Issue of The Seed Piece:
Betting the Farm
Join Wood Prairie in NYC
Recipe: Zucchini and Potato Gratin
Special Offer: FREE Hull-less Oat Seed
Mailbox: Harvest Battles Rocks Rocks and
Maine Premiers 'Betting the Farm'
Aroostook County, Maine organic dairy farmer..
Washington County, Maine organic dairy farmer.
the Farm, First in Maine, Then to Nation.
is an incredibly powerful and beautifully
photographed documentary film by talented Maine
filmmakers Cecily Pingree (daughter of US Congresswoman Chellie
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
Isle which we attended. It was standing room only. The
been winning notable awards and is now being shown at theaters across Maine. What
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.
is available through Maine and
Please support local organic family farmers and where you are able
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Jim & Megan
DINNER AT JIMMY'S
NO. 43 (Two Events)
Monday, October 22
Talk: 6:30 to
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
firstname.lastname@example.org call 212-982-3006.
TALK AT BROOKLYN
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
email@example.com or call
347-670-3660 to reserve your spot.
Tuesday, October 23
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 718-576-3209 to reserve your spot.
Click Here for Our
Essential Books Section on the Wood Prairie Farm Website.
GMO Labeling initiative.
Yes on Prop
37 supports the people’s right-to-know.
| Biotech Disinformation Steals Prop
As the countdown
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
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
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
today to help our friends in California pass Prop 37. Thanks!
Jim & Megan
|Recipe: Zucchini and Potato Gratin
lb waxy potatoes such as Prairie
, sliced transparently thin
c fresh oregano leaves
of red pepper flakes
c extra-virgin olive oil
c unsalted butter
c grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated on a box grater
oven to 400F degrees. Rub a 9x9" baking dish with a bit olive oil.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
about 8 as a side. Megan.
Zucchini and Potato
by Angela Wotton.
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 Here for Our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Cover Crop Seed Section.
|Our Mailbox: Harvest Battles Rocks
Rocks and Truth
Piece newsletter again. I was so excited about the Harvest book
that I ordered it. Thanks. Wish I could go to the NYC
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,
Thanks so much.
Jim & Megan
Winning Our Battle
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!
We're winning our stone battle despite a rock bonanza which somewhat
author Richard Horan. Read his chapter 8 from Harvest- An
Adventure into the Heart of America's Famliy Farms.
rocks, Wood Prairie Farm and Aroostook County, Maine.
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!
The good Lord is very plentiful in places with
One Thousand Blows
The Grand Canyon is
a perfect metaphor for what we're up against.
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
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
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
Saw Jim on Food Democracy Now!
video from O.W.S. Quite a presence on camera I'd say!
Thank you for your words of support.
Wood Prairie Farm Quick
& Megan Gerritsen
Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm