Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
                 Saturday, May 18th, 2019
                 Volume 28 Issue 07


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

  Awaiting Dry Ground.

     Farmer Protester During the Last Farm Crisis.  Circa 1986.    

 Great shot taken by photographer David Peterson.   Mr. Peterson had accompanied Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry to a Farmer Rally in Omaha, Nebraska.   See Article in our last Wood Prairie Seed Piece.  

      The Farm Crisis of the 1980s forced a great number of family farmers off the land.  Today, a similar ongoing, devastating Farm Crisis is at hand, due mostly to across the board low farm gate crop prices and the relentless march towards consolidation and increased corporate control of agriculture.  Total Farm Debt is now equivalent to that at the peak of the 1980s Farm Crisis.  However, with fewer numbers of farmers in business today, those same debt numbers mean substantially greater debt for each farmer still carrying on.

       The recently released 2017 Agricultural Census documents troubling times down on the farm.  Nationwide, the number of farmers has declined over the past five years since the last Ag Census in 2012.  Significantly, the number of large farms is growing as are the sales from those large farms.  Meanwhile, with breathtaking accelerating monopoly control of wholesale markets, family farmers continue to be forced out of business, so it is no wonder their numbers are in decline. 

      However, there is no predestination, no divine plan that says the country would be better off if large farms were to push out local family farmers.  Quite the contrary:  centralized large-scale ag production which relies upon cheap fossil fuels during an era of climate disruption is risky and in reality a national security dilemma.  Our current mess is a matter of failed farm policy under both Republican and Democratic administrations.  The heartbreaking trend of the accelerating loss of family farmers is the result of powerful large players calling the shots and rigging the system for their ultimate benefit.   Like all bad policy, the solution to this Farm Crisis is honest leadership, good ideas and a genuine commitment to putting the people first.

      Here in Northern Maine, we’re experiencing a cool, moist Spring.  However we’re not suffering like some folks, including the New York farmer we talked to this morning who has had 9” of rain so far in May.  We are looking forward to drier weather next week and expect to start planting potatoes soon.

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

Soil-less Fake “Organic” Corporate Hydroponic Production Threatens Organic Integrity.

Fake Organic Soil-less Corporate Hydro Blueberries. Blueberry plants fed soluble nutrients in pots on plastic and under plastic.

Twenty-Acre-Field of Fake Organic Hydro Blueberries. No soil to be seen.
     Over its entire 125-year history, enriching the soil has always been the foundation of organic farming. Healthy soil grows healthy plants which are naturally resistant to destructive pressures from insects and disease. There are many benefits to organically growing crops in rich, fertile soil.  These include producing authentic organic food which is nutritionally-dense, delicious and healthy for your family. 

     These metrics of high quality are directly attributable to organic family farmers' foundational dedication to nurturing the soil.  In this era of concern about climate disruption, Carbon Sequestration – removing excess Carbon from the atmosphere and placing it back into the soil where it belongs as valuable organic matter - is a critical service provided by real organic farmers who grow in the soil.

      The worldwide system known as organic farming universally acknowledges the central nature of life-giving soil to organic farming. Importantly, this world view, shared by virtually all long-time American organic farmers, includes provisions requiring soil stewardship in the landmark Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) of 1990, the Federal law which regulates organic in the USA. 

      Alarmingly, the Federal U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has devolved to the point where it is breaking the law, effectively is operating as an outlaw agency as it conducts business under corporate control. Shamefully, USDA has been overtly turning a blind eye to OFPA's soil stewardship requirements in order to placate powerful Industrial Ag corporations.  USDA’s actions defraud consumers and hurt honest organic farmers.  USDA has placed corporate interest above the law, against the public good, and in doing so USDA is denigrating organic integrity.

     In a new article posted recently on Truthout, Alison Rose Levy has writen an excellent Must Read report entitled, Hydroponically Grown Produce Threatens Real Organic Agriculture.

“Organic food is about an entire ecosystem: taking care of the soil, recharging nutrients with crop rotation, [and] providing for natural pollinators and pest control. It is a way for farming, which can often be ecologically destructive, to work with the planet,” writes Dan Nosowitz at Modern Farmer. “Massive hydroponic and container operations like Driscoll’s do not do that: They are willfully separate from the environment.”

   The blitzkrieg invasion of organic by fake soil-less Corporate Hydroponic operations is being fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars of Wall Street investments. Their fraudulent and illegal misuse of the word "organic" represents an existential threat to honest organic family farmers and therefore to families wanting continued access to real organic food.

Caleb, Megan & Jim

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Certified Organic Cover Crop Seed.

Special Offer: FREE Organic Dark Red Norland Certified Seed Potatoes!

          There is something to respect in a hard-working no-nonsense potato variety like Organic Dark Red Norland.  Year-in, year-out Organic Dark Red Norland is a reliable workhorse and grows well with minimal attention.  Tubers are beautiful bright red and early, excellent for “New Potatoes.”

         The matriarch variety “Norland” was released by North Dakota State University in 1957.  In subsequent decades, selected clones with improved brighter skin coloration have been identified.  This resulted in first the new variety “Red Norland” in 1965, and then more recently the top notch selection. Dark Red Norland.

     Grow some beauty in this year’s garden!   Receive a FREE 1 Lb. Sack of Organic Dark Red Norland Certified Seed Potatoes (Value $11.95) when your next Wood Prairie order totals $49 or more.  FREE Organic Dark Red Norland Certified Seed Potatoes Offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday May 20.  Please use Promo Code WPFF448. Your order and FREE Sack of Organic Dark Red Norland Certified Seed Potatoes must ship no later than May 31, 2019. Offer may not be combined with other offers.  Please click TODAY!

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


Organic Dark Red Norland Potatoes Undergoing Greensprouting. Tubers in Hot Room and ready to be transfered to greensprouting trays.

Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Caleb Harrowing for First Time this Spring.     Here Caleb is using our 92 HP 1967 Oliver 1850 Diesel tractor to make his first pass pulling a 19’ wide International Harvester Vibrashank harrow.  The date was May 2 and this was the earliest date we were on the ground in five years – nine days earlier than last year and eleven days earlier than the previous two years before that.  The vantage is looking south.  Note the snow bank beyond the tractor which had been shaded by trees from the sun. That snowbank finally left last week.

Last Day of Ice on Big Pond.
    The ice on our two ponds stays late, but when it does go, it goes pretty fast.  This shot was taken of our ‘Big Pond’ (about 1.3 acres) two days before the ice entirely disappeared.  Our ‘Small Pond’ (a third-acre and 18 feet deep) near the house is shaded by trees and its ice goes out a few days after the Big Pond. Ice out in the Small Pond  took place a week ago.  The first Poplar leaves emerged five days later this year than last, reflecting our nippy May.   Our woodstove has been used to take out the morning chill most every day this Spring.

Seed Potatoes to Plant in Warming Up in Hot Room.      We warm up to 75oF the seed potatoes we are going to plant in this hot room attached to our packing shed.  Warming is the first step in the greensprouting process in which we warm up 25,000 pounds of seed every year.   We recommend that everyone warm up your seed potatoes for at least two or three days before you plant them.  This will coax the seed out of dormancy and aid the seed pieces in emerging quickly from the soil.  It will also help increase yields, compared to planting cold, dormant seed. 

Crew Putting Up New Plastic on High Tunnel.     It’s been a breezy Spring and we have been patiently following the forecast, waiting for a prediction of a calm morning. Today was the day and unlike our wild, exhilarating effort five years ago, conditions remained calm throughout.  Here, the crew, minus Caleb & Jim, has one layer of plastic in place and are getting ready to pulll up the second layer.  From left to right:  Megan Gerritsen, Sarah, Zack, Megan #2, Sam and Ken. A fan blows air between the two poly layers which creates insulating value for this year-round unheated “High Tunnel” greenhouse.

Sarah Gerritsen Helping with Layer Two.   Sarah’s college semester at Northern Maine Community College ended last week.  In another year she will graduate from her challenging, compressed program as a Registered Nurse.   Her crew mates are hidden by the bunched up 6-mil, 5-year UV-resistant poly cover.   Look closely and you can see a rope-and-enveloped tennis ball attached to the leading edge of the plastic sheet.  On the east side of this 132’ long high tunnel, a second crew is gently pulling on the rope and unfurling the plastic from north to south.

Zack Sargent Working Wiggle Wire into Wiggle Channel.  
    With both layers of plastic positioned almost perfectly, Zack starts working on the West side.  He is wiggling in shaped stainless steel Wiggle wire into mated Wiggle channel.  The Wiggle wire wedges the two layers of plastic into the aluminum channel.  The Wiggle wire system is an amazing invention and the friction created is sufficient to hold the plastic secure, even in strong winds.  Zack grew up in Bridgewater and is Caleb’s best friend ever since they were together in Kindergarten at Bridgewater Grammar School twenty years ago.  Zack is a plumber and works in a local family plumbing business with his brother-in-law.

Crew of Three Work the East Side.  
While Zack stays working ahead on the west, Caleb runs the crew on the East side.  Zack’s younger brother, Sam, carefully pulls the two layers of plastic taut.  Caleb works in the Wiggle wire.  Sarah keeps track and makes sure that at every second steel bow – spaced 4’ on center- Caleb is handed and secures a nylon loop with the Wiggle wire.  The loops will be used in helping to hold the side bottoms when they are rolled up for ventilation on hot days.   Sam has been attending Maine Maritime Academy down on the coast in Castine.   Next Spring he will graduate from the four-year program and get full-time work as a Merchant Seaman.  Summers he has been working both on the 500-foot Training Ship ‘State of Maine’ between Maine and Europe and on commercial freighters which coordinate their needs with Maine Maritime Academy.

Dr. John Ikerd on Agricultural Policy.

Recipe: Maple Nut Squares.

For the crust:
1 1/4 c whole wheat flour
1/3 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 c cold unsalted butter cut into 3/4-inch pieces

For the filling:
6 T unsalted butter
1/3 c organic maple syrup
1/3 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 c heavy cream
2 c coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment, letting it extend up the sides.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar and salt until blended. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms large coarse crumbs. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust until the edges are lightly browned and the top feels firm when lightly touched, 12-17 minutes. Set aside.

To make the filling, combine the butter, maple syrup, and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat  and stir together until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the cream. Stir in pecans and pour hot filling over the crust, spreading it evenly to the edges.

Bake until filling is set when you give the pan a gentle shake, 22-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool until firm before cutting into bars, about 1 1/2 hours.

Makes 25 small squares


Heavenly Maple Nut Squares
Photo by Angela Wotton

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