April 20th, 2019
28 Issue 06
Issue of The Wood
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
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.
Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Photo by Guy Mendes in Modern Farmer with
Kentucky River in background.
|New Wendell Berry Interview -
Don't Miss It!
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
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...
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.
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
Small farms make economic sense. They also produce more happiness, more
beauty, more health—those things that aren’t so quantifiable."
Here for our Certified Organic Cover Crop Seed.
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
Have fun this year and receive
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!
Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.
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
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 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.
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
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
sacks go on the top shelf;
2 ½ pound sacks on the middle shelf and 5-pound sacks go on the bottom
shelf. Twenties are organized on common carts.
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
out for Spring Break. So, Amy spent her week helping the crew
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
design, two different sets of eyeballs check each and every
tubbed/boxed order. That careful procedure reduces the error
for our many thousands of orders to very negligible levels.
Smashed Roasted Potatoes.
12-15 small Dark
or Yukon Gold
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
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.
Smashed Roasted Potatoes.
by Angela Wotton
Fading Giants & Tough Late Blight.
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..
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
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.
|Wood Prairie Farm Quick
Caleb & Jim
& Megan Gerritsen
Prairie Family Farm
429 - 9765
Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox