spring prior to planting.

     Now here's your chance to earn a FREE 5 lbs. sack of Wood Prairie Farm Organic Hull-less Oat Cover Crop Seed ($12.95 value) with your next purchase of $60 or more. FREE Organic Hell-less Oat Cover Crop Seed offer ends Monday, October 15.

     Please use Promo Code WPF1130. Your order and FREE Wood Prairie Farm Organic Hull-less Cover Crop Seed must ship by 5/3/13. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please call or click today!

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Cover Crop Seed Section.

Our Mailbox: Harvest Battles Rocks Rocks and Truth
Ordering Harvest

Dear WPF.
     Wonderful Seed Piece newsletter again. I was so excited about the Harvest book that I ordered it. Thanks. Wish I could go to the NYC meetings...Montana is a long way! Good luck with that and everything. I am a big fan of you guys. After this first year of planting your seed potatoes, I am an even bigger fan and trying to let others know to support your farm products. Thanks kindly for your good efforts on making our world a better place.

Love and light,

Whitefish MT

WPF Replies.

     Thanks so much.

Jim & Megan

Winning Our Battle

Dear WPF.
     Maybe you can find some city folk to buy your rocks! Around here, where there have been no glaciers for millions of years, people actually buy rocks (decoration). When I first heard that, I was shocked. When I was a kid in South Dakota we spent many hours picking rocks and I refuse to buy rocks, even as pets! on the other hand...maybe. Good luck to you!

World Wide Web

WPF Replies.

     We're winning our stone battle despite a rock bonanza which somewhat overwhelmed author Richard Horan. Read his chapter 8 from Harvest- An Adventure into the Heart of America's Famliy Farms. It's about rocks, Wood Prairie Farm and Aroostook County, Maine.


Rocks Aplenty

Dear WPF.
     I used to think rocks were the province of middle Tennessee when I helped a buddy during college with his landscaping business. Seems a few ended up near you!

Boston MA

WPF Replies.

     The good Lord is very plentiful in places with her rocks.


One Thousand Blows

Dear WPF.
     The Grand Canyon is a perfect metaphor for what we're up against.

World Wide Web

WPF Replies.
     Aye, a deep impenetrable gulf.
     Here's the illustration we keep in our thought. One has a big rock and our job is to crack it in two with a sledge hammer. Finally, with the thousandth blow, the rock splits. Of course the world celebrates that winning blow. However, the reality is that each of the 999 strikes leading up to it were essential and necessary for eventual success. What's more, our limited sense supplied false information that while we pounded away nothing was happening, since the rock appeared just the same. So here's the lesson. Focus on what's right. Focus on the work. We don't know how many blows it will take, but because our work is just, we know that we will eventually succeed in cracking the rock. And when that rock cracks tomorrow, it will become apparant that today's work was very very important after all.

Jim & Megan.

Speaking the Truth

Dear WPF.
     Saw Jim on Food Democracy Now! video from O.W.S. Quite a presence on camera I'd say!

Morrison CO

WPF Replies.

     Thank you for your words of support.


Wood Prairie Farm Quick Links

Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(800)829-9765 Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm