May 6th, 2022
Volume 31 Issue 5
In This Issue of The
Wood Prairie Seed
An Amish Mother
Going From Here to There.
There’s no indication from
this Library of Congress photo whether this young
Mother is providing taxi service or - more likely -
just taking Junior along for the ride.
Here in Northern Maine it’s been a cool Spring so far.
Our 6” deep soil temperature has not yet reached 40ºF
so we have a ways to go before we hit the 50ºF mark we
like to see before we start planting our new crop of
If you haven’t placed your seed order yet, don’t
worry. There’s plenty of time! We still have a good
supply and can meet your needs when it comes to all
types of top notch organic seed and supplies: Organic
Maine Certified Seed Potatoes, Organic
Vegetable Seed, Organic
Herb Seed, Organic
Flower Seed, Organic
Farm & Cover Crop Seed, Smart
Bags for Container Planting, Organic
Fertilizer, and Garden
Tools & Supplies.
We’re now caught up on shipping orders and we’re back
to our normal fast turnaround.
So here in Maine, we’re waiting for warmer ground.
Stay Safe & Stay Warm!
Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Maine Tales: That
Odd Cold Spring. Bridgewater, Maine. Circa 1992.
Work on Wood Prairie Tuber-Unit Potato Planter.
With mounted seed
knives, Megan and Kenyon cut into seed pieces sprouted
organic Prairie Blush seed potatoes. Using an old-time
seed growing technique known as “Tuber-Unit Planting,”
they lay each daughter seed piece from a
single-mother-tuber sequentially onto the slowly-revolving
segmented conveyer belt. Planting by tuber-unit provides
superior rewards when later in the Summer we
systematically rogue our seed fields to remove the
tuber-units afflicted with potato virus. Luck doesn’t
bring about excellence. However, performing each and every
detail correctly adds up and gives us the ability to grow
best organic Certified Seed Potatoes.
That odd Spring thirty years ago had been cold and dry.
Without the benefit of warm Spring rains, Winter’s
penetrating frost persisted and remained as deep-buried,
unthawed-ground. In the weeks ahead of planting, we had
gotten ensnared into a mushrooming project of rebuilding and
converting over a 2-Row Iron Age conventional-pick-style
potato planter into a unique Tuber-Unit-Planter with
segmented-conveyer-belt feed. Our new planter would be
styled after a prototype we’d seen invented by a ingenious
seed farmer over in Canada. Like most projects, this one was
taking a lot longer than anticipated.
Come the middle of May the weather abruptly broke out of its
stubborn cold pattern. All of a sudden we were gifted with
four unprecedented and consecutive days of sunny, hot
weather into the 90s. On the second of those days every
farmer in Aroostook County – except us – was going great
guns planting their crop of potatoes. It would be another
full week before we got our refurbished planter up and
running. It is a lonely, sinking feeling when everyone else
around you is planting but you aren’t because you weren’t
One farmer in the next Town north got stuck when the tractor
pulling his heavy and loaded 4-Row Lockwood Potato Planter
couldn’t turn around on the sloping grassy headlands. The
rubber lugs on his tractor’s tires couldn’t get traction on
that Spring’s icy permafrost located just beneath the sod
layer. In hindsight, that slippery ordeal might have served
as a harbinger of trouble ahead.
A week after everyone else got going, we had completed the
building of our ‘new’ planter and started planting our own
potato crop. The weather held until early June giving us
enough time to get our crop fully planted.
Then the pendulum swung. The rest of the entire Summer
turned cold and wet just like an Irish Spring. Thankfully,
we had done a good job greenspouting the seed for our entire
crop. Those primed and sprouting tubers, once mechanically
planted into the soil, progressed in rocket-like-fashion and
emerged quickly with outstanding germination. In farming,
timing is everything and as it turned out our potatoes loved
that cool, moist Summer. That year we grew one of our best
organic potato crops ever, both beautiful and bountiful.
On the other hand, most of Northern Maine was in store for a
multi-pronged potato disaster. The crop growing from seed
planted too early in the thawed layer over frozen ground had
in a great many cases become afflicted with a non-disease
physiological disorder known as incipient Hollow Heart. The
Hollow Heart malady had been triggered by the adverse cold
soil conditions when new developing tubers were nothing more
than match-head-sized swellings on potato stolons. One
neighbor, made a valiant but in-the-end ineffectual attempt
to arrest cavity development in a crop of Atlantic seed
potatoes he was growing to sell to chipstock growers in
Florida. He gambled and top-killed his potato crop
record-early on August 2 when the tubers had only bulked up
to the size of Clementines. Unfortunately, however, those
Atlantics did not escape the bane of Hollow Heart.
