Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
                 Saturday, April 20th, 2019
                 Volume 28 Issue 06


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

  Snow Melting.

     Another Hard Winter for Old Northern Maine Potato Houses.
 Old-style Aroostook County "potato houses" (local vernacular for a building used to store potatoes) were multi-level structures and either built into the side of a hill or heavily-mounded up with soil as insulation.

     Trucks loaded with barrels full of potatoes would back through the barn doors pictured here on the upper level. The barrels were rolled off the truck and dumped into bins below ranging in height from twelve to twenty feet-deep.

     When it came time to sell the potatoes, they were shoveled by hand (using a 13-tine potato fork) from the bottom of the bin onto a grading line where potatoes were "racked over," rocks and culls removed and typically loaded back into barrels and hauled to "street buyers" or bagged into hundred-pound-burlap sacks.

     On-farm old-style multi-level potato houses had their hay day in decades past when modest-sized family potato farms were common and farm labor was plentiful and relatively inexpensive. In response to thinner and thinner margins in potato farming, remaining farms have grown significantly larger. Modern potato storages have shifted over to single-level, above-ground, insulated, sprawling structures that can handle large volumes and allow efficient mechanized movement of potatoes with minimized labor.

     In a heavy snow year with deep accumulations of snow like Northern Maine has had this winter, the old unused potato houses have an increased likelihood of buckling and collapsing under snow load.

     The last old in-ground potato house on our road, similar to the one pictured, collapsed under snow load a few winters back.   This week our snow cover began rapidly melting, streams and rivers are full with transformed snow and our fields are beginning to be visible once again.

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

Wendell Berry, 2012. Photo by Guy Mendes in Modern Farmer with Kentucky River in background.

New Wendell Berry Interview - Don't Miss It!

In these days of deep concerns over Climate Change and Nature Collapse some fresh air and keen insight is more valuable than ever.

Doing a wonderful job interviewing Kentucky farmer and essayist Wendell Berry is Helena Norberg-Hodge, founder of 'Local Futures.' Helena holds her own with Wendell in this valuable exchange in 'Orion' between two visionary thinkers in a time of troubled waters.

Caleb, Jim & Megan

WB: What one has to say to begin with is that, as humans, we are limited in intelligence and we really have no reliable foresight. So none of us will come up with answers to the whole great problem. What we can do is judge our behavior, our history, and our present situation by a better standard than 'efficiency' or 'profit,' or those measures that we’re still using to determine economic decisions. The standard that I always come back to is the health of the world, which is the same as our own personal health. We can’t distinguish our health from the health of everything else. And we know enough from the ecologists now to know that health is a very complex and un-understandable complexity of relationships that makes the world whole...

HNH: What I’ve seen in ancient traditional cultures is that even the language reminded people that their experiential knowledge was really the only reliable knowledge. One of the great tragedies has been this shift toward trusting secondhand knowledge more than we trust experiential knowledge, and in fact denigrating experiential knowledge as anecdotal and worthless. And of course, this has been reinforced by numerical, and very reductionist, modern science.

WB: I think what you’re applying there is simply the fundamental rule of all the human disciplines. And that rule is that you have to know what you’re talking about. You have to come with evidence. And this applies across the board, from the court of law to the laboratory of the scientist...

WB: Small farms make economic sense. They also produce more happiness, more beauty, more health—those things that aren’t so quantifiable."

Click Here for our Certified Organic Cover Crop Seed.


Special Offer: FREE Organic Rose Finn Apple Fingerling Certified Seed Potatoes!

          Research has documented that heirloom potato Organic Rose Finn Apple Fingerling has been grown since at least the 1840s.  It is one of the most beautiful Fingerlings with its Rose-colored skin and delicious golden-flesh.  While most Fingerling potatoes are late varieties, Rose Finn Apple is very unusual with its surprising mid-season maturity.   Plants are big and bushy and tubers size up so quickly you will want to pay attention during tuber bulking if you want to harvest diminutive tubers.  Whether large or small tubers, Rose Finn Apple remains one of the highest quality culinary potatoes we have ever grown on Wood Prairie Family Farm.

     Have fun this year and receive a FREE 1 Lb. Sack of Organic Rose Finn Apple Fingerling Certified Seed Potatoes (Value $13.95) when your next Wood Prairie order totals $49 or more. FREE Organic Rose Finn Apple Fingerling Certified Seed Potatoes Offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday April 22.  Please use Promo Code WPFF446. Your order and FREE Sack of Organic Rose Finn Apple Fingerling Certified Seed Potatoes must ship no later than May 5, 2019. Offer may not be combined with other offers.  Please click TODAY!

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.


Organic Rose Finn Apple. Two-Hundred-Year old heirloom.

Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

One Last Blow for Maine?     It’s a very rare April which doesn’t deliver Northern Maine a dump of snow.   Last week we received 7”.   Amy had parked her pickup on a slight incline – just enough to prevent her snow tires from getting traction.  Her brother Caleb came to the rescue with his off-road Ford Ranger.  One tug and Amy was free. 

Megan Office Terrarium.
 Caleb’s mother, Megan, runs the office crew, compiles reports and takes care of Customer Service.  She also surrounds herself with plants that grow throughout the winter, such as her Lemon tree with its single lemon, and trays of garlic sprouts and assorted greens.

Frank on Computer.   Frank is our resident computer expert who keeps our computers networked together and working smoothly.  He’s Caleb’s older brother, Peter’s best friend from High School days.  Frank has been indispensable to the farm for the eight or ten years he’s worked for us.  He also helps Jim produce these Wood Prairie Seed Piece e-newsletters.

Graded Organic Potatoes on Dumbwaiter.  Caleb’s father, Jim, spends the Winter working in the cellar grading and sizing potatoes needed by the crew for bagging.  He works downstairs underground where the potatoes are stored.  The dumbwaiter accepts one pallet of potatoes at a time loaded on by the electric forklift down cellar.  When our township received grid power twenty-five years ago, the second purchase - after an electric water pump - was this orange 1-ton Dayton electric chain hoist which replaced the laborious manual chain fall we had used for many years.

Bagging Organic Potatoes in Packing Room.   Nate (with large kraft sack) and Kenyon bag graded potatoes and fill up carts.  Each variety of potatoes has its own wheeled cart.  One-pound sacks go on the top shelf; 2 pound sacks on the middle shelf and 5-pound sacks go on the bottom shelf.  Twenties are organized on common carts.  Fifties are boxed in the cellar by Jim and sent upstairs ready to ship.

Caleb & Amy Boxing Up Tubbed Orders.  
This week Maine celebrated “Patriots Day” (along with Massachusetts and it’s the day the Boston Marathon is held).  That means school was let out for Spring Break.  So, Amy spent her week helping the crew get out orders.  Here, Boxers Amy and Caleb at their separate work stations, are preparing for shipment the orders picked into tubs by Tubbers .  Boxers double-check tubbed orders for completeness and accuracy against the “pick-ticket.”   By design, two different sets of eyeballs check each and every tubbed/boxed order.  That careful procedure reduces the error rate for our many thousands of orders to very negligible levels. 

Lincoln on Agriculture.

Recipe: Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes.

12-15 small Dark Red Norland or Yukon Gold potatoes
Sea Salt
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with at least an inch of water. Boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until the potatoes are completely tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.

Place the cooked potatoes on a clean dishtowl. Let them drain and sit for a minute or two. Fold another dishtowel into quarters, and using it as a cover, gently press down on one potato with the palm of your hand to flatten it to a thickness of about 1/2-inch. Repeat with all of the potatoes.

Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; put a sheet of parchment on top of the foil. Carefully transfer the flattened potatoes to the baking sheet and let them cool completely at room temperature. If working ahead, refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Heat oven to 450 F. Sprinkle the potatoes with about 3/4 tsp salt and pour olive oil over them. Lift the potatoes gently to make sure some of the oil goes underneath. Roast until they are crisp and deep brown around the edges., 30 - 40 minutes, turning over once gently with a spatula halfway through cooking. Serve hot.
Serves 8



Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes.
Photo by Angela Wotton
Mailbox: Fading Giants & Tough Late Blight.

Fading Giants

     I was surprised by a recent Press Herald story that showed that Kennebec and Katahdin were no longer in the top 10 of potatoes grown. I must be living in the past..

Portland, ME

Yes, and I'm assuming you mean the top ten potatoes here in Maine. Fifteen years ago there was one big grower in Presque Isle that was growing Katahdins for a national steakhouse chain as their heralded meat & potato 'Baker.' With that deal, I remember hearing about truckers hauling loads of Katahdins from Aroostook County to as far away as Nevada. Unfortunately, for many many decades following the release of Katahdin (1932) and Kennebec (1948) the identities of these fine and other potato varieties were hidden from consumer view in the rush toward making potatoes into a faceless high-volume commodity. Ironically, there is now room in the marketplace to re-introduce classics like Katahdins & Kennebecs as a Specialty Potato.


Tough Late Blight.

     Would a blight that became resistant to a GM potato be harder to control in the organic potato if it were compromised. Or would the blight be as it has been before GM potatoes were introduced?


     I would imagine a tougher strain would be tougher for all. American farmers dealt with the A1 strain of Potato Late Blight (PLB) from the beginning of the Irish Potato Famine (1840s) until 1992. Then the much more aggressive A2 strain appeared on the scene, largely replacing the A1 strain. Now, thanks to GE hucksters we have this new anticipated headache, a super strain resistant to fatally-flawed GE PLB Potato-lab-breeding. Additionally, potato farmers have been concerned about another headache: In Scandinavia they have already experienced and identified an A1/A2 oospore cross which can lay dormant in soil for years - WITHOUT a Solanaceae host - and then infect a clean potato crop very early in the season. There are two kingdoms. Good organic seed breeders follow Raoul Robinson's concept of breeding for HORIZONTAL resistance (wide spectrum resistance employing multiple genes to overcome pathogenic challenges). 'Modern' and GE breeders rely on the inherently flawed concept of VERTICAL resistance, overly-simplistic single (or narrow) genetics which are 'easily' overcome by adaptive pathogens like PLB. PLB is extremely tough and has been co-evolving with potatoes for 8000 years. Simplistic GE breeding is no match. 



 Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
 Wood Prairie Family Farm
 49 Kinney Road
 Bridgewater, Maine 04735
 (207) 429 - 9765 Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox