Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
                 Friday, July 27th, 2019
              Volume 28 Issue 09


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

  The Peak of Summer.

     All-Blue Potatoes in Bloom on Wood Prairie Family Farm. 
 This has been a very busy and fast-moving year for us The cold and wet Spring has been left behind and we’ve had below average precipitation in both June and July. We’ve been missing the rains the coast of Maine and southern New England have been receiving.
     Crops here in Northern Maine, after getting off to a slow start, are looking excellent and catching up. Potatoes remain in full bloom and Aroostook County’s many potato fields are a beautiful sight. A little more rain would be welcome… but just not too much!

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

Organic Jacob's Cattle Dry Bean. Hardy and productive in the most challenging of years.
Maine Tales: Cool Maine Summer Nights. Bridgewater Maine. Circa 1979.

     The last couple of mornings in the 40s have reminded us of the welcome fact that Summer mornings in Northern Maine are reliably sweatshirt weather. Even last weekend, during a brief hot spell when we hit a rare 90ºF, the nights cooled down to the manageable 50s.

     As farmers we are able to happily report we’ve never seen a single frost occur during the month of July, although thirty years ago we did come close. The first four days that July were unseasonably chilly. Each night was in the 30s and overcast. Had it ever cleared off any one of those four nights, it’s likely that lacking the warm blanket of cloud cover we would have suffered
a frost.

     At the tail end of the season, we can begin expecting our first cold nights beginning in mid-August. While we’ve never had a mid-August frost, we’ve flirted with the concept several times and do have some friends in frost pockets who have suffered that sad sensitive-crop-killing conundrum. Of course, back in the 1970s and 1980s it was colder than it is nowadays. Back then, if we escaped a frost in late August we could reliably count on one during the first five days of September.

     Exactly forty years ago - 1979 - was the year we had our all-time shortest growing season. We had killing frosts on June 27 and August 29 rendering us with a record short 62-Day Frost-Free Growing Season. But, like most challenging experiences with that late June frost we came away learning something interesting.

     We had been warned by the on-the-ball weather forecast that frost was likely for early Summer Wednesday morning. Beginning at first light - 4 am - we were prepared and set about spraying water on a quarter acre field of healthy ten-inch-tall Jacob’s Cattle dry bean plants. Counter intuitively, as the water sprayed on the leaves freezes in the cold air, heat is released by the action of water freezing which prevents the cells of the protected plant from freezing and rupturing. With Solo 4-gallon backpack sprayer, each plant was doused with enough well water to leave it glistening.

     It was 5:45 am when the sun first peaked over the trees and began to shine its warming rays on the bean plants. In another fifteen minutes, at 6 am, the water-spraying exercise was complete and all beans had been serviced.

     Within a few hours our lesson had been made clear. Each and every bean plant which had been sprayed with water prior to the moment of the first rays of sun at 5:45 am had been completely protected. However, that last small group of plants which received their dousing after that hour totally succumbed to frost damage and were lost.

     That next killing frost arrived on August 29 and wasn’t any more welcome than the one two months earlier. In the case of the Jake beans, the plants were in their last stage of growth and had begun to dry down by that time. However, some of the individual beans in the pods still had enough moisture in them that they were hurt by the freezing temperatures. These damaged beans would require an extra step in the sorting phase, separating the good, dried, mature beans from the pale and immature beans...which were subsequently fed out to the cow.

     In the end, 1979 brought us hard-won partial harvests under tough conditions that had a high capacity for crop failure. The experience elevated in our minds Jacob’s Cattle already legendary reputation and confirmed that it’s an exceptionally hardy workhorse we’re glad to know well.


Special Offer: FREE Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed!

          Fast growing and highly effective as a soil protector, Organic Buckwheat is one of our favorite cover crops. Organic Buckwheat is a warm season crop sensitive to frost. However, it is very fast growing, ready to turn under at 2% bloom in just 7-8 weeks after planting. Its rank growth serves to smother competing weeds. Strong roots will draw up Phosphorus from deep in the soil and make that important nutrient available to succeeding crops. Organic Buckwheat is not fussy and does not require high fertility to grow well. You’ll find it will do a nice job improving the tilth of your soil.

     Why wait? Receive a FREE 2.5 lbs . Sack of Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed (Value $9.95) when your next Wood Prairie order totals $39 or more. FREE Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed Offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday July 29. Please use Promo Code WPFF450. Your order and FREE Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed must ship no later than August 31, 2019. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please click TODAY! Please Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Cover Crop Seed.

Please Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Cover Crop Seed


Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed.
Queen of warm-season cover crops.
Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Growing Organic Seed Corn: Planting Corn Seed into Corn Transplant Trays.     To prevent pesky crows from pulling up tender young corn seedlings (in search of the tasty corn kernel at the bottom) we’ve switched over to planting corn transplants in recent years. Here, before potato planting Ken is filling trays with high quality compost seeding mix. Megan (right, Caleb’s mother) and Megan #2 work to seed trays from a bowlful of corn seed which has been soaked for a couple of days in a Liquid Seaweed solution. Megan #2 helps us year-round. Ken works for us in the Winter. After potato planting Ken went back to working on a crew building hiking trails along the East Branch of the Penobscot River near the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Sarah & Amy with Corn Transplants Ready for Planting.
    Two or three weeks after corn seeding, potatoes have been planted and corn transplants are ready to go into the ground. Caleb’s sisters Sarah (right) and Amy discuss next steps while standing between a truckload and wagonload of vigorous transplants. The tractor at left is hooked up to the transplanter machine.


Megan & Sarah Planting Heirloom Corn with Transplanter.
      Our Mechanical Transplanter (made in Holland, Michigan) is a two-row model and it takes two workers per row to keep up. The machine gently grabs the young plants freed from the trays, sets them in the ground, squirts a slug of water at the corn roots and then firms the soil around the roots. American ingenuity at its best. Sarah’s college semester ended just in time and allowed her to help us with planting full-time this Spring.

Amy Hoeing Corn Headlands.     This shot was taken this week and the ears are already developing on this petite early season heirloom sweet corn. In the foreground is a field of Organic FBC (Farmer Breeding Club) Dylan, our favorite Hard Red Spring Wheat (selected for exceptional disease-resistance by FBC organic farmers in North Dakota). In the background is a field of clover which was cut for hay earlier this month. The clover regrowth will be ready for grazing in another couple of weeks.

Moose at Tee in Road.
Looking north, this young adolescent moose has been hanging around us all Spring, mostly around the road “Tee.” In the foreground is Kinney Road which goes to our farm. The road headed to the right is Bootfoot Road and leads to U.S. Rte 1 and the village of Bridgewater three miles away. The road in the background is Number Nine Lake Road and in eight miles gets to Nine Lake, and then after that, Nine Mountain. Kinney and the Nine Road serve as the townline between the township of Bridgewater (right, east) and Township D, Range 2, Unorganized Territory (left, west) If you look close you can see a notch in the trees on the horizon, which again separates these two six-by-six mile townships.

Wood Prairie Cat Condo. 
    Cooper and Neveah lounge in the safety of a stack of wooden potato greensprouting trays. Greensprouting is an optional pre-conditioning step we use for the seed potatoes we plant, about 25,000 pounds every Spring. It takes three trays per one-hundred-pounds of seed and we stack the trays 8-10 layers high, three stacks per pallet. The open design of the trays allows sprouting tubers to receive light. The light greens up the tubers (“greensprouting”) and minimizes elongation of the sprouts. Full greenspouting takes about thirty days (plan to start a month before your expected planting date) but will knock 10-14 off the field growth cycle, allowing a considerably earlier harvest.

Spreading Manure on Wood Prairie Family Farm.

     Last week we got done haying. This week we spread manure on the hay field which will be planted to Organic Certified Seed Potatoes next year. Now we’ll plow down the sod and manure , harrow and then seed the ground to cover crops.

     We put together a You Tube video of our manure spreading and it's now posted on our Wood Prairie You Tube channel. Caleb is in the Case Skidsteer shoveling into the PTO (power take-off) powered International 530 Manure Spreader, which is pulled by the 1650 Oliver Diesel tractor driven by Jim.

     The “bed chain” on the manure spreader slowly pushes the pile of manure into the “beater” at the back which flings the contents backwards in a fairly even distribution pattern. We spread about 70 tons of manure on this ten acre field.

Caleb & Jim

Spreading Manure on Wood Prairie Family Farm. An age-old practice of helping the soil by adding fertility and biological activity.
Daniel Webster on the Constitution.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Croissants.

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp organic yeast
2 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp sugar (can use less)
2 Cups milk (whole or 2%)
1lb butter (at 65ºF)
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1Tbsp milk) optional

Bring the milk to room temperature in a large bowl or bowl of your stand mixer. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
Whisk the dry ingredient into the milk and then knead for 5-7 minutes, or mix in stand mixer on medium for about 4 minutes. Proof in a covered bowl for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough onto lightly floured surface, fold the dough, then refrigerate in an air tight (or almost air tight) container for about 2 hours.
Using parchment or waxed paper, create an 8 x 8 inch square slab out of the pound of butter. Place the wrapped butter slab in the fridge.

Take the butter out of the fridge about 10 minutes before you take out the dough so it has a chance to soften a little. You want the butter to be slightly pliable (about 65 degrees) at the time you take the dough out of the fridge.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about a 14 x 14 inch square. Place the butter in the center of the dough with the corners of the butter in the center of the straight edges of the dough (a square of dough with a diamond of butter in the middle).

One at a time, fold the corners of the dough towards the center of the butter, overlapping the dough folds as you go.
All the butter must be contained in the dough package.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle enough so it can be folded into three sections, letter style.

Wrap the dough package in plastic and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Repeat this rolling, folding and refrigerating process three more times for a total of four folds. (Only about 20 in the fridge is necessary between the 2nd and 4th folds.)
After the 4th fold and yet another period in the fridge, the dough is now ready to use, or it can be kept in the refrigerator overnight and used the next morning.
Roll the dough into a rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick all over.

Make the desired shapes and treats, let proof in a warm spot for about two hours or until somewhat risen and kinda puffy, (time depends on the proofing temperature). Lightly brush with egg wash before or after proofing (optional).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees before the dough has finished proofing. Bake for about 15 -20 minutes, until golden brown.


Recipe modified from Breadtopia

Whole Wheat Croissants.
Photo by Breadtopia.
Mailbox: Ready for Harvest? and Rogue Agency USDA.

Ready for Harvest?

     Good morning Jim,
     Just spoke with a very nice lady regarding my Dark Red Norlands we planted from you folks this year. The photos are of potatoes picked up yesterday before a summer thunderstorm in western NC. My vines are starting to die- very little green left. My question is how long should I leave them in the ground before I dig for BEST LONGTERM storage. I have a root cellar with AC. The potatoes were planted around April 22ish. (I posted a picture of the 425 pieces waiting to be planted on your facebook page) I have grown your Elbas for two years but fooled around this year waiting too late to order so I have Norlands.



     Up here in Maine it typically takes 2-3 weeks for the tuber skins to lose moisture and thus survive the rigors of machine harvesting. Digging by hand will require slightly less time for tubers to “cure” sufficiently. You can test whether tubers are ready to be harvested by trying to rub off the potato skin with your thumb. On a "new" potato the skin rubs off easily. When the potatoes are ready to harvest-for-storage it will take substantial thumb-effort pressure to rub off the skin.


Rogue Agency USDA.

     You are a hero! It seems that the regulatory agencies in the states are a bit more "wobbly" than here in Sweden (The USDA Appears to be in Favor of Gene-Edited Foods in Organic Production ) . Must break your heart that all your efforts could be erased by a pen stroke. Love.


     USDA has a long history of missing the ball. However, it’s many blunders and lumbering policies at odds with the public interest are nothing which can’t be corrected and turned around with good leadership and robust integrity.

     In the 1970s and early 1980s various member-run organizations like MOFGA, NOFA and CCOF had developed their own highly functional, regional organic standards. However, in the mid-1980s numerous State Departments of Agriculture were demanding that USDA enact national organic standards to meet the Constitutional requirement for the Federal government to facilitate interstate commerce. It is important to understand that one way or another, USDA was going to act.

     Because of USDA's hatred of organic, many of us were extremely concerned USDA would act unilaterally and create a worthless and false definition, which would flood the market with bogus product and collapse organic. Sen Leahy (D-VT) and Rep Defazio (D-OR) became our champions and over many many months and many many drafts - there were many, many of us who helped get the concepts refined - came up with the good language that became the Organic Foods Production Act ( OFPA ).
In time, miraculously, OFPA was attached as a rider to the 1990 Farm Bill and became law with the passage of that Farm Bill .

     OFPA is a good law, not perfect, but yes good. The failures in organic we have been painfully experiencing - illegal CAFO factory farms, illegal soil-less corporate Hydroponic operations, massive unrestrained fraudulent grain imports mis-labeled as “Organic,” and now, hapless and uninformed USDA leadership rumblings about allowing Genetic Engineering (currently explicitly prohibited under law ) has been due to USDA's continued hatred of organic . Sadly, USDA is under near total capture by Industrial Ag, USDA’s illegal and willful refusal to enforce provisions of OFPA and the NOP Final Rule is an illegitimate effort to place the interests of Industrial Ag puppetmasters over the interests of the public good and the organic community.

     I was a participant and a witness to the history above. Beginning in the mid-1980s I served on the MOFGA Certification Committee for almost 25 years. After helping co-found the New Brunswick chapter of Organic Crop Improvement Association, I also co-chaired the OCIA-NB Certification Comm for many years between 1986 and 2001.



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