Wood Prairie Farm
 The Seed Piece Newsletter
             Organic News and Commentary
               Friday November 22, 2013

 In This Issue of The Seed Piece:

    Thanksgiving Holiday.

     Introducing Our New Organic Patriotic Potato Container Growing Kit. Here in Northern Maine the days are now short, the ponds have frozen over and additional snow is in our forecast. Wood stoves are blazing all day long now as we daily ship out Thanksgiving organic food orders and organic seed potatoes and organic vegetable seed to happy customers, everywhere and farmers and gardeners in the South anxious for new organic seed to plant.
     We are nearly caught up with orders and are able to turn your orders around immediately if you need delicious organic food for your Thanksgiving celebration. Please do give us a call or order on th web if we may help you.

 Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
 Wood Prairie Farm
 Bridgewater, Maine

Click here for the Wood Prairie Farm Home Page.

Lobstering. Downeast Maine.
Downeast Maine Panel Discussion on GMO Food.

     Last week we were invited to participate in a panel discussion about GMO food at the University of Maine at Machias.  A coastal town in far Downeast Maine, Machias sits in a beautiful corner of the State of Maine which we rarely get down to visit.  Driving time was 3 hours south from Wood Prairie Farm. The panel had three scientists from University of Maine and one organic farmer - Jim from Wood Prairie Farm.

     After the panel at the college we spent the night in Machias.  Then early the next morning we drove the two hours west to Bangor where five of us from Wood Prairie Farm attended the long-awaited three-day soils course offered by noted agronomist Dr Arden Andersen.  The course was excellent and the room was filled with 110 farmers.  Some were organic farmers, others sustainable farmers and yet others were conventional farmers.  Beyond those from nearby Maine and New England we met folks from Labrador, North Dakota and Pennsylvania.  Karin and Peter – two Wood Prairie Farm seed potato customers – read about Arden’s class in the Seed Piece and drove all the way from Michigan in order to attend.

     We were all grateful for the opportunity by Arden to learn more about becoming better farmers by mineralizing our soils and refining our nutrient foliar spray programs in our efforts to grow tastier and more nutrient dense food as well as better performing seed.

     UMaine Machias just posted a video (1:31:11) of the panel discussion.  Here you will find a video of that November 13, 2013, Discussion on GMO Food.

Jim & Megan

Click Here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Cover Crop Seed.

Threatened: Family Farmers and Your Right of Access to Good Food.

     This is a sober topic. In response to the  Food Safety Modernization Act the FDA has drafted new food safety regulations - flawed in that unless modified they will severely hurt family farmers. Tonight, Friday November 22, at midnight (Eastern) the comment period  will close on the FDA's worrisome and severely flawed new proposed regulations for produce farmers called "Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption." 

     The FDA has virtually no experience with farms and farmers. In these proposed regs, FDA has shown a drive to foist unnecessary, unreasonable regs and unjustified requirements onto farmers. In reality the regs were invented for factories aka 'facilities.' They are now aimed at family farmers - where there has never been a real problem with food safety - without demonstrating the regs will bring any reduction in food safety risk. Universally, family farm leaders have very legitimate concerns that this colossal regulatory effort will be so burdensome and costly to family farmers that many of us will be forced out of business. And FDA does admit this could very well happen. If family farmers growing good healthy local food are forced out of business, then your right of access to that good food will be severely limited. 

     If you are able to spend just ten minutes tonight, please send your brief comments to FDA urging them to modify their proposal. This link will walk you through the process and provides a simple, easy to modify template for submitting comments. Comments need not be lengthy: FDA simply needs to receive pressure from citizens in order for them to modify their plans.

Below are the comments written and submitted by Wood Prairie Farm last week, one morning prior to Arden Andersen's Soils course.

     We are organic farmers who have been growing organically for 37 years. We have been certified organic for the last 31 years including eleven years under USDA NOP. Your food safety regs are seriously flawed in that they are over zealous, are unreasonably burdensome and costly to implement and thereby jeopardize the ability of family farms such as ours to continue in operation. This is an untenable position and threatens the US food supply and the right of the American consumer to have access to good local food raised by family farmers. Importantly, your proposed regs fail to zero in on where the real problem lies: with large scale agricultural production and distribution. Because of their scale, mega operations which supply huge markets hold the potential to harm hundreds of thousands to many millions of consumers - this is where the nation's real food safety problem lies. And this is where the focus of your food safety effort must be directed. Going after small and family farmers is a solution looking for a problem. Small and family scale farms have never represented a threat to the American food supply. Our very definition as small conveys the reality that should a food safety problem befall a family farm, the impact will be minimal and limited because the number of potential affected customers is also small, geographically limited and easy to trace. Additionally, those of us who direct market, constantly understand the reality that survival of our business is predicated on quality and food safety. We practice the superior paradigm of food safety by design which is infinitely superior on our modest scale to that of food safety by regulation.

I wish to make the following specific points:

1. You must treat farms as farms and important biologically-based members of our community. Farms are not facilities and must not be treated the same as a facility. Family farms cooperating with one another are still family farms and are not facilities.

2. Certified Organic farmers already comply with USDA NOP regs. Each of us follows a highly detailed, annually updated written NOP Farm Plan. Any FDA food safety regs which apply to us MUST be an adjunct to our Farm Plan in order to be effective, avoid wasteful duplication, unreasonable cost and unmanageable burdens that would otherwise jeopardize our certified organic farm, our family's livelihood and our employee’s jobs.

3. An economic analysis must be performed by an independent panel which
proves that the value of your proposed regulations exceeds the costs which family farmers will incur.

4. You must acknowledge your absolute constitutional restraint and create a transparent system which includes due process so that any farmer receiving an action from your agency will be treated justly and has clear publically posted rights to appeal to an independent entity. This must include a clear publically posted procedure for regaining the ability to produce and sell crops after an FDA action.

5. To greatest extent possible FDA should allow food safety regulation to be performed at the state level by states wishing to do so.

6. For FDA to focus food safety concerns on small and family farmers and at the same time to completely ignore the documented dangers from genetically-engineered crops and farm chemical residues challenges your credibility and raises serious questions about your real motivations. You should review the research of Dr Seralini and the CRIIGEN group about GE crops and glyphosate, and Dr Donald Huber’s work on glyphosate and re-direct your food safety concerns in the areas covered in their important and other related research into the negative health effects of both chemical and GE crops.

7. Your current proposals represent a serious threat of unjustified over-regulation and unreasonable threat to our nation's food supply. It is not acceptable to make regulations so burdensome or costly that family farmers will be forced out of business. Most especially because there has never been a demonstrated food safety problem on small and family farms.

8. Farms are not facilities and therefore farms MUST not be held to the same standard as facilities. Farmers markets, CSAs, consumer-mail-order businesses, roadside stands and other direct-to-consumer vendors fall under “retail food establishment" and not facilities subject to additional regulation.

9. Certified organic farmers current use of manure is safe and scientifically proscribed by USDA NOP. Manure use is documented in our NOP Farm Plan. Before any more restrictive standard could be adopted there must be an independent cost/benefit review which demonstrates scientific justification for a more restrictive standard.

10. FDA must adopt the $1 million threshold for a very small business and base it on the value of “regulated product” and not “all food” so that small and family farms and businesses like food hubs fall under reasonable scale-appropriate requirements and are not subject to industrial scale regulation.

Thank you for this opportunity to weigh in on your food safety regs. They need a lot of improvement.

Jim Gerritsen

Wood Prairie Farm

Farmer Icons. Misguided Federal regs pose a crisis. For Family Farmers.


Potato Association of America. All things potato.
Treasure Chest of FREE Organic Potato Growing Resources from PAA.

     This year is the Potato Association of America’s 100th Anniversary.  PAA was founded by a small group of individuals from Maine, New York, Colorado and Washington D.C. in 1913.  While still centered in the Americas, PAA now claims members in another 30 countries worldwide. Increased scientific understanding of potatoes and warm personal relationships among colleagues are the hallmarks of the PAA.  I witnessed this warmth for myself in the Summer of 1995 when PAA met in Bangor and I combined a trip for bulldozer parts with a day of fraternization with potato scientists from across the country whom I had only spoken to on the telephone over the years.

    In 2010 PAA updated their 85 page manual “Commercial Potato Production in North America.”  If you don’t yet have a copy of this authoritative guide, you will want to download your FREE copy.

    Also, find the PAA Mother Lode of resources on the topic of growing organic potatoes here.


Click Here for Our Organic Wood Prairie Farm Potatoes.

 Quotes: William Jennings Bryan on Protecting Farmers.

      "... the men who plow and plant, who fatten herds, who toil in shops, who fell forests, and delve in mines. But are these to be regarded with contumely and addressed in terms of contempt ? Why, sir, these are the men who feed and clothe the nation; whose products make up the sum of our exports; who produce the wealth of the republic; who bear the heaviest burdens in times of peace; who are ready always to give their lifeblood for their country's flag--in short, these are the men whose sturdy arms and faithful hands uphold the stupendous fabric of our civilization."

- William Jennings Bryan

William Jennings Bryan. He understood who are the real atlases.

Thanksgiving Stuffing.
Photo by Angela Wotton.
Recipe: Thanksgiving Dried Fruit and Nut Cornbread Stuffing

1 loaf Wood Prairie Farm cornbread mix
1/2 c pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 c golden raisins
1/2 c dried cranberries

Mix pecans, golden raisins and cranberries into cornbread mix and follow directions to add wet ingredients. Bake as directed. Let cool for 1 hour.
(At this point, cornbread may be frozen for up to one month)

Unsalted butter, for baking dish
2 c whole milk
2 c heavy cream
4 large eggs
1 bunch scallions, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced (about 1 c)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the cornbread into roughly 1-inch pieces and place on a rimmed baking sheet, along with any crumbs. Toast until golden, about 30 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish. Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, scallions, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Fold in toasted cornbread and transfer to baking dish. Bake until custard is set and top is  browned, 35-40 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.


Special Offer: FREE Organic Rose Gold Potatoes

     Among our most popular potato varieties – whether to grow in the garden or to cook in the kitchen – is the wonderful Canadian variety Rose Gold.  Beautiful pink skin and delicious golden flesh make Rose Gold a real stand out.

     One of our newest products is the Organic Patriotic Container Growing Kit, the perfect kit which allows you - or a friend who receives your gift - to grow great potatoes in reusable Smart Bag containers without the need for access to a garden plot.

     Here's your chance to earn a FREE 2 lbs. sack of our Rose Gold Organic Potatoes (Value $12.95) when you order one of our Organic Patriotic Container Growing Kits.  FREE 2 lbs. sack of our Rose Gold Organic Potatoes offer ends Midnight Monday, November 25, 2013, so better hurry!

     Please use Promo Code WPF1163. Your order and FREE 2 lbs. sack of our Rose Gold Organic Potatoes must ship by 12/06/13. Rose Gold Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please call or click today!

Click here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Kitchen Potato Section.

Rose Gold. Setting a high standard for quality.
Our Mailbox: Making Us Blush, Risk of Counter Suit, Colorado Potatoes and Failure to Protect.

Making Us Blush.

Dear WPF.

     The best part of Summer and Fall was Friday mornings when I would rush to the farmer's market and get my supply of Prairie Blush potatoes! I just realized this week that you and your family are Wood Prairie Farm. Your potatoes grow well here in Michigan!


World Wide Web

WPF Replies.

     Thank you and glad you are enjoying our 'Prairie Blush'. It is one of the best tasting potato varieties we have ever eaten. Prairie Blush is a clonal variant we found growing on our organic potato farm in Northern Maine in 2001. It has a beautiful pink blush which covers a quarter to half of the skin surface. It is a mid-early and grows very well under a wide range of conditions. We recommend that everyone give Prairie Blush a try in their garden.


Risk of Counter Suit.

Dear WPF.

     I just saw a post that literally made the light go off. If Monsanto can sue farmers for having GMO crops through the wind, bees etc pollinating then why can't farmers sue Monsanto for ruining their crops?


Brooklyn NY

WPF Replies.

     Under the law, contamination is considered 'possession.' If a farmer were to become contaminated and sue Monsanto to recover damages, we believe it likely that Monsanto would counter sue for patent infringement and assert the farmer was in illegal 'possession' of their patented technology and use the filing of the farmer's lawsuit as proof positive of his guilty possession. This is one reason why farmers need the court protection we seek in 'OSGATA et al v Monsanto.' Monsanto should not be permitted to sue us for patent infringement if their polluting contamination has resulted in our "possession" of their patented material.That's simple justice.


Colorado Potatoes.

Dear WPF.

     I live in the foothills of southern Colorado at about 7000 ft. I planted Dark Red Norland and Yukon Gold which are recommended for my area. I planted them in Smart Bags using Fertilome growing mix. I preheated the seed and cut them according to direction. The plants came up and were beautiful. I added additional growing mix around the plants as they grew. About 45 days into the growing cycle the leaves started to turn yellow. I looked it up on the internet and it said possibly aphids so I treated them for aphids with a Sevin type product. It didn't help and the plants eventually died. The plants never flowered but I got some nice red potatoes. Any ideas? Over watering? Too hot? Thanks.


Rye CO

WPF Replies.

     I'm not certain whether it was water, insects or another problem like a fertility or disease issue. Did the tubers grow to sufficient size? If they were, it could be the plants did their job and simply experienced senescense - old age - after the job was done. It's hard to over-water in Smart Bags. Most of the problem in container growing comes from under-watering. You are in a dry climate and lack of adequate water might explain early dying. Under-fertility is another possibility. Potatoes need a rich soil. Rarely do aphids inflict so much harm as to kill the potato plant. Now similarly tiny Potato Leafhoppers - they can do a lot of damage in a short time and you might miss them if you didn't look closely because they are so small. And yes it could have been too hot. Potatoes don't like steady temperatures into the 90s. Those are the potential causes which occur to me because they are so small.


Failure to Protect.

Dear WPF.

     What is the justification for even growing GM alfalfa?

Weeding Out Monsanto - Briarpatch Magazine


Greenfield MA

WPF Replies.

     GE Crops are all about control of the market by chemical companies like Monsanto which forced themselves into the seed industry 30 years ago and reinvented themselves as 'seed technology' companies. They use patented transgenic seed traits to bludgeon agriculture into submission. USDA-APHIS de-regulated RR Alfalfa in the US in January 2011 and the assupmtion is that plantings are widespread.
     This recent GMO Alfalfa contamination incident in WA State illustrates that USDA sides with Big Ag and refuses to protect innocent farmers. USDA will leave family farmers holding the bag.The article below provides background.

USDA Refuses to Investigate Illegal GMO Contamination.


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