Wood Prairie Farm                                  In This Issue of The Seed Piece: 
 Seed Piece Newsletter                        Maine Tales: Remembering Eldon.
Organic News and Commentary
                        Wood Prairie Farmer Named One Of 25 Visionaries
                                                                                      Who Are Changing The World.
   Tuesday October 18, 2011                                 Recipe: Potato and Corn Soup
                                                                                               Special Offer: FREE Organic Garlic
                                                                                               What Did I Miss? Jaw Dropping Strawmen and Farming that's Rocking.

Hauling Potatoes to Market in Aroostook County, Circa. 1920. This farmer was a late adopter: most farmers had switched from oxen power to horse power a decade before. The net weight of potatoes on the wagon is just shy of 3 ton.

Maine Tales.                                                    Remembering Eldon.                  Bridgewater, Maine      Circa 1882.

     We got done digging our crop late last week towards evening as a cold rain was beginning to fall. It wasn't so long before we got a couple inches of rain.  It has been wet ground ever since and no one in northern Maine 'has spun a wheel' (worked the field) since then.  By the sound of the wet forecast ahead it looks like the potatoes that were still in the ground last week will still be in the ground next week.

     While of course it is good that we are done we can't help but fret about our neighbors who have potatoes left to dig. Potatoes are still the big deal in this little potato town. Other places, a sunny day in Fall is merely 'pleasant'. Here, a sunny day is recognized by everybody as 'a good day to dig'. The fortunes of our town still rest upon the success of the potato crop, just like it always has going back 150 years. Everyone hereabouts knows that Fall weather can turn wet and wicked and against a potato farmer in an awful hurry.

      There is always a big collective sigh of relief in Bridgewater when the last potatoes are dug and put under cover.  And for most of the last century there's been nobody in town more relieved to see that last potato picked than Eldon Bradbury. To run into Eldon this time of year was to hear his query 'Didjagitdunn?' ('Did you get done [digging]'?). Upon hearing an affirmative reply, you would see Eldon walk away with a little lighter gait as a measure of burden was lifted off from his shoulders.  Eldon was from the old school.  How the other farmers in town faired was Eldon's genuine concern.  In his day it was everyone's concern. If a farmer was having bad luck and was having trouble getting done, the other farmers in town after they got their own crops dug, would bring over their crews and equipment to help the straggler finish up. No one was done until all were done. That was the old code. 

     Well, the Bradburys landed here into Bridgewater back in 1882 when Eldon's grandfather, that would be Lewis Oswald Bradbury, got established. Since that time there's been little daylight to be seen between a Bradbury and a potato. Eldon planted the first potato crop that he could call his own in 1941. Then Uncle Sam came calling and got him off the farm and over to Europe for the four years following that next year. Once he'd finished with that patriotic duty, in 1947, Eldon was back to town planting and digging potatoes along his brothers Earl and Wilbur in the farm operation that came to be known as the Bradbury Brothers. Eldon never missed a potato crop after that. It is no exaggeration to say he worked every day, every year. This crop year of 2011, at age 93, was Eldon's 66th crop of potatoes. He died a few weeks ago in late September while shoveling up the spilled oats leftover from helping unload a truck. The Bradbury potato crop was a good ways towards being dug.  Eldon's sons Dale and George and daughter Carrie, his family farming partners for forty years, plus his grandkids, have now been getting the rest of the crop out and into storage without him.

      The Bradburys always farmed with Oliver tractors, made in Charles City, Iowa. Olivers are the direct descendents of the very first and original Hart-Parr tractors (the family of machines which before Charles Hart coined the term 'tractor' were known as the mouthful 'gasoline traction engines'). Before long Bradbury Brothers love of Olivers had led to securing themselves an Oliver dealership in our town of Bridgewater. That feat explains why this area has been so thick with green Olivers (we have six). And Olivers are good honest machines that Detroit could learn a thing or two from. It was not so long ago that Bradburys had fourteen Oliver tractors, each one hitched to one of the fourteen implements they needed to grow their potatoes.

     Jim worked for Eldon during potato harvest back thirty-five years ago. When giving his speech at MOFGA's Common Ground Country Fair a year ago, Jim spoke about that experience.

     "The fall of 1976, I worked for Eldon Bradbury of Bradbury Brothers in Bridgewater. At the time they were probably the largest potato farmers in town; they had about 300 acres planted. They had three potato harvesters and I worked on one. We worked six days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and took dinner from 11 a.m. till noon. Saturday we got done at 4:00 p.m. and got our paychecks. There were six people on our harvester and there were three harvesters, and they had seven trucks – each with a truck driver – and in the potato house they probably had three people working putting potatoes into bins. So on that one potato farm, there were almost 30 workers; and that was just one farm out of about 30 potato farms in our town. And every one of those workers, myself included, went to Clowater's store in Bridgewater Saturday evening to buy groceries and get our checks cashed. I think $2.75 an hour was the hourly rate that Fall. Well I added up in my head – because all the crews in town also went to Clowater's to cash checks – and he had to have $100,000 in cash on hand. Now in Aroostook County there were between 1,000 to 1,500 potato farmers in those days. Multiply that by 20 people per crew and you can see how this was a big part of the culture of Aroostook County."
     With the passing of Eldon, the last potato farmer of his generation, we're seeing the close of an era in our town. His contemporary, Dan Bradstreet, had passed just a couple years ago at age 92, Dan himself working grading potatoes for half days up until the very end.

     Eldon was a serious man and on the quiet side.  He spoke no more than what needed to be said. He spoke softly and with authority. He would be the last person in town to want a fuss made over him.  And it was incomprehensible to imagine this potato man of potato men for any reason being in the middle of an interruption of getting our town's potato crop out of the ground. His family had planned his services and they fell on a day that was very gray. Early that day we had good success digging and had dug all the fore noon, expecting rain to stop us at any minute, but it held off. We got to shortly after noon before the drizzle had picked up to a light rain.  We scurried about and got the potatoes put away just as the rain was picking up in intensity to something steady and more than light.

     So it came as no surprise at all to us that on the Saturday afternoon that Eldon's graveside service was held, following the indoor family-only funeral service, that our misty gray day had turned to a steady rain hard enough that the fields had become muddy and there was no more digging to be done that day.

     Working right til the end and not wanting to cause a fuss. That was Eldon's way. And a pretty good way at that.

Jim & Megan
Dahlman Two-Row Potato Harvester in Aroostook County, Circa 1970. Powered by a mounted Oliver tractor this harvesting machine is similar to the three Dahlman harvesters Bradbury Brothers used back in the mid-1970s.

Wood Prairie Farmer Named One Of 25 Visionaries Who Are Changing The World







Long-time potato farmer selected for efforts to protect family farmers.


Bridgewater, Maine – Jim Gerritsen, a Maine organic potato farmer with a decades-long record of community involvement and activism, has been named by the editors of Utne Reader to the magazine's 2011 list of 25 "People Who Are Changing the World."

Gerritsen was selected for his ongoing work leading efforts by independent family farmers to protect themselves from the threat of Monsanto litigation related to the corporation's patents on genetically modified seeds, an effort he sees as critical to the preservation of organic farming itself and organic foods as a choice for consumers and their families. 

Each year, Utne Reader selects 25 people "who possess an inspiring combination of imagination, determination and energy," said Utne Reader's editor-in-chief David Schimke in a statement. "These are people who don't just think out loud, but who walk their talk on a daily basis."

Working with Other Family Farms for a Better Planet

Gerritsen, who grows organic seed potatoes on his family's Wood Prairie Farm in northern Maine, is president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (www.osgata.org), the national membership trade organization of the organic seed community, lead plaintiff in the OSGATA et al v. Monsanto lawsuit.

OSGATA is joined in the lawsuit by 82 other family farmers, seed businesses and agricultural organizations.  The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including several thousand certified organic family farmers.

This landmark organic community lawsuit asserts that Monsanto's patents on transgenic (gene-spliced) seed fail to meet the "social utility" requirement of patent law and are therefore invalid.

The suit also seeks court protection for innocent family farmers from Monsanto patent infringement lawsuits in the perverse situation where their farms are contaminated by Monsanto genes through unwanted genetic trespass, such as when wind-borne transgenic pollen is blown from one farm to another.

"Our lawyers asked Monsanto to provide a legal covenant not to sue our group of family farmers, and Monsanto refused.  We thus are forced to seek justice and protection in court," said Gerritsen.

The lawsuit is currently in pre-trial procedural motions.

A Longstanding Commitment to Community

For 35 years, Gerritsen and his family have owned and operated the organic Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, Maine.  Located in Aroostook County, which is the top potato producing county in the country, Wood Prairie Farm is a small Certified Organic family farm producing various types of seed and specialty potatoes, including the award-winning Prairie Blush variety discovered by the Gerritsens, plus vegetable and grain seed.

The farm's modest scale allows Gerritsen and his family to focus on growing the highest quality seed potatoes for an ever-increasing number of committed catalog customers in all fifty states.

Gerritsen believes organic farming produces a superior result and is better for the land. "Northern Maine has been growing potatoes for 200 years, and some of the best potatoes anywhere in the world come from here," says Gerritsen.  "And I like to think our hard work and commitment to our soil and  organic farming at Wood Prairie Farm produces some of the best potatoes in Aroostook County."

Gerritsen is a tireless advocate for organic farming and family farms, regularly speaking at conferences and events, including the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) Common Ground Country Fair and Farmer-to-Farmer Conference, The Organic Seed Growers Conference, the Slow Food Terra Madre Conference in Italy, and other conferences across the United States and Canada.

About the Utne Reader Visionary List

In addition to Gerritsen, others on the 2011 list include David Simon, creator of HBO's The Wire and Treme; Azzam Alwash, Nature Iraq founder and marshland rehabilitator; Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a congressman working to foster dialogue between Muslim and Christian interests; Gary Paul Nabhan, an author called "the father of the local food movement"; Debbie Sease, national campaign director of the Sierra Club; and Humira Saqeb, founder of a women's magazine in Afghanistan.

The Utne Reader's "People Who Are Changing the World" profile of Jim Gerritsen is available at www.utne.com/Environment/Utne-Reader-Visionaries-Jim-Gerritsen-Organic-Seed-Growers.aspx.

About Maine's Wood Prairie Farm (www.woodprairie.com; 800-829-9765)

Wood Prairie Farm is located in Aroostook County, the largest county east of the Mississippi River and Maine's historic center of potato farming.  For over 35 years, Jim Gerritsen, his wife Megan and their family have used organic farming techniques on the fertile land of Wood Prairie Farm to grow the finest potatoes, seed, vegetables and grain nature will produce.  Wood Prairie Farm is MOFGA Certified Organic, and its seed potatoes, kitchen potatoes, seeds and other products are available direct to the customer by mail order from its website and catalog.  Wood Prairie Farm is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/woodprairiefarm. 

Additional information about OSGATA et al v. Monsanto is available at www.woodprairie.com/wpf_news. 

Potato and Corn Soup

Photo by Angela Wotton

Recipe: Potato and Corn Soup

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 T butter

1 medium Dutch Yellow Onion

1 clove Red Russian Garlic, diced

2 thyme sprigs

2 Prairie Blush Potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2 c vegetable or chicken stock

1/2 - 1 c water

2 c fresh or frozen sweet corn

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan until melted. Add onion, thyme, pinch of salt, and garlic and cook over medium low until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add potatoes, stir, and cook for another five minutes. Add stock and water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add corn just before the potatoes are done. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Serves 4


Click here for our Wood Prairie Kitchen Potatoes

Special Offer:
             FREE Organic Red Skinned Russian Garlic
     Good garlic goes a long way and adds variety and depth to family meals around here. Our organic Red-skinned Russian garlic is particularly beautiful and delicious this year. Now that we are finished with our Harvest we are shipping out bags of garlic daily.

     Here's your chance to earn a FREE 1 pound bag ($19.95 value) of organic Red-Skinned Russian Garlic with your next purchase of $90 or more.

     Please use promo code WPF 1105.  FREE Wood Prairie Red-Skinned Garlic must ship with your order, and order must ship by 12/7/11.  Offer may not be combined with other specials.  Offer ends Friday October 21, 2011 so better hurry.

Please call or click today!

Red-Skinned Russian Garlic.

Potato Harvest. Watch what all the fun is about.
What Did I Miss?
Jaw Dropping Strawmen and Farming that's Rocking.

    Thirty Year Farming Systems Comparative Study Proves Organic Rocks. Biotech propaganda notwithstanding, the reality is the best food comes from the best soil. "Organic farming is far superior to conventional systems when it comes to soil building, maintaining and replenishing the health of the soil...Contrary to conventional wisdom, organic farming outperformed conventional farming in every measure…Organic corn yields were 31 per cent higher than conventional in years of drought. These drought yields were remarkable when compared to genetically modified (GM) 'drought tolerant' varieties which showed increases of only 6.7 per cent to 13.3 per cent over conventional (non-drought resistant) varieties." Wow! Read the landmark 30 year side-by-side comparative Rodale Research Farm study here.
    Transgenic Foods and You. Online posting of recent panel discussion How are Genetically Engineered Crops Affecting Foods? on KALW, locally-produced public radio in San Francisco. Panelists were Eric Holt-Gimenez (Food First), Dr. Ignacio Chapela (UC Berkeley), Mike Ludwig (Truthout reporter) and Jim Gerritsen (President, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Assn, the lead plaintiff in OSGATA v. Monsanto lawsuit challenging GE/transgenic patents).
    Behold the New Strawman. Incisive article by NY Times reporter Julia Moskin about the new well-monied rollout of the PR offensive by Big Ag cloaked as 'U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance,' funded by Monsanto and their ilk. Nothing irritates Big Ag more than consumers and infidel family farmers acting as though they have some stake in the good food debate. Weaning Big Ag from taxpayer subsidy and wresting away their power for the good of the people makes them cranky and willing to lavish large sums of money into the public relations sector to 'reshape the dialogue' about the US food supply.
    Jaw Dropping Ruling by (Former) Wisconsin Judge. "Plaintiffs do not have the right to produce and consume the foods of their choice" This stunning and breathtaking ruling was issued in early September on a raw milk case. Judge Fielder resigned his position Sept 30 and went to work as an attorney in private practice for the Axel Brynelson Law firm. In May 2010, Axel Brynelson represented Monsanto in a lawsuit about a DNA patent. Let's be grateful this fellow left the bench voluntarily. Read the story from foodfreedom.com
    Digging Carola Potatoes on Wood Prairie Farm. Fast, fun one minute You Tube video of our potato harvesting operation.  Our Finnish Juko harvester pulled by our 92 HP Oliver 1850 Diesel tractor (with dual wheels for better traction and flotation). Our girls and neighbors separate rocks from potatoes on the secondary bed. Our sitting son Caleb is saving baby potatoes (for Easter Egg) and dodging the occasional projectile rock on the 'hedgehog table.'
    Please Do Your Job USDA Secretary Vilsack. Joined by a massive alliance of 135 organizations, our friends at the National Organic Coalition have drafted and sent to Secretary Visack a powerful letter urging him to exercise his existing authority and provide protection to the nation from the negative effects of transgenic/GMO crops. Please take a couple minutes to read the excellent NOC letter and the long list of groups working in your behalf.
Thanks to all of you who have Liked us on Facebook.

When you Like us, you demonstrate your support of our work and you help extend our outreach effort to inform others.  If you haven't done so yet, please click here to become a Friend of Wood Prairie Farm on Facebook.  Thanks!
 Jim & Megan

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