In many other area fields potatoes came to be afflicted with
a disease that at first blush had been misdiagnosed by
experts as Pink Rot. Eventually, affected tubers were sent
out West for DNA fingerprinting and weeks later the verdict
came back that the problem was in-fact a brand
new-on-the-scene Mating type of Potato Late Blight known as
“A2.” Farmers the world over had been dealing with PLB
Mating type A1 since the days of the Irish Potato Famine of
the 1840s. Then in the late 1980s this new and aggressive
virulent Mating type A2 had been first identified in East
Germany. After erratic worldwide journeying for a decade A2
had eventually found its way into Mexico and is believed to
have hitchhiked into the USA on infected Tomatoes.
Sadly, in the fullness of time a third of that problematic
’92 Maine potato crop succumbed to its woes, was found to be
worthless and unmarketable and was unceremoniously dumped.
Sometimes, going against the flow turns out to be good for
us, even when we may have been clueless to the protection
that we were actually being afforded at the time.
Caleb, Megan & Jim
|Wood Prairie Family
Maine’s Last Snow of the Year? Well, maybe, maybe not.
The latest we’ve ever seen accumulating snow was back in
1991, back when Springs were earlier. That year we had just
finished planting our crop of organic Certified
Seed Potatoes and the new snow piled up on
top 4 inches deep on May 20. Then two years ago in 2020, we
received 10” of snow on May 9, and that followed 14” on
April 10 and another 8” on April 22. A post-potato-planting
snowfall is what the old timer’s called “Poor Man’s
Fertilizer.” A planted potato crop that is snowed-on in the
Spring has often been often observed to perform particularly
well. We believe the reason is because every drop of
slow-melting snow water gets utilized by the potatoes. Happy
potatoes possess optimism and have a higher ‘set’ (number
of tubers per hill), an important factor which establishes
the foundation for the biggest possible crop. Last
week, buffetted by stiff winds, our farm received an
accumulation of 3" of new snow. During that slow moving
storm we hovered in the low 30s for thirty hours. During the
same period to north of us in Hudson’s Bay temperatures had
descended down into the single numbers (Degrees F). Here, in
this shot Caleb & Lizzi's one-year-old Rottweiler,
Ralph, wanders about and relives Maine’s familiar six months
Prove All Seed Potatoes Are NOT Created Equal.
Almost 15 years ago researchers at North Dakota State
University put together a three-year trial which compared
different sources of organic seed potatoes. The variety used
for testing was Yukon
Gold. We’re happy to report Wood
Prairie Certified Seed Potatoes came
out on top, besting all others including the control,
conventionally-grown MN Blue Seed Tag Certified Seed.
Quality of seed is a nuanced issue and impacted by a vast
array of important factors. Some of those factors include
biological activity of soil, level of balanced soil
fertility, seed tubers’ nutrient density and physiological
age, the care seed tubers receive not only in the field but
in the storage, and freedom from disease. In order to be
productive seed potatoes must be healthy and
firing on all cylinders. To reward yourself for all the
hard work you do in your garden, it definitely will
pay to secure the very
best organic seed you can lay your hands
A Familiar Underground Wintertime Scene at Wood
Prairie Family Farm.
Pictured here is a very typical scene witnessed most any
Winter's day in our windowless, heavily-insulated
underground potato storage - known universally in
Aroostook County as a Potato House
. A Yale
forklift powered by a huge electric battery allows pallet
boxes of Organic
Maine Certified Seed Potatoes
stacked high up to the top of the 14-foot ceiling.
Color-coded pallets of cartons
of seed potatoes headed to market farmers
across the USA are in the process of being built,
variety-by-variety. Beyond the forklift is a red and
yellow potato-cleaning ‘Wide Nylon Potato Brusher’ built
by a local company. It helps us conduct a final inspection
of seed tubers right before packaging. Behind the Brusher
lies 40-year-old stonework giving away the fact that this
now twenty-three-year-old Potato House is a built-on
addition to an underground labyrinth of connected potato
storage space in every direction. We maintain our
sprawling potato storage at 38oF and high humidity and
ship to all 50 States - ten months a year - from September
until the 4th of July.
Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765
Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